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Business News/ Opinion / Columns/  Aggregators queue up as OTT viewership surges
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Aggregators queue up as OTT viewership surges

Aggregators relieve the viewer of dealing with multiple services.

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Vivek Gupta, co-founder, Vial Content Tech, which has formed a joint venture to bring UK’s streaming service aggregator ScreenHits to India, is pretty busy formulating the business plans and testing the app for this market. In all likelihood, the OTT aggregator will hit the market later this month, though Vial Content co-partner Kunal Dasgupta had announced a January 2022 timeline for its debut. “The delay is only because the ScreenHits launch in Latin America fell behind schedule. ScreenHits is now in the UK, the US, Germany and Latin America," said Gupta.

An OTT aggregator allows a viewer to watch his favourite streaming services on one platform and one interface. Ideally, aggregators facilitate single payment for all the apps, though, for now, ScreenHits services will be available free of cost and will only collate all the apps – which you may have already paid for -- in one place. “It’s like the Amazon Fire TV Stick without the hardware," explained Gupta.

ScreenHits is just one of the many aggregators launching their services in India to make life easier for OTT viewers. In June, HT Labs’ OTTplay, a recommendation and content discovery service for streaming platforms, turned aggregator to host 12 Indian and international video streaming services, including SonyLIV, ZEE5, Lionsgate Play, Sun NXT, ShemarooMe, Curiosity Stream, ShortsTV and DocuBay. It has also onboarded four international brands - Hallmark Movies Now, DUST, FUSE+ and Tastemade+, which were so far not available in India. HT Labs is the innovation platform of HT Media Ltd which publishes Mint.

Avinash Mudaliar, co-founder and CEO of HT Labs, said OTTplay algorithms map a consumer’s personal preferences and suggest content accordingly. The service also added show ratings and reviews. “And now we’ve become a destination for multiple OTTs. We have got into deep niches such as food, science and documentaries," Mudaliar added.

OTTplay can be accessed on android TV and the app will soon be available on Amazon Fire TV Stick. Unlike many aggregators and telco bundles, OTTplay is not married to any data plan, Mudaliar said. “We believe in democratizing content consumption which should not be filtered using data plans or devices." The company is targeting one million subscribers within a year to 18 months. It has already signed up 12 OTT services and three more are in the pipeline.

Unlike OTTplay, ScreenHits plans to stick to five or six most popular streaming services which get 80% of the viewership, said Gupta. However, ScreenHits, too, will pitch itself as an independent service not bundled with telco offers, or attached to any box being sold by DTH (direct-to-home) platforms.

Aggregator Tata Binge, meanwhile, is an extension of Tata Play DTH service, which also offer Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to its subscribers. Harit Nagpal, managing director and chief executive, Tata Play, said there is no problem of plenty in the proliferation of OTT aggregators. “We started with six DTH operators in the country and there are thousands of cable operators who distribute TV channels," he reasoned.

Aggregators manage the commercial relationships with TV channels or OTT platforms, as the case may be, relieving the viewer of dealing with multiple services. Also, they make choice of content easier, Nagpal said.

Currently, Tata Binge’s million customers have been acquired from its DTH base. They can watch the streaming services it offers on TV and the phone. “We have a unified box where, through one remote, you can watch both TV and OTT apps," said Nagpal. Now the company plans to target consumers who do not subscribe to Tata Play DTH. Of the 25 streaming services it has signed up, 17 are operational.

The rush to grab a piece of OTT aggregation business in India is understandable. There were 50 million audio and video streaming subscribers in India in 2020 which scaled to 80 million in 2021, said a Ficci-EY report of March 2022. Media industry experts peg OTT to be a 5,000 crore market already which is poised for growth.

Kunal Dasgupta agreed that India does go overboard in everything – it has an estimated 100 OTT apps already, he said. “Expansion will ride on the back of really cheap data in this market," he added.

Of course, the winning aggregator will be the one with the best technology, content offerings and user interface.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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Published: 01 Sep 2022, 12:54 AM IST
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