India is witnessing a revolution in online streaming with a host of new digital OTT services providing premium video content over the Internet – both live and on demand. The 4G launch in the country has supported the massive boom in the consumption of video. The team at Diagnal has been part of some of the biggest OTT service launches in India. We have found the majority of the challenges faced by OTT players in the country can be classified into the following areas which we will cover in this post : Content, Devices, Delivery, Monetisation, Engagement and Scalability.
India is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world and the diversity is visible in the content too. India also has more than 15 different languages in use which requires OTT service providers to consider support for multiple language metadata, subtitles and audio tracks.
Regional demographic preferences also need to be taken into account during content curation making content catalog management and content discovery management even harder. Search can be error prone given most of the titles are in regional languages, but spelled and searched in English. Search optimisation techniques such as fuzzy matching and phonetic matching are usually applied for more accurate results.
India is one of the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world and the number of people owning mobile devices is greater than those owning personal computers. With device coverage ranging from low end feature phones for the mass market to high end smart connected devices, launching an OTT service needs to take into consideration OS fragmentation, multiple video codecs and delivery formats, memory constraints, varying screen resolutions, security implementations, different design philosophies and other device specific features.
Source : Google Consumer Barometer 2015
India is the second largest Internet connected market after China, with numbers reaching 500 million connected users. With the launch of 4G networks across the country there is potential, in theory, to serve Ultra High Definition (UHD) content to end users over mobile networks, however the majority of the users are still plagued by issues like expensive data packs, lack of coverage and bandwidth not meeting the needs of high quality video streaming.
To ensure best possible video streaming quality, OTT services need to support multiple video encoding profiles with adaptive streaming so that video playback adapts itself based on actual network connectivity conditions and device capabilities. Providing an offline download & playback feature is one way of tackling bandwidth availability related issues. Allowing end users to actively control data usage and streaming quality can help them avoid exceeding data caps on restrictive data plans.
India, similar to other Asian countries, is notorious for piracy, negatively affecting close to 40% of the annual revenue for premium content providers. Any premium content delivered over the Internet needs to take care of content protection preferably using DECE approved Digital Rights Management (DRM) standards. Tamper proofing of video streaming applications and blacklisting devices with security issues are ways to get around application & device level security breaches. Enabling access restrictions like limiting simultaneous devices/streams against registered accounts can be used to prevent password sharing exploits. It is important to ensure that user experience is not compromised while introducing additional security measures as the attractiveness of a premium OTT service also lies in ease of use.
Source : Ericsson Consumer Lab, The changing mobile broadband landscape, India 2015
OTT services need to be financially viable to survive in the long term. The range of OTT service business models include marketing oriented free content, advertisement funded services, subscription and and transactional consumer revenue services which can be further classified into pay per view, rental, download to own and electronic sell-through.
Next Selling is crucial in India where there are recurring billing challenges as a result of RBI guidelines. These guidelines force every transaction to be initiated uniquely by the user even when they have signed up for a subscription. Enabling multiple payment option such as in app purchases, net banking, credit cards, cash cards, carrier billing, wallets and offline cash payments improve the likelihood of monetisation. Payment gateways also have their own consumer apps which can be leveraged to promote OTT service offerings.
OTT services just like any other business need to focus as much on customer retention as customer acquisition. Retaining hard won customers and building a loyal relationship with them reduces the need for excessive customer acquisition costs to grow subscriber count.
Free previews to content, timely call to actions, notifications, discounts and vouchers are ways to get users activated by signing up to the service. These can then be followed by promotions, personalisation and loyalty credits which help turn users into loyal subscribers. Referrals where users promote the service through word of mouth, reviews, shares, ratings and comments lead to organic growth of the service.
The size of target audience and growth potential is massive for an Indian OTT service. Also given India’s diaspora population is the largest in the world, most services plan for a global expansion. From an infrastructure standpoint, services need to be built to scale. This involves technology infrastructure best practices like microservices architecture, multilevel distributed caching, load distribution, queuing techniques, mutli-CDN and mutli-Region Clustering.
From an operational perspective, it impossible for administrators to continuously monitor the status of all the required OTT service systems and delivery points. In order to ensure high availability and quality of experience, it is critical to proactively detect and communicate system faults. Services can also achieve cost optimisations by autoscaling their infrastructure based on usage insights and analysing delivery costs.
Today’s Indian OTT services need to differentiate in terms of content, commercial packaging, user experience and customer acquisition/retention strategies. We empower our customers to overcome the highlighted challenges, thereby enabling them a higher likelihood of succeeding in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
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