Content to take centre stage in 2018
The Walt Disney Co.’s deal to buy most of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox changes things for streaming platforms in India. The acquisition, which signals Disney’s new strategic focus on digital media, gives it new advantages in India, such as rights to broadcast the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament, and local-language TV shows in a fast-growing media market.
India has close to 25 streaming platforms, including popular American rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Even before the deal was made official this month, Disney had already announced plans to unveil two streaming services: one focused on sports that will begin next year and one focused on entertainment that will become available in 2019. The second service, fed by Disney’s existing content and now 21st Century Fox’s TV shows and movies, promises to be a formidable entrant into the streaming world.
Given that the number of heavy internet users in India will likely overtake those in the US in the not-too-distant future, India may well become the ultimate testing ground for these global technology firms.
The distribution ecosystem for online content is in place—from the giant domestic telco platforms to international and domestic over-the-top video streaming platforms. The missing piece is still content.
“The big battle in the world of media, be it TV or digital has been of high quality original content. That is why there was a bidding war for IPL and money was invested behind it by different companies, including new-age media firms, telcos and broadcasters. The power of content is here to stay and that’s showing in the way IPL was bid for. Everybody fought for the same rights and that proved very decisively that it is about content. It’s not about screens,” said Sanjay Gupta, managing director.
This battle is juxtaposed with changes in technology that have compelled media companies to re-imagine their businesses to be able to compete with technology giants who wish to enter the content space. “There is a tectonic shift taking place in media companies right now. Increasingly, the top 10 companies of the world, like Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon, are regarding themselves as media companies,” said Sameer Nair, chief executive at content studio Applause Entertainment .
Consolidation is going to happen in the media and entertainment sector, said an industry expert on condition of anonymity, while explaining the impact of the Disney-Fox deal worth $52.4 billion.
A host of media firms are rethinking their strategies focused on original content to stay relevant in a hyper competitive media environment. “We will dial up investment towards original content once Voot goes behind a paywall. Original content will be critical going forward because the need to aggregate might not be as high as the need to differentiate,” said a person familiar with the development. Voot is Viacom18 Digital Venture’s video platform and is expected to go behind a paywall for part of its content by mid next year.
A strong focus on digital content is one of the biggest takeaways from Disney’s takeover of businesses Murdoch spent a lifetime building.
Data consumption went a lot deeper last year, expanding the reach and time spent on all streaming platforms in the country. The user base in India crossed 400 million users and the smartphone base reached 330 million connected users. With data becoming affordable, overall consumption shot up drastically with an average user consuming 4GB of data per month on mobile.
Streaming services have gone deeper into the country and what really matters is consumer engagement, especially on long form curated content like movies and binge worthy shows.
With this year setting the trend of rise in consumption, 2018 will be the year of online video becoming mainstream, said Satya Raghavan, head of entertainment, YouTube India. “India will become the largest market for video distribution over the Internet and channels, and content owners from around the world will be stretching even more to cater to the connected internet user base in India. In the mix, local Independent creators will become indispensable and the diversity in content will see newer dimensions,” he said.
The next year will see the roll-out of a host of original content programming from both Amazon and Netflix India. Indian firms like Eros International Plc, a Bollywood production and distribution company, is also set to release eight originals.
Netflix will continue to look for talented storytellers next year as well. “We are committed to working with producers, creators, talent and crew in India to create more great content,” said Jessica Lee, vice-president (communications), Netflix Asia, in an emailed response.
Meanwhile, rival Amazon Prime Video, which just completed a year in India, will stream 10 India originals next year. “You’ll see a significant ramp up of Indian originals on the service, 10 over the next 12 months. We already have a lot of original content. India is a local content market and every Bollywood movie is an original,” said Vijay Subramaniam, director (content), Amazon Prime Video India.
YouTube will continue to invest in growing the content creator ecosystem. “We will also focus on turbo charging the growth of the dynamic language creators of India. We’re excited about 2018 as India will continue to see increased momentum both on users adoption and the content side of the industry,” Raghavan added.
For Singapore-based video-on-demand streaming service HOOQ, original content isn’t a priority, top-notch Hollywood content is. “Original content has caught everybody’s fancy but they need to think deeper before they jump onto the bandwagon. Core competence in producing content is very different from buying content,” said Salil Kapoor, managing director, HOOQ India.
Online video was one of the biggest drivers of engagement in 2017 for social networking platform Facebook, said Ankhi Das, director of public policy for Facebook in India. “We’re seeing video explode on our platform, and a lot of this happens within the current News Feed product. 100 million hours of video are now watched daily on Facebook,” Das said.
There are more than 217 million people on Facebook in India, out of which over 212 million people are active on the mobile.
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