Mumbai: Why do it on the couch when you can do it elsewhere, says the ad for Ditto TV, an over-the-top television distribution platform launched by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd that captures the idea that content can be consumed anywhere, any time.
Zee Entertainment, which is already a content producer, broadcaster and distributor, conceived the idea of Ditto TV to address the shift in consumer habits when it comes to viewing television and video content. It is aimed at the population in villages where there are frequent power cuts but has a mobile network, households where there is one TV but each family member wants to watch different shows, and for people on the go.
“With the kind of devices floating in the market, and new technology and Internet space opening up, it was necessary for us to establish a new distribution platform on this medium,” says Manoj Padmanabhan, business head for Ditto TV.
Ericsson’s report last week on the growth of mobile broadband in India estimates that the mobile subscriber base in the country will grow from 795 million in 2013 to 1,145 million subscribers by 2020.
Simultaneously, smartphone penetration will shoot up from 10%, or 90 million devices in 2013, to 45%, or 520 million devices.
In contrast, the penetration of paid cable and satellite television households in India is expected to grow from 139 million in 2013 to 181 million by 2018, according to the Ficci-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment 2014 report.
Addressing this fast-growing connected community, Ditto TV offers live television viewing, TV shows, movies and videos on demand, which can be watched by streaming it over Internet-enabled devices, and can be downloaded as an app. It operates on a subscription-based model and since its launch in 2012, it has seen about two million app downloads and has about 350,000 paid subscribers, half of whom are from rural areas.
Viewers may choose from daily, weekly and monthly packages. The company charges amounts varying from Rs.20 to Rs.149 based on the package a customer chooses. The package comprise a mix of free and paid content, depending on the content provider.
Unlike other platforms, advertising revenues do not account for much currently, says Padmanabhan.
Ditto TV has also empowered the content provider by providing complete information on the demographics of consumers from the nature of content consumed, duration of viewing, devices used and the geographical spread.
In addition, it also offers subscription pattern, viewership details, most-viewed content, all of which helps them to streamline the content according to user preference and scope for content localization.
The challenge is getting customers and spreading awareness of this medium. “The cost of acquiring a subscriber and keeping a customer active is very high. The content needs to be live irrespective of the number of consumers,” says Padmanabhan.
Ditto TV has not broken even on its investment yet. The company did not disclose investment and revenue figures.
Ditto TV stems from the belief that any good content is not freely available—for which, Padmanabhan says, people are willing to pay.
“The challenge is not whether people will pay for content, but collecting the payment, which is a difficult task.”
The only way to get around to the payment challenge was by having a 360-degree payment mechanism. From having just an online payment mechanism initially, the company has moved to various offline methods. It sells prepaid cards and virtual cards wherever Internet services or devices are sold, and uses distribution and payment collection solution providers like Oxigen, besides mobile operators.
“We are trying to partner with every company that a customer is likely to have a billing relationship with,” says Padmanabhan.
Taking a leaf from e-commerce companies, Ditto TV also has a cash-on delivery model, where Ditto TV prepaid card is delivered to the door-step, which undoubtedly, is the used payment mechanism by most customers.
With increasing screen sizes, and increase in number of handsets, Ditto TV is also looking at bundling with handset providers and mobile phone operators. It is also working on technology that would allow users to view content on rent, so that they can pay to watch only a particular content.
Expanding its footprint, the company hopes to expand the number of channels it offers to 100 by the end of this year and hopes to increase its paid subscriber base to 2 million, of which 30% is expected to come from a global user base.
This growth in user-base is expected to be fuelled by content. “As we go global, we are also focusing on developing content across languages like Spanish. We are exploring strategic partnerships with international content owners to have access to on-demand content from global channels and networks,” says Padmanabhan. Additionally, Ditto TV is also gearing up to offer social media integration.
Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the mBillionth awards.