For decades, cricket has been the entertainment choice that has unified billions of Indians across borders and socio-economic classes. Cinema, until recently, didn’t have that power because it was fragmented by languages, cultures, and contexts with limited distribution and reach. Video streaming platforms have finally changed that. They’ve caught the fancy of millions, empowering them with choice and enabling them to explore a variety of content at affordable prices. Users have the freedom to consume their favourite content on preferred devices with ease and convenience of time. As a result, OTT platforms have successfully gained interest and popularity across generations. Whether it's Gen Z (born between 1997-2012), Millennials (born between 1981-1996), Gen X (born between 1965-1980), or Boomers (born between 1946 to 1964), OTT is becoming ubiquitous and omnipresent.
These generations have perceptibly different behaviour patterns and preferences. Gen Zs, also known as the ‘digital natives’, are influencing many trends across industries, OTTs included. Gen Zs are vocal supporters of diversity and representation, and they like exploring things. They are pragmatic and thanks to their digital dexterity, they explore and evaluate a range of options before settling on a product or a service of their choice. Millennials, on the other hand, are the ‘digital pioneers’ and can be categorised into three segments:
1) Those who prefer economically priced tried and tested options,
2) Those who don’t mind paying more for ‘quality’ based on market insights and developments, and
3) The first movers who believe new launches are more innovative.
Studies also suggested only a small section of millennials repeatedly buy the same brand, which suggests a much lower brand loyalty score compared to previous generations. A common binding factor between both these generations is the demand for enhanced and/or unique experiences.
The users in Gen X make up a significant portion of the earning audience and have the highest brand loyalty. They adopted and embraced the shift from traditional to digital even before the pandemic and have been enjoying the luxuries that technology equips them with. The last audience group, the Boomers, were probably the last to enter the digital products and services space. However, despite having a slow adoption rate in the initial stages, this generation has become increasingly confident about their digital preferences. Content consumption across digital and linear channels is becoming a habit, especially with all the time they have at hand.
With these generational insights at hand, the OTT industry is designing platforms which cater to every age group across key parameters of content, viewing experiences and pricing models.
Content is the most important factor that attracts and retains subscribers to video streaming platforms. Since all these generational cohorts are online, content libraries have been designed to have diversity—whether through languages (multiple vernacular dialects gaining ground) or genres or layered stories with complex character representations. Most audiences today gravitate towards quality stories irrespective of geographical and linguistic constraints. We have seen recently that southern language content is being lapped up by the HSM (Hindi Speaking Markets), most actors enjoy a following from different states, and stories from the heartland are winning over folks across the board.
Thrillers, darker plotlines, and characters with grey shades are topping the charts. OTT platforms have also been giving a new lease of life to actors from the past—a record number of titles feature successful actors from yesteryears. Lastly, thanks to the growth of connected devices, the phenomenon of the ‘Home Box Office’ has gained significant ground.
Video streaming platforms have a wider reach with consumers across purchasing power and varying content preferences. Platforms have identified this diversity and have improved the value proposition for the masses significantly. While the big bet for the industry overall is subscription-led (SVOD) services, Ad-supported (AVOD) models act as the catalyst to induct new users to OTTs, wherein platforms are offering something for each type of consumer. Payment options are also ranging from monthly trials to quarterly and annual packs. Dynamic pricing models, bundling services with telecom service providers and mobile-friendly packs, with extended free trials and other benefits, have been working to attract new users onto the platforms.
Eventually, evolved users demand higher value on the cost incurred in the form of both, quality and quantity of content being published. While for many others, the ever-expanding AVOD libraries of OTTs are enough to fulfil entertainment needs. The industry is in a hyper-growth stage right now, though its user evolution is still nascent. User behaviours are evolving continuously, though we expect that their appetite to pay for quality entertainment will continue to grow in future.
The trifecta of what attracts and retains consumers onto platforms is completed by the viewing experience—in addition to strong content libraries and a high monetary value proposition. Platforms have been working incessantly to ensure that content streams seamlessly across devices, even for users who may not have the fastest internet connections and best-in-class devices. Users are continuously seeking enhanced in-home entertainment experience with 4K-enabled devices and advanced surround sound systems. Platforms now have features like content downloads, offline viewing, multi-device support, concurrent video streams, interactive storylines, gamification, and much more. Personalisation and recommendations basis watch pattern is helping drive engagement. With most users prioritising experiences, the industry will collectively ramp up operations to cater seamlessly across the spectrum of expectations.
Video streaming as a sector is currently in a high growth stage and one foresees enough room for multiple players across languages. As the adoption of digital services increases, the industry will see more proliferation and, subsequently, the rise of paid subscribers. For now, platforms are garnering sampling to introduce digital streaming to a wider section of the population and build strong digital frameworks to provide a good quality user experience. Along with this, the industry is trying to solve for bottlenecks like cyber security, trying to pace up with the demand for new content whilst identifying dynamic consumer consumption patterns and focusing on high-quality outcomes.
To conclude, OTT has empowered users across generations to consume the content of their choice. The creative community has expanded, and the democratisation of the talent ecosystem has ensured that content-making has diversified manifold. More so, consumers are becoming more sophisticated in their demands and the general bar has been raised for all creators and platforms. Every relevant player in the market is trying their best to innovate and outperform themselves, as the consumer is in the driving seat and is empowered with multiple high-quality options.
The writer is Chief Business Officer at ZEE5 India.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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