The Dawn of OTT Streaming Services 

The rising popularity of OTT is proof of how the Indian audience has had enough of stereotypical saas bhi kabhi bahu thi drama.

Did you feel left out the last time your peers were discussing Sacred Games or Black Mirror? 

If yes, you are not alone. We all have some shows to tick off our bucket list. This article is your one-stop shop to understanding why these streaming services are gaining popularity. 

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First, let’s break down OTT! OTT stands for Over The Top. This comprises content that is presented through high speed internet, which is unlike Cable TV. OTT content enables a viewer to watch content of their preference. If you are person who enjoys hard hitting Sci-Fi, feel free to watch Black Mirror. If you enjoy light-hearted humour, feel free to watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

 The wide array of choices that OTT services can offer is what makes it more enticing than cable TV. OTT services that have made it big in the Indian market are Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Voot, Alt Balaji, Eros Now, MX player, Zee5, SonyLiv, and Jio Cinema. 

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The rising popularity of OTT services has led to the dusk of cable television. Cord cutting is a term explaining the opportunity cost of letting go of TVs powered by DTH and cable operators for internet-based services. A report published by Eros Now and KPMG revealed that OTT could usher cord-cutting sooner than expected. In the study undertaken, the statistics suggest that 38% of the respondents would consider cord cutting in the near future as they felt that their entertainment needs were met online,. However, 14% considered OTT platforms as an alternative to a TV subscription. While the age group of 45-60 may not be ready just yet to let go of the TV set, the rising young Indian population might make that decision of cord-cutting when they set their homes leading to the dusk of the era when our parents watched Mahabharata on Doordarshan.

While TV channels compete with the content they offer, the likelihood of  the genres on Sony, Sab, Star Plus, and Colors at Prime Time 8-10 pm being the same is high. This leads to a consumption of media curated by the broadcaster. Streaming services, on the other hand, leave the curation of content to the viewer. Stemming from the same line of thought is how media on OTT enables every member in the family to watch what each one prefers on their personal devices. The family does not have to collectively decide and compromise on what to watch at a certain time. Considering the jump from cable tv to OTT, it is interesting to see what factors led to the dawn of OTT Services and how the landscape of the Media and Entertainment Industry has changed its course. 

The Chief Operating Officer of The Viral Fever admits to Jio’s launch in 2016 being a game-changer in the rise of OTT across India.

The key factor in the Indian market is the game-changing price slash by internet plans offered in the Telecommunications Industry. Reliance Jio changed the landscape of the oligopolistic market structure of the Telecom industry when they introduced price wars. These price wars ultimately benefited consumers as internet plans kept getting cheaper. Did you know that India has the cheapest mobile data in the world? This also explains the rise of media consumption not just in urban India but also in rural areas.  The Chief Operating Officer of The Viral Fever admits to Jio’s launch in 2016 being a game-changer in the rise of OTT across India. If you think of the economics of rural India, buying a television with an additional set-top box is more expensive than buying a phone with an internet plan. Industry experts suggest that the landscape is set to change even more with the launch of 5G services by mid-2020. 

Artificial Intelligence and machine-based learning used by OTT services curate for consumers what they want to watch; enhancing their overall experience. Artificial Intelligence analyses your past search history and activity on the internet. This enables OTT platforms to offer content based on the viewer’s preferences and interests. 

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The rise of original content on OTT platforms is another reason for the gaining popularity of OTT services. This enables content creators with more creative liberty which then helps them jump the hurdles of censorship curated by the Censorship Board of India. This in-turn appeases the audience. The rising popularity of OTT is proof of how the Indian audience has had enough of stereotypical saas bhi kabhi bahu thi drama. Additionally, it is noteworthy to mention how OTT services have agreed upon a self-imposed censorship code which restrains them from showing disrespect to the national emblem and flag, promoting religious sentiment, terrorism, or violence against the state, and from showing children in sexual acts.

Another development in the field of OTT services is the interactive content it has to offer. Popular interactive shows include BlackMirror: Bandersnatch, and Bear Grylls’ You vs. Wild on Netflix wherein the viewer has the ability to choose one of the many options available on the screen within a stipulated time making them feel like they design the course of the show. 

With fast-paced city life, urban youth refuse to spend 16 minutes on commercials for the content of a 40 minute show. While advertisements are what keep the business model running, for a lot of OTT services that do not charge a subscription fee, these services juggle with ad models to not lose out on consumers. The trendsetter in the market is Netflix which works on the model of no advertisement, and more OTTs are trying to have less interruptive ads. While Amazon Prime video still has the occasional advertisement promoting its shows, OTT services like Hotstar, and Youtube – with Youtube Red – then followed. In 2018, Netflix did try a pilot of skippable ads promoting other shows. This was not well-received by users. Netflix then decided to stick with its original ad-free based model to keep up with the binge-watching culture it had created over the years.

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The future trend of these OTT services have a lot to offer viewers, aided with free WiFi almost everywhere. The landscape for the era of TV that is powered by cable has surely started to look gloomy. Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix admits to the death of Broadcast TV by 2030. It is not far away when shifting the dish antenna for better connection will be etched as a nostalgia for a lot of us. 

-Clerisa Varghese (Editor, Declassified)

References and Further Reading:

https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/technology/the-deluge-of-ott-platforms-in-india-undermining-cable-tv/1452887/

https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/netflix-led-ott-platforms-threaten-cable-tv-in-india-report/70790321

https://www.livemint.com/industry/media/india-s-video-streaming-industry-to-grow-at-22-pwc-report-1559806416120.html

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