Catching the pulse of OTT revolution in India
Girin George, Turian Labs
The train was packed with commuters from different backgrounds as visible from their attire and the multiplicity of dialects. This diversity was also evident in the smartphones they owned. A corporate employee with an iPhone to a cloth salesman with a Micromax; such was the variance. One thing that was striking is how these divided heads turned in one direction as soon as a man opened an app called Hotstar (a video streaming app) to watch India’s cricket match. People watched, commented, and got off when the train reached their station, only to be replaced with a new set of commuters. It was a ceaseless cycle. Interesting thing here was how this man who had ownership of the app, didn’t realise that he was unknowingly sharing screens with a dozen strangers. Within a span of 10 minutes, there were at least 20-30 people who witnessed the match. The man oblivious to all this was having a ‘Hotstar’ moment of his own.
This experience somehow took me back to the 90’s when only a few Indian middle class families owned a TV. These were the star households that would take up the initiative of screening India’s cricket matches. You had to be in the good books of these homes to get an invitation. But here, it was a spontaneous gathering of cricket lovers around a tiny mobile screen. With the number of smartphone users in India expected to hit 442 million by 2022, how many of these users will access mobile entertainment? It got me thinking.
A premium account with Hotstar costs Rs. 199 per month, which translates to Rs. 2400 (Approximately $30) annually. If you still think this as a lot, the annual subscription was reduced to Rs. 999 last year which is much less than compared to the amount people pay for a digi-cable connection. When compared with Amazon Prime and Netflix, Hotstar is way ahead in terms of the number of users (around a million paid subscribers).
There were two reasons why Hotstar flourished:
One, Hotstar served more regional content than the other apps. Two, it provided access to one of the most worshipped media content in India - cricket. The app hit a jackpot by buying streaming rights to the most popular version of Indian Cricket, the IPL. The eleventh edition of the IPL had a record 10.3 million viewers logging into Hotstar to witness the finals.
With smartphones & internet becoming more accessible and affordable by day, these staggering numbers speak of ubiquitous nature of mobile entertainment in India. In that case, any app that cracks the code of serving personalized content (that include the local content) specific to a group, will rule this domain.