Will OTT consumption trends last beyond the Lockdown?

01 Jun,2020

 

By Indrani Sen

 

Starting March 25, Covid-19 imposed four phases of a lockdown over 68 days in India. We have seen many changes in our Media & Entertainment industry during this period. The rise of consumption of video streaming or OTT platforms is a major one among the various changes. As we enter the Phase 5 of lockdown with gradual unlocking of restrictions, the questions which are foremost among the various sectors of the M&E industry ‘will the gain made during the Lockdown last/ can the loss made during the Lockdown be reversed?’

 

How long does it actually take to form a new habit? Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon published his thoughts on behaviour changes in an audio book called Psycho-Cybernetics which was not only a blockbuster hit, but also influenced thinkers like Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins etc. Maltz’s submission “it takes minimum 21 days to form a new habit” was shortened to “it takes 21 days to form a new habit” and the ‘21 days’ myth was born.

 

There have been other scientific studies on the subject and a study by Phillippa Lally published in European Journal of Social Psychology found that on average, it takes minimum 66 days before a new behaviour becomes a habitual one. Though we have had 68 days’ of lockdown, the consumption of OTT platforms did not increase at one stroke at the beginning of Lockdown, but has increased gradually over this period. Still, it would be fair to assume that a large percentage of the viewers contributing to increased OTT consumption is on the verge of forming a new habit which is likely to last as we slowly emerge from the lockdown.

 

From only nine in 2012, today the number of OTT platforms in India now stands at 35. The technique of personalisation of content for individual viewers has been helping them to increase their subscriber base which in turn has started attracting distribution of recent movies and other interesting contents. According to TAM AdEx data, the OTT platforms have been advertising aggressively during the Lockdown period on national and regional TV channels across different genres. Most of the platforms have been rewarded with growth of paid viewers and rise in viewing time.

 

Apart from the above increases, what other trends we can expect to emerge in OTT viewing in India? As the consumption of OTT platforms increase both vertically and horizontally, the bandwidth required for delivery would continue to remain as an issue. The Cellular Operators’ Association of India has already asked OTT platforms to limit the quality and quantity of video to reduce the strain on the cellular network infrastructure.

 

The shift of OTT viewing from small screen to large screen would be a trend to watch out for. As we would be living under the cloud of COVID 19 till an effective vaccine is discovered and is available globally at an affordable price, we will be accepting ‘new normal’ in various wakes of life including spending more time at home with family. The urge to view content together as well as the limitations of the broadband internet may lead to a shift of OTT viewing from the small screen of the mobile to the large screen of TV, a fact which was highlighted in the recent KPMG study.

 

Another trend to watch out for would be a shift in prime time viewing of OTT platforms due to WFH and early return from work to home due to night curfew.  A recent article in Financial Times stated: “According to a recent survey by mobile marketing platform InMobi, 46% viewers are watching more content online. Another consumer survey conducted by Hammerkopf has found that OTT consumption primetime has moved to 7 pm onwards, as opposed to 10 pm-12 am before.” (https://www.financialexpress.com/brandwagon/how-is-coronavirus-impacting-the-streaming-platforms-with-an-increasing-appetite-of-viewers/1919916/).

 

Various websites have recently carried articles on the ad spend on OTT platforms based on the TAM AdEx report of January to April 2020 showing that ad insertions doubled from 16000 in March to 33000  in April on this medium. An article on www.warc.com made an excellent analysis of the same ( https://www.warc.com/newsandopinion/news/adspend-on-ott-platforms-double-as-advertiser-mix-shifts-in-india/43633) pointing out that while some  categories/advertisers/ brands withdrew their advertising from OTT platforms, many new categories/ advertisers/ brands started advertising in their place. The churning of traditional to new advertisers would be the third trend that we can expect to see in near future on OTT platforms.

 

Could there be a negative impact on the Lockdown on OTT business? If there is a further spike in Coronavirus cases after unlocking and the Government is forced to impose Lockdown again, then the economy may take a grievous down turn due to prolonged Lockdown resulting in a severe cash crunch and loss of employment. In such a situation, there may be de-growth in subscription of the video streaming platforms along with de-growth across M&E industry.

 

The OTT platforms have restructured the content creation and distribution in the entertainment industry and it appears that the Lockdown would be acting as catalyst to accelerate the growth of this sector and the current consumption trends would last beyond the Lockdown period.

 

 

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