Video streaming to trigger smartphone war in India

Adult video traffic
Smartphone shipments are on the decline globally. Devices launched with same features and specifications and price cuts are so far unable to make a visible impact. So what is going to drive the sales numbers? The answer is content, and global and Indian internet-based video streaming service providers have spruced up efforts to woo the Indian consumers.

At present, video content contributes approximately 40 percent of the total mobile data traffic in India. Various industry estimates predict a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 83 percent for over-the-top (OTT) video content demand in the next five years in the country.

It was global streaming giant Netflix that set the Indian video content industry on fire with its entry nearly four months ago. Other players like US-based YuppTV, Mumbai-based nexGTV and China-based LeEco (offering free video content services bundled with its “superphone” Le 1s Eco) have unleashed the content war.

“It is early days in India and there is still much to learn and discover so that we can keep making the Netflix experience better. So far we are pleased with how consumers in India are discovering Netflix,” says Jessica Lee, director, communications (Asia), Netflix.

In 2016, Netflix plans to spend about $5 billion on programming rights, including many original and licensed titles around the world. That includes more than 30 new Netflix original series (or seasons of existing series.)

In India, Netflix is set to acquire recent Bollywood titles, memorable classic titles and the best of regional cinema (Tamil, Gujarati, Punjabi and Marathi).

“For now, we see that the shows Indians love are very much similar to what we see in other markets. The top ones are Netflix originals like ‘Master of None’, ‘Narcos’, Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’ and Marvel’s ‘Jessica Jones’,” Lee told IANS.

“Our goal is to bring Indian cinema to not only all regions of the country but to the world. So you will find Indian film titles in all countries in which Netflix exists — accessible to our more than 81 million members. For example, ‘Brahman Naman’, a coming-of-age comedy by celebrated Indian director ‘Q’, will soon be available globally on Netflix alone,” informs Lee.

According to Uday Reddy, CEO and founder of internet-based TV streaming provider YuppTV, with the smartphone users in the country expected to touch over 700 million by 2020, the contribution of video content in the overall data consumption can rise as high as 85 percent.

“Entertainment for today’s mobile-friendly viewership is no longer confined to the walls of living rooms. Instead, the ongoing digital revolution has enabled one’s entertainment solutions to be carried in the palm of one’s hand,” Reddy told IANS.

Founded in 2006, with offices in Atlanta and Mumbai, YuppTV offers over 200 television channels in 12 languages. “At present, we have more than 25,000 hours of entertainment catalogued in our library and add approximately 2,500 hours of new on-demand content on a daily basis. In terms of diversity, we have more than 200 Live TV channels, over 2,000 movies, and over 100 TV shows,” informs Reddy.

YuppTV recently launched YuppFlix, an on-demand movie streaming service for the Indian diaspora, and YuppTV Bazaar, an online marketplace for the premium content curator.

The outlook for the Indian OTT video content industry looks extremely positive this year. According to a recent report from market research firm Media Partners Asia (MPA), the OTT market in India is expected to cross 100 million unique monthly users by 2020.

OTT players are also set to benefit from the evolving entertainment preferences of the Indian digital viewers as well as the availability of better monetisation channels.

“At nexGTv, we currently receive close to two million subscribers every month, browsing through our extensive content catalogue which comprises nearly 20,000 hours of programming across Live TV, movies and video-on-demand (VOD) in over 10 different languages,” says Abhesh Verma, COO, nexGTv.

“With multiple offerings such as ‘nexGTv SPOTLight’, ‘nexGTv Kids’ app and premium original content adding greater diversity to our library, we are confident that nexGTv will soon emerge as the industry leader in the Indian OTT entertainment segment,” Verma told IANS.

Is poor internet connectivity a real enemy for the OTT players?

Poor internet connectivity causes broken viewing experience and low end-user satisfaction and has traditionally been a major obstacle for the OTT players in the domestic market. 4G services are yet to reach maximum users and the minimum broadband speed is at 512 kbps in India while the world average is 5.1 Mbps.

“For a seamless streaming experience, broadband internet is necessary and the broadband penetration in India is just starting to pick up. With the national broadband policy, we hope to see an increased penetration which will help the growth of OTT in India,” adds Reddy.

To counter poor streaming, Netflix has introduced a new tool to help members better control how much data they use when streaming on cellular networks.

“In addition, our adaptive streaming engine allows us to automatically adjust the bitrate (measured in multiple of bits per second) of the video stream based on a member’s bandwidth so we can eliminate buffering and provide the best viewing experience in lower bandwidth countries like India,” notes Lee.

There is also a push to create original video content that is relevant to the evolving tastes and entertainment sensibilities of the Indian viewers.

“With growing 3G penetration and the advent of 4G-LTE network, we are bound to see greater adoption and more seamless service delivery. This, in confluence with affordable smartphones and data plans, will drive OTT content growth,” hopes Verma.

Nishant Arora / IANS