Digital OTT platforms are becoming more engaging and interactive with the content they serve to consumers, and question arises if TV is losing relevance in the bargain.
Uday Shankar, president of The Walt Disney Company, APAC, and chairman of Star and Disney India, says the reality is both the platforms are coming in sync to grow together.
“I do not think digital platforms will overtake television. It is a false binary we have created. I think the two mediums have to come closer in the near future. All companies have a presence in both platforms — TV as well as digital. Even today, advertisers are buying space on both the platform. I think as we go along, this will change,” Shankar said at the launch of India Watch Report 2019, which unveils data on content consumption patterns of consumers of the OTT platform Hotstar.
Asked if screen size makes a difference in the business, as people nowadays watch a lot of content on their mobile device, Shankar explained: “Personally I do not see the difference in the small-screen, big-screen fight. Even small screens have different sizes, like the 14-inch TV screen and 84-inch screen. We do not make that distinction while generating content for TV. So, why should we do so now, between the mobile phone screen and the TV screen? This constant talk on screen size is irrelevant. Rather, I believe that we have to be available to consumers with content across platforms.”
Citing an example of how cricket has become popular and is being watched by women over the past few years, he explained: “Accessibility matters to reach out.”
By 2019, Hotstar has garnered a subscriber base of 150 million users because of its sports content like IPL, Cricket World Cup, football matches, and kabaddi league.
Talking about whether other sports can grow in India apart from cricket, he said: “Of course, it will take time to establish a mass growth (for other sports) as that of cricket because we have a history of 100 years in cricket. Even five years ago, kabaddi was not a part of mainstream sports conversation like the way it is now. We have come a long way.”
Shankar believes the interactive nature of the OTT and live streaming culture is a reason why it is growing rapidly.
“At Star India, we have been creating content that mirrors people’s aspiration. I think that process will get sharper with time. Luckily, with in the digital space we are better equipped to target the content to the audience. The segmentation is more,” he said.
While Shankar believes that in future the advertisers will find it more seamless to make their presence felt across both platforms, he emphasised the involvement of social media and interactive activity with the audience as their future plan.
“I think we have created a false notion that the TV audience just wants to sit with their hands folded and watch a show. Everyone wants to express their thoughts and opinions, and as creators of content we want to know their feedback. It is the same TV-watching audience that goes to the theatre to watch a film and then they clap, cry and react watching the scenes on the screen. That means, they do react. That is the best way to understand the pulse of the audience and the market. So as a company, we will be offering a more complete package where content consumption and interactivity is in sync,” he said.
Although content consumption has increased in smaller cities because of the affordability of mobile data, is it going to affect the growth of the OTT business?
Shankar replied: “It is tough to say, but regardless of what is going to happen the data prices have come down at a historical level. Although some changes will happen, it will never go up to unaffordable levels. So overall business will grow.”