Are streaming platforms mirroring television industry’s strategy?


One of the many reasons for the rise of video streaming services or Over-the-top (OTT) platforms in India was their ability to provide an alternative to television’s sterile and monotonous content. In fact, in their early years, streaming platforms streamed content which validated this view. But increasingly, many feel, selection and creation of content which have become part of their respective libraries have a different story to tell.

It seems that streaming platforms are following a strategy, which is no different than television channels.

There are a few factors which amply demonstrate that streaming platforms are no different than television channels in terms of gathering and creating content. Firstly, a key aspect which has blurred the distinction between streaming platforms and television content is their approach in building their libraries. There is no discerning approach in the selection of content. “Today, streaming platforms are just accumulating content. In doing so, they are blurring the distinctions in their offerings,” said Kunal Churi, a photographer-cum-cinematographer. “There is duplication of content. What I see on television is also available on streaming platforms. It seems that I just have an additional screen to consume more or less same content. The perception that streaming platforms would not offer what television offers is gradually turning out to be untrue,” added Churi. According to a research by consulting firm RedSeer out of the 188 billion minutes spent on streaming platforms, users spent the highest—69 billion minutes—on daily soaps.

The second aspect which provides sufficient basis to believe that streaming platforms are following the strategy of television channels is the recent launches of streaming platforms based on themes and languages. A question which analysts raise is: Why there is a need to launch niche and theme-based streaming platforms when existing streaming platforms already provide diversity of content in different languages? In the past few years, there are at least nine streaming platforms which provide content in nine different languages in India. A few prominent ones are Hoichoi (Bengali), Aha (Telugu) and Regal Talkies (Tamil). Yogesh Parker, an avid consumer of streaming platforms’ content said, “Content in different languages is available under one streaming platform brand. I can watch a Marathi or Bengali on Netflix or Amazon as these platforms have separate windows for regional content. I don’t see the logic of subscribing to a streaming platform which offers content only in one language.” In the context of these facts, analysts have doubts about the sustainability of such niche, theme-and-language-based streaming platforms.

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“India is a very different and price-sensitive market,” said a former top executive of a large streaming platform. “There are already over 40 players. It is not possible for all to continue and co-exist. You will see consolidation. Some will be acquired or merged or will become unviable. At present, many are playing valuation games.”

Analysts also draw a connection between funding and earnings of streaming platforms as competition intensifies in the coming years. “It is difficult to gauge a clear pattern in the consumption of content among Indian viewers. So, almost every new or existing platform is either too niche or provides all kinds of content. As a result of this, streaming platforms will either have stagnant or falling revenues. There are three key reasons for this. One: there is high level of piracy. Two: viewers have too many choices for consuming content. Three: Inordinate dependence on subscriptions for revenues rather than advertisements. In the context of these facts, costs associated with running streaming platforms are likely to go up impacting earnings in the long-term,” said an analyst with a leading auditing firm.

Lastly, a crucial development which may hasten the process of streaming platforms becoming like television channels is the government’s imposition of censorship rules already followed by television industry. This may rob streaming platforms of certain amount of creative freedom in terms of creating content. Consequently, streaming platforms may produce content which will be more or less similar to television content with the only difference of better production value and visuals.



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