Appointment viewing on television became passe in 2015, at least among the city-bred audience. The order of the day, clearly, is video on demand (VoD), where consumers want to consume entertainment as per their convenience. There may be fewer takers for reality show Bigg Boss aired at 9 pm on Colors, but the Bigg Boss loyalists do catch it on Viacom 18's over-the-top (OTT) platform Voot, at a time convenient to them.
This explains why Star India airs its newest political satire, On Air With AIB, on its OTT platform, Hotstar, even before it is aired on its flagship channel, Star Plus. The show has even roped in high-profile advertisers such as Tata Motors, Idea and Askme Bazaar, which is the title sponsor.
The year 2015 saw a clear move of viewership to OTT platforms. Broadcasters such as Star India and Viacom 18 launched their own OTT platforms such as Hotstar and Voot, on which they have been airing shows of their various TV channels. At the same time, they have spent crores on creating original content, too.
Apart from On Air With AIB, Star India has created shows such as Bole To M and Is Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon, which are only available on Hotstar. It has also signed an exclusive content deal with HBO, by which it would be airing some of HBO's popular series such as Game of Thrones and True Detective on Hotstar as well as Star World.
Similarly, Sony Pictures Network has a web-only show, #Love Bytes.
In the past one year, VoD has catapulted into a Rs 4,600-crore (advertising revenue) market. India currently has 15 million VoD subscribers and the number is likely to hit 105 million by 2020.
The OTT/VoD platforms are also attracting advertisers. While the ad rates for these platforms are still low, maybe a few hundreds (compared to television channels that command ad rates from anywhere between Rs 2,500 and Rs 4 lakh for a 10-second ad spot), all the web-only shows have serious advertisers such as Unilever, P&G, Tata Motors and Hero, which spend pot loads of money on traditional media platforms such as television.
It's not just broadcasters that are aggressively putting together their digital strategy. Film studios such as Eros and Yashraj have also put together ambitious digital strategies. Eros, which launched its digital platform, Eros Now, amidst a lot of fanfare earlier this year, has recently announced a line-up of eight web-only shows, produced by leading production houses. It has shows such as The Clients, which features Bipasha Basu. There also is Khel, which has Bollywood actor Chitrangada Singh in the lead role.
Similarly, Yashraj took its big screen story-telling skills to the online platform and launched three shows, Man's World, Band Bajaa Baraat and Jumbo Jutts. Ask the head honchos of both Eros and Yashraj as to why they are looking out of their comfort zone of the big screen, and their answer predictably would be that in order to engage with the youth of this country it is mandatory for them to reach out to them in the space where they hang out.
In terms of business model, all the OTT/VoD platforms as of now are depending on advertising revenue, but reports say that video subscription is likely to touch Rs 4,000 crore by 2020. And as all the stakeholders spend loads of money in creating original content, their game plan is to monetise both advertising as well as subscription revenue.
So, does the onslaught of digital platforms mean the death of good old television? Certainly not. TV continues to be the cheapest and most effective medium to reach the 1.2 billion Indian masses.