Paywall Pangs: The OTT Conundrum

28 Apr,2023



By Shailesh Kapoor


Shailesh KapoorHalfway through this year’s IPL, it is evident that the season has been a resounding success. The pandemic led to restrictions related to venues and in-stadia audience capacities, all of which are now a thing of the past. Games in the home-away format is at the heart of any sporting league, and that’s on show this year, for the first time since 2019. Though it’s another matter that Chennai Super Kings fans make even the away stadia look like home venues.


But the biggest change in this year’s IPL is that it can be streamed for free. By choosing to not put IPL behind the paywall, Jio, via its platform JioCinema, has set the cat among the pigeons, so to speak. If one of the most-sought-after content properties in India doesn’t need a paid subscription, then who do platforms with mediocre web-series demand that their audience pay? That’s something many OTT audiences are beginning to think about.


The numbers on JioCinema, as also on Star Sports, look very encouraging. It will be no surprise if peak concurrent viewership on JioCinema crosses the 3.5 Crore mark on the day of the final.


Since the arrival of OTT platforms in India, about six years ago, a large share of media attention has been on the ‘premium’ SVOD business. But the advertiser sentiment has progressively moved from linear television to digital, and a big-ticket property like the IPL being accessible to the wider OTT audience base is a fascinating proposition for marketing managers and media planners.


Of course, JioCinema has plans to launch a paid offering too, for premium entertainment content, including that from HBO. And doing so is their recognition of the potential of a hybrid model, wherein advertiser-funded and subscription-funded content will co-exist.


But the success of IPL on AVOD should be food for thought for Indian OTT platforms who run products that are technologically inferior to the global leaders in this space, but expect audiences to shell out subscription fee for routine content. With YouTube being omnipresent, it’s not going to get any easier for audiences to pay for content, unless both the content and the app experience is truly compelling. And consistently so over a period of time.


Just last month, I wrote in this column that there is unlikely to be a dull moment in the Indian OTT space for a while. But it seems we are in for even more action and excitement that what one originally anticipated.


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