Home/ Industry / Media/  India’s homegrown OTT platforms come of age to rival Netflix, Amazon

NEW DELHI : With the covid-19 lockdown having disrupted viewing habits and fast-tracked the adoption of OTT (over-the-top) video streaming services by a couple of years, India’s homegrown platforms, too, have emerged as stronger rivals to global giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

According to a streaming tracker by Ormax Media in collaboration with movie portal Film Companion, the list of top five OTT shows for the last week of October included SonyLIV’s Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story (6 million views) and MX Player’s High (2.3 million) and Ashram (2.2 million), though the list was led by Amazon Prime Video’s Mirzapur 2 (16.8 million views). Ormax’s own stream track for the top 10 OTT shows for the first week of November based on buzz also included ZEE5’s original thriller drama Taish.

“It is a testament to the quality of content on the platform. All OTT services had the opportunity to grab eyeballs but it hasn’t worked out for everyone," said Karan Bedi, chief executive officer, MX Player. Bedi added that it has been a steep learning curve for their service over the past few months in terms of strategies around reaching audiences, total number of shows and the right mix.

“One thing going for these homegrown platforms is that unlike foreign OTTs, they understand the Indian market and their library is skewed towards Indian masses while the latter have to cater to everyone," Chetan Asher, co-founder and CEO of Tonic Worldwide, a digital-first creative agency pointed out. MX Player’s Bedi added that mass local content has always been a winner in India and notched up high viewership, even though there have been foreign studios investing in film business, for instance, the sensibilities are best captured by Indian players.

“The pandemic has been a watershed moment for the OTT landscape as India witnessed years of adoption happening in a few months. Thanks to the lockdown, for the first time, the rate of content consumption raced ahead of the production," Deepak Sonpar, senior director at MediaCom, a GroupM-owned media agency said. Availability of affordable handsets and cheap data prices have helped OTTs gain critical mass and reach middle India, the segment that truly represents diversity in the country. With this, regional language nuances and local preferences have come to the fore.

“The emerging OTT players have latched on to consumer preferences well. Series like Ashram on MX player or Scam 1992 on SonyLIV are like the ‘Sacred Games’ moment for Netflix. Scam 1992 is a case in point. It’s good content, well shot with no sleaze, violence or adult language. A quick analysis of online chatter tells us that people are loving it and are tweeting or talking about it with nostalgia for the early 90’s. Not only is the content apt for the target group but the timing is right to leverage it and win time share among consumers," Sonpar added.

Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO at SoCheers, an independent digital agency, however, said that international players still have the advantage of deep pockets and a rich history of data on what viewers watch. While services like MX Player and SonyLIV have been curating content on a regular basis, the problem in the Indian market remains one of discovery and of the need for great word-of-mouth for a show or film to stand out in the clutter of offerings.

Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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Updated: 10 Nov 2020, 01:02 PM IST
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