As many Indians are working from home amid the viral outbreak, there has been a clear spike in viewership across several over-the-top (OTT) platforms in the past few days. Most platforms have observed a 20 per cent rise in viewership, especially in metros like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
Now, people have more time to spend watching video content online. “The usual watch time in mornings used to be while travelling, and therefore on phones. Now, we are witnessing a surge in content being watched on television,” said a senior official of an Indian OTT platform.
Zee5, for example, has seen a significant jump in the consumption on connected devices, its spokesperson said. “This could be attributed to people working from home in the past week,” the spokesperson said. Zee5 has seen consumption spike across key metros, with audiences consuming content in a variety of languages.
Neeraj Roy, founder and chief executive officer, Hungama Digital Media, said, “In order to ensure their safety, most corporates have either already allowed their employees to work from home or are in the process of doing so. We have seen over 20 per cent jump in streaming numbers on Hungama Play between March 1 and March 16. These numbers are expected to rise as Indians start practising social distancing and turn to the digital medium to make up for lack of social interactions.”
Roy threw in some insights. Besides an increase in streaming numbers, Hungama has also noticed a shift in the peak consumption hours. “Consumption in the morning is generally high between 8 am and 10.30 am. This is now extended until 11.30 am,” he said. With office commute coming to a halt, the same time is now being utilised for content catch-up. Similarly, the evening peak consumption period now starts at 6 pm, as opposed to 8 pm, and remains high until midnight. “We have also observed a rise in video consumption between 1 pm and 3 pm, which are normally lunch hours,” Roy said.
So far, the viewership growth has been witnessed in metros —Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore — where people spend more hours in commute compared to smaller cities. However, OTT platforms expect the smaller cities, too, catch up on the trend, as social distancing becomes a norm for the next one month at least.
Viacom18’s OTT platform Voot launched its subscription-led platform Voot Select in the beginning of this month. It came armed with a slew of original series content to encourage the viewer to switch from the advertising-led video on demand (AVoD) to subscription platform (SVoD).
Ferzad Palia, head of Voot Select, youth, music and english entertainment of Viacom18, said they had seen a significant demand for subscription among users driven by both the new content on offer and also the additional spare time that people now had. “What we would have expected to do in terms of number of subscribers in 60 days, we have already done in the first 10 days,” Palia said.
Meanwhile, production for television series (episodes) and films have also stopped. Channels usually carry a library of three to four episodes of any serial. With shooting stopped, fresh television content (for serials) would slow down and broadcasters would be forced to air old episodes. This may further drive the demand for OTT content, felt some of the players. Another India OTT platform, which did not wish to be quoted said they had seen a rise in people watching older episodes of programmes. “There has been a 15-20 per cent rise in OTT viewing, given people now have little choice,” said a senior official.
Platforms also expect that new viewers will join in during this period, and once normalcy is restored, they will continue to consume videos online.
Are advertisers queuing up?
A few categories like food and online delivery services have seen some traction. Some big-ticket events like IPL get deferred due to virus outbreak. It is the biggest platform for advertisers and ad spends are likely to be moved to digital and OTT platforms.
“However, since India has just moved to social distancing, it’ll take some time to see a visible increase in ad spends. A few categories that already seem to have amped up their advertising efforts on OTT platforms include food and online delivery services, personal care and hygiene products. Going further, we expect to see an increase in the ad spends of FMCG, pharma, health and life insurance, besides medical care services,” Roy added.