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New Delhi: Brand collaborations, including in-show integrations and partnerships for promotions, could contribute 55-60% of overall revenue for OTT or over-the-top video streaming platforms in India in the next few years, said executives at OTT firms and digital advertising specialists.

Since several streaming services do not accept direct advertising or commercials as they are subscription-based, also known as SVoD or subscription video on demand platforms, they accept sponsored content where a brand funds a show partially.

Show promotions through influencers are also carried out in collaborations with brands that dole out gift hampers to them. Netflix recently partnered with dating site Tinder where the latter’s users can appear as contestants on a new dating show on the American streaming service. Netflix had earlier collaborated with OnePlus for a game based on its original show titled AK vs AK starring Anil Kapoor.

ALTBalaji has companies like Ferns & Petals and Ixigo offering discounts for its new show Puncch Beat while aha Video has just brought out a food talk show co-presented by MTR and Himalaya Pure Brands. However, monetisation currently in early stages, could come into play in the next one year where brands will pay to be featured in content.

“It (the partnership between OTT services and brands) is evolving as brands are increasingly becoming aware of the growing popularity of OTT. Associating with the right brands enables OTT platforms to widen their reach by gaining visibility among target audiences," said Divya Dixit, senior vice-president, revenue and marketing, ALTBalaji. While the revenue model is still evolving, innovation and timing could prove fruitful for both partners, she added.

A senior executive at a streaming platform added that especially for services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video which have no ads, the goal of these partnerships is not revenue but to work with brands with similar interests and drive bigger conversations in more interesting ways around a film or a series.

Vishwanath Shetty, vice-president, sales and brand solutions, Pocket Aces, said the show or film won’t benefit unless they match thematically with the brands in question and the association seems organic. Pocket Aces has collaborated with both Netflix and Amazon to create content as part of promotional campaigns of OTT originals that are featured on its short-form video vertical FilterCopy.

In case of brands partnering with shows, "content that would earlier have to be marketed by the OTT platform alone is also marketed by the brand," said Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO at SoCheers, an independent digital agency. The brand, on the other hand, that usually knows its target audience, gets to participate in topical conversations online and gets to ride on popular faces without having to on-board an actual ambassador. “It’s a win-win for both as they manage to reach out to audiences via multiple mediums, remain top of mind and create maximum chatter," Gupta added.

Sammati Pande, co-founder and CEO Growfitter, an online wellness platform that had tied up with ALTBalaji said the platform’s viewers across metro cities, tier-one, two, three and rural areas, helped grow its user base in more than 200 cities pan-India. Unlike ads that can often be skipped, brands know these partnerships make for meaningful engagement, said Ajit Thakur, CEO, aha, adding that the platform has seen a lot of interest from brands as its own monthly active users have shot up to 6-7 million.

Advertising experts like Gupta said there is no reason for such partnerships to not emerge as revenue streams in the coming years, if OTTs learn to create programming that doesn’t destroy the content viewing experience while delivering value to the brand through “subtle placements." Sushil Anantharaman, media director at digital marketing agency Gozoop that several brands are also in a phase of digital maturity as younger management looks at OTT platforms seriously, which, in turn, can benefit from the revenue coming in to bolster not just content but also technological expertise. “Platforms need at least 80-85% penetration for subscription revenue to alone suffice for this," he pointed out.

The idea is to make sure the alignment doesn’t appear forced or like advertising, and actually lends itself to the story of the show, said Gourav Rakshit, chief operating officer, Viacom18 Digital Ventures who has seen traction from consumption categories such as packaged consumer goods, auto and durables. VOOT has recently tied up with the Singapore Tourism Board for its show Chhota Bheem to be aired on its kids’ service, VOOT Kids.

“We’re consciously aware that this is an early adoption stage, it will gain momentum, going forward," Rakshit added.

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