WhatsApp launches channels, but not in India yet; OTT players push back on govt's tobacco warnings mandate

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India’s OTT businesses are pushing back against a government mandate to curtail the glorification of cigarette use online. The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has flagged “fundamental concerns” and “practical difficulties” in complying with the new rules that the government issued last month to include anti-tobacco warnings on video streaming platforms, Economic Times reports.


On May 31, the health ministry notified amendments in the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2004, which mandate over-the-top (OTT) video streaming platforms to display anti-tobacco warnings and disclaimers on the lines of such warnings displayed in movies in theatres.


The online video streaming industry has argued that enforcement of these rules will result in them having to edit thousands of hours of footage to add anti-tobacco warnings, which would cost the industry. In other words, they don’t want to pay to insert these important health warnings.


Disney+ Hotstar has decided to offer free streaming of cricket tournaments to mobile users in India, following the success of Reliance's JioCinema, which has attracted millions of viewers, TechCrunch reports.


The move comes after JioCinema surpassed Hotstar's record for concurrent views during the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament. JioCinema reached over 32 million simultaneous viewers for the IPL finale, compared to Hotstar's previous record of 25 million. Hotstar hopes that by making the Asia Cup and ICC Men's Cricket World Cup available for free, it will grow its user base and overall ecosystem. 


Hotstar has been adversely affected by JioCinema's win of the IPL streaming rights last year, resulting in a loss of subscribers and a decline in average revenue per subscriber. JioCinema has also announced partnerships with Warner Bros. and NBCUniversal to expand its content catalogue.


WhatsApp last week announced the launch of WhatsApp Channels, a feature that allows users to follow people and organizations within the app. Initially rolling out in Singapore and Colombia, Channels will offer a private way to communicate, with phone numbers and personal information of both admins and followers kept confidential, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post. The one-way broadcast tool enables admins to share text, photos, videos, stickers, and polls with their followers.


Channel updates will only be stored for 30 days, and admins can even choose to block screenshots and forwards. While Channels are not end-to-end encrypted by default, WhatsApp is considering encrypted channels for specific audiences in the future. The company also plans to support admins in building businesses around their channels through payment services and promotional opportunities in the directory.


Tiki, a short-form video app, is shutting down its operations in India on June 27, joining a roster of ventures that failed to fill the void left by the ban on TikTok in India, TechCrunch reports. Despite having around 35 million monthly active users in India, Tiki announced its closure in a social media post. The Singapore-based app launched in India after the TikTok ban, but its ownership and funding remain unclear, according to TechCrunch.


Tiki's demise is part of a trend in India's short video market, which is experiencing consolidation and exits, TechCrunch notes. Last year, Times Internet sold MX Player's short video business to ShareChat, while Xiaomi recently closed its short video offering Zili in the country.


QNu Labs, backed by investors including early-stage deep-tech VC firm Speciale Invest, has won a contract with the Indian Navy to deploy its Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) based systems. The Indian Navy aims to enhance its cybersecurity capabilities by using large-scale quantum-based encryption systems, making it the first agency in the country to do so.


The QKD systems will be deployed in a Hub & Spoke configuration across multiple locations, ensuring secure communication networks and establishing the Indian Navy as a pioneer in quantum secure communication.


QNu Labs, specializing in quantum secure products and solutions, offers a comprehensive suite of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), Trusted Nodes (TNs), and Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG) systems. The partnership highlights the potential of homegrown deep-tech startups like QNu Labs to play a significant role in emerging technologies and sets a new benchmark for other sectors to follow in harnessing quantum technology, Speciale said in a press release.


Capillary Technologies, a customer loyalty and engagement solutions provider, has acquired Tenerity's Digital Connect Assets, expanding its presence in the US and Europe. The acquisition adds a rewards ecosystem to Capillary's portfolio and will be rebranded as Rewards+.


This positions Capillary as a company offering end-to-end intelligent loyalty solutions, encompassing technology platforms, consulting, loyalty program design, analytics, rewards networks, and marketing communications.


Digital Connect's expertise in artificial intelligence and analytics enables companies to engage customers with enticing offers and drive incremental revenue. With the addition of the Digital Connect team, Capillary will extend its footprint in the US and establish a strong presence in Europe, following previous acquisitions of Persuade and Brierley.



India's OTT businesses are pushing back against a government mandate to curtail the glorification of cigarette and tobacco use online. The Internet and Mobile Association of India has flagged "fundamental concerns" and "practical difficulties" in complying with the new rules that the government issued last month, Economic Times reports. Meanwhile, Disney+ Hotstar is looking to win some users back, by offering cricket streaming free to mobile users, TechCrunch reports. Also in this brief, QNu Labs wins an Indian Navy contract; Capillary makes another buy; and Tiki shuts