“We are retailers of content, we buy the content in bulk and we sell it in small packets. The difference in bargain and arbitrage is how we make money. So, basically we are content grocers," says Harit Nagpal, MD and CEO, Tata Play; Image: Nayan Shah for Forbes India
****When Tata Sky first launched in 2006, its objective was to make it easier for a subscriber to search for content. Over the last four to five years, when a small segment of subscribers started watching content on OTT platforms, Nagpal recalls people saying, “Now that OTT is here, television is dead. And we used to tell them, India is a market of ‘ands’ not ‘ors’.” Over time, the number of OTT applications increased from a few to a dozen. Every time a new show released on an OTT platform—be it Scam 1992, Bandish Bandits or Aarya—viewers had to subscribe to a new service. “Often, for one show, a viewer had to subscribe to a particular OTT for a full year. Secondly, we also noticed that people had to look through several platforms to decide what to watch,” says Nagpal.So in December 2019 they launched Tata Sky Binge for existing DTH customers, as an add-on service. They started with four OTT applications for the large screen first via the Amazon Fire TV stick and then later launched an Android enabled hybrid set-top box – Tata Play Binge+, too. Anurag Kumar, chief communications officer, Tata Play says, “Earlier Binge was only available on the large screen, now we have an option for subscribers to have a large screen and/or mobile version too.” After two years of testing and perfecting the application, they are looking at acquiring new customers for Binge, which today offers 12 OTT applications along with Amazon Prime Video.
****According to experts, the confluence of OTT and broadband is likely to lead to immense opportunities, as large screen consumption of OTT is picking up pace. The broadband market in India has traditionally been under-penetrated with only about 25 million wired broadband subscribers as on November 2021, and ~780 million wireless broadband subscribers, as per KPMG’s estimates.“However, the potential in this market is immense, with stated intent by various telcos to penetrate the broadband market more aggressively, targeting anywhere between 50-70 million fiber homes in the next three to four years. Broadband connections are an important enabler to continued and increasing consumption of OTT and higher speeds and data quotas are expected to drive this growth going ahead,” says Menon of KPMG.The broadband vertical of Tata Play, Tata Play Fiber (formerly known as Tata Sky Broadband) was founded in 2015, and is a subsidiary of Tata Play Limited. The segment has quite a lot of established players including Airtel and Jio. But Tata Play doesn’t have high ambitions in this area. Play’s competitors are focussing on acquiring millions of customers, but they are happy sticking to lakhs and thousands—without offering any discounts.“For Tata Play Fiber want to focus on a niche—customers who want good speed, are heavy users of broadband, don’t want a minute of downtime, and are willing to pay for it,” he says. It is only available in select areas of 16 cities including Delhi, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Pune. Says Nagpal, “Like in the DTH business, with broadband also, we want to target lesser downtime and quick recovery.”Going forward, broadband will remain an essential but small part of the business. Television and OTT will be a focus area, since television isn’t going anywhere. Nagpal believes that in a country with 300 million homes, there are only 130 million pay TV homes, which means, “the potential to grow is massive”.Tata Play ties up with OTT platforms in the same way they do with TV channels. Nagpal says, “We are retailers of content, we buy the content in bulk and we sell it in small packets. The difference in bargain and arbitrage is how we make money. So, basically we are content grocers.”