OTT platforms are estimated to have added 3-4 million new viewers during the lockdown and the absence of fresh content on TV led to a surge in OTT viewership
NEW DELHI: A surge in viewership on over-the-top (OTT) video streaming platforms during India’s peak lockdown has prompted brands to explore advertising, content integrations and sponsored shows on streaming sites and increase their advertising spends on platforms like Zee5, SonyLiv, Voot, MX Player and Disney+Hotstar, among others. American streaming brands Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are subscription-led and do not allow commercial spots.
OTT platforms are estimated to have added 3-4 million new viewers during the lockdown as people stayed at home. The absence of fresh content on TV as shoots were paused also led to a surge in OTT viewership. Consequently, data by TAM Media Research shows that ad insertions on OTT platforms doubled in April 2020 over March 2020.
Cigarettes-to-packaged consumer goods firm ITC said spends on OTT, as a share of digital marketing spends, have gone up from less than 5% last year to 15% this year for its portfolio of FMCG brands. On OTT platforms, the expenditure has risen from 5-7% pre-lockdown to 15-18% during and post-lockdown, which is more than 2x, said Shuvadip Banerjee, vice president, marketing services, ITC Limited.
“Covid-19 has demonstrated the affinity audiences have for OTT platforms driven by the diversity of content it can stream. For ITC, OTT as a platform enables us to reach different audience segments at a larger scale in a cost-efficient manner," said Banerjee. ITC Limited owns popular brands such as Savlon, Aashirvaad flour and Yippee noodles.
“Apart from the regular impression buys, we are exploring content integrations, sponsorships, customised content-based shows, on them," Bannerjee said. The company has added Zee5, SonyLIV and Voot to its media mix.
Other categories utilising these platforms include auto, edtech, gaming, BFSI and e-commerce, said Kishan Kumar MS, chief growth officer, and south head, Wavemaker India. “The surge in OTT and e-commerce because of covid-19 is widely known. A lot of original content and movies across regional languages, Hindi and English and live sports is driving viewers to these platforms. A large part of light TV viewers are attracted to this content and hence are fast becoming OTT first audiences," Kumar added.
“Earlier when we built plans for our clients, it was mainly a mix of YouTube and Social media, but with the changes in consumption pattern, OTT has now become a mandate," Shradha Agarwal, co-founder and COO at digital media agency Grapes Digital. Agarwal said in an advertising budget of, say, Rs40-50 lakh, OTT is a major line item. Her agency has witnessed 30% jump in OTT advertising among its clients.
Ad insertions are common on ad-based video consumption platforms such as MX Player and Viacom-18's Voot. Both platforms allow users to watch their own original shows as well as access news, sports, general entertainment content from across multiple channels. Disney+Hotstar and SonyLIV, on the hand, allow brands to sponsor shows, apart from advertising on live sports programming, a huge hit among advertisers. In 2019, Hotstar cornered ₹300 crore in advertising from Indian Premier League (IPL) alone.
Streaming platforms have become an important part of the media and marketing mix for brands, said Karan Bedi, CEO, MX Player, a video-on-demand platform. The platform has seen more than 2x growth on average in monthly revenue on MX. “This is also driven by the growth in offerings -- inventory across display, video, gaming and branded content. Users moved to OTT quickly, and marketing money is also now moving equally quickly," said Bedi. Brands are seeking flexibility and focusing on bespoke strategies that align to revised business objectives, he added.
During the lockdown, several broadcasters started offering advertisers a combined deal for video – covering both TV channel and their OTT platform, according Pitch-Madison advertising report released in August.
Other than total viewership, consumers are also spending more time on streaming platforms. According to a July EY report, time spent on OTT increased 1.2 times. “We recognize the amount of consumer time spent on OTT is increasing," said Gayatri Kabilan, senior manager, marketing,, CavinKare Pvt Ltd told Mint. "We have been present on OTT, but we have amped up our spends a lot more. We are associating with more OTT players," said Kabilan, part of Chennai-based fast-moving consumer goods company sells Chik shampoo and Garden brand packaged snacks.
Several brands have only etched brand-specific associations as they test the format.
“While we have deep global partnerships with Facebook and Google, when it comes to OTT platforms, we believe in adopting a more targeted approach, which is predominantly focused around campaigns through which we are looking to build brand relevance or when we want to invest in a specific interest genre, for instance, cricket. Our recent association with Bandish Bandits on Amazon Prime for Cadbury Dairy Milk Silk during the lockdown, is a testament to this approach," said Anjali Krishnan, head of media, Mondelez India.
Krishnan said that when it comes to advertising and partnering with OTT platforms brands consider a range of deliverables such as programmatic ad serving, brand safety and suitability, content fit, ability to build brand proposition etc.
“If all of these come together, OTT will be one of the platforms we would definitely include in our mix. Besides, if there is an opportunity that works well for our brands, we will consider investing in it and if OTT is going to make a big impact in the digital landscape in the next twelve months, we will adopt the platform," she said.
The first half of the year saw a significant dip in advertising revenue as print circulation dropped and entertainment TV channels were starved of fresh programming owing to the lockdown. AdEx dropped 65% in Q2, Pitch Madison said in its report. However, the second half the year is set for a rebound, especially as IPL kicks in.
"With festive season kicking off and with more excitement around original content and IPL, one could expect a lot more categories intensifying their OTT presence," said Wavemaker's Kumar.