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In-depth: Content, viewership measurement key challenge for VOD platforms finds out the challenges and opportunities for VOD platforms as the Indian market keeps adding more players in this space. Advertisers see this as a good opportunity to explore, while content providers are working towards producing better tailor-made content

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | March 8, 2016


In just the first nine weeks of 2016, the Over-the-top (OTT) and Video-on-Demand (VOD) space has seen three entrants – Netflix, followed by Ozee, and the latest one being Viu. The year promises a lot more launches in the sector as Viacom18 has already announced plans for the launch of its VOD platform, Voot.

Despite the growth promised by the segment, it is still at a very nascent stage with many challenges including creating quality content and getting advertising on the platform. Advertisers are finding this a good opportunity to explore, while content providers are working towards producing better tailor-made content. asked some experts in the segment to share insights, challenges and scope of VOD segment in India.

Scope for more players

Arun Prakash Arun Prakash

Arun Prakash, COO of Vuclip, said, “I think there are already many players in the industry. Everyone knows that people will ultimately move towards OTT in order to find convenience. To win in the OTT industry, you have to be a technology company to provide a seamless service enabled through technology. You can’t be a media company aggregating content and slapping an app together. So, that is fundamentally different in 90 per cent of the OTT companies you see.”

Salil Kapoor Salil Kapoor

Salil Kapoor, Managing Director, HOOQ, and Uday Sodhi, Executive VP and Head - Digital Business at Sony Pictures Network, both agree that there is huge scope for more players and that the growth of the segment will be fast.

Ashish Bhasin Ashish Bhasin

Ashish Bhasin, Chairman and CEO - South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network, said, “Quality of content will change for the better and we’ll have to improve going forward.”

Rajiv Dingra Rajiv Dingra

Rajiv Dingra, Founder and CEO, WATMedia, said, “There are already some good players in the market and it’s better if only two or three more players enter the space.”

Readiness of the market

Prakash believes that there is still some time before the Indian consumer is completely ready. He explains, “It’s not primetime, it’s still early phase with the elements are moving in the right direction. Smartphone proliferation in the last twelve months particularly is a great sign as the last twelve months’ data has exceeded everybody’s expectations – the networks are getting better. The third element is the cost of data. All of this determines how soon an OTT will reach inflection point where it can become mainstream.”

On the other hand, Kapoor is confident that the Indian market is ready. He said, “People are consuming more content on the digital platform than on television, so I think the Indian market is ready. Also, once there is choice for content, people will start experimenting more.”

Though the market looks ready, the difference of consumption is well explained by Sodhi. He said, “We’ve seen that with mobile as a great consumption device, we’ve seen significant consumption from mobile as a personal consumption versus TV being a public consumption or a family consumption device. The way it’s consumed is different.”

Sharing his viewpoint, DAN’s Bhasin said, “In a country like India, it’s not one or the other. VOD will not grow at the expense of TV. The television market is also growing but VOD will grow faster.”

Dingra feels that the Indian market is at an early stage where VOD is still being experimented. Gopa Menon, Vice-president, Isobar, shares the same view. He said, “The industry is at a very nascent stage. Consumers are still figuring what kind of content they want, but they are slowly adapting to it.”

Types of ads

While discussions about the possibilities of advertising and possibilities of format have always done the rounds for the digital platform, VOD looks a positive medium for commercials. Prakash said, “There is definitely scope for advertising in a VOD platform if the ads are done tastefully and I think people will respect that they get an amazing amount of content. For instance, in the US, everyone watches Superbowl for the half-time ads. There is scope, but today advertising is still significantly on television.”

While Kapoor said that there are different ad formats that are emerging, he also points that the consumer would like a platform that doesn’t offer any ads. Contradicting this, Sodhi feels that it is an advertiser driven and ad friendly medium. Bhasin, Dingra and Menon unanimously agree that there is scope for advertisement in this space.

Challeng for content providers and advertisers

Prakash pointed out that despite having a lot of scope, a major challenge is the decreasing attention span of the audience. “There needs to be a shift in how studios produce content as one has to tell a compelling story in a shorter period of time.”

Dingra adds that it varies depending on the screen on which one is viewing. Prakash adds, “Just like a cricket Test match went to one day and one day went to T20. The attention span of the Indian consumer is rapidly dropping. That’s why we did ‘What the Duck’ in 13 minutes.”

Sodhi contradicts these theories by saying that on digital the viewership time is increasing with better bandwidth and quality of content. Kapoor supports this, saying, “I don’t think the consumer attention span is decreasing. It is very much focused when they are watching content of their own choice.”

From an advertiser’s point of view, Bhasin said, “For advertisers, I think it is measurability that will be a leap of faith, because who is exactly watching what is difficult to find out, other than data provided by the platform itself.”

However, BARC India’s upcoming digital viewership measurement mechanism could address Bhasin’s concerns as it is expected to solve the puzzle for viewership on VOD platforms as well.

According to Prakash, “Measuring viewership is much easier on this platform as we know exactly when the consumer pauses a show/movie and switches to something else. The level of data insights you get on a digital medium cannot be obtained in any other platform. We share these insights with our partners so that they know what type of content they need to produce.”

While many experts believe that VOD and TV are not direct competitors, Dingra, Kapoor and Menon are of the opinion that while they are not competing right now, but over a period of time they will become competitors.
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