Thursday, February 29, 2024

OTT Devices: Next Battlefield in the Streaming War in India?

Lagging behind SVOD and AVOD, the Indian OTT streaming devices market used to be left on the sidelines, with little investment from the traditional top players Apple, Amazon, and Google, which have been focusing on increasing their footprint through direct SVOD services such as Apple TV+ or Prime Video for instance. However, the last two years have seen a growing interest from these players, both in terms of product releases, with the launch of Chromecast with Google TV in Q3 2022, and in terms of distribution agreements with content providers. Despite an early launch, Apple, Amazon, and Google had not significantly focused on the Indian dongle market in the last decade as their offers used to combine high prices, few content partnerships with local actors, and extensive delays in terms of product release. Hence, except for a content partnership with Eros and Hotstar in 2017, Apple TV did very little to expand its reach within the country, while Google mainly relied on selling its old Chromecast 2 and 3 models. As a consequence, their penetration within the country has remained low.

But the growing momentum of SVOD in the country, illustrated by the multiplication of SVOD subscriptions by four in the past two years, coupled with the growing availability of high-speed internet access, with FTTx subscriptions being multiplied by 5 within the same period, opened a whole new market for streaming consumption from the living room.

In the meantime, the country witnessed a multiplication of regional OTT platforms in local languages, as half the Indian SVOD market is now made of regional OTT services. This evolution has led to a growing need for aggregation. If most Indian operators followed the mobile consumption route, providing mobile AppTV services, and aggregating a growing number of traditional and local SVOD services, few of them launched their own streaming devices, such as the Airtel Xstream or the Hathway Playbox. In response to the growing competition from Indian platforms, international OTT manufacturers quickly caught up in the last two years. Leveraging the launch of Apple TV+ and the one-device for one-year membership promotion, Apple TV doubled its customer base in the country compared to 2019. On the other hand, Amazon made a strategic deal in Q1 2021 with several content providers, offering numerous major TV channels such as Colors, News18, or Zee TV through Fire TV. Fire TV’s expansion in the country over the last two years has been significant: according to Amazon’s own figures, revealed in its annual Fire Streaming Trends report for 2022, Indian households spent more than four hours every day on their connected TVs with Fire TV last year. Pushing into OTT devices can also be a way for Amazon to reinvigorate customers’ interest in MiniTV, the local AVOD platform launched by the company in May 2021. Contrary to Prime Video, which has witnessed solid growth in the overcrowded Indian SVOD market, MiniTV has struggled to find its place among local AVOD giants already well-implemented, such as Hotstar or MX Player. In fact, while Indian OTT platforms can gather up to 30 times more users on their AVOD tier compared to their SVOD base, MiniTV merely gathered a fifth of Prime Video’s customer base in the country. Hence, for Amazon as for local platforms, the stake is not only to capture a share of the SVOD viewing time through the TV screen but also to provide a new window for AVOD content, especially in a country expected to become one of the largest connected TV advertising markets in the next few years.

In the end, the OTT streaming device market is becoming the latest battlefield of the streaming war in India. With a booming SVOD market, the accelerating adoption of fiber, and still a low smart TV penetration, the Indian OTT streaming device market gathers all the ingredients for a fast expansion in the next few years.

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