TV channels are making rapid moves to let consumers see their shows on phone and computer screens

Stuck in traffic after work and can’t make it home in time to catch your favourite show? Don’t sweat, just stream.

For the entertainment channels, the battle for viewers is fast shifting online. In a convergent world where consumers are increasingly glued to their phones and tablets, channels are stepping up their presence online, on mobile phones and launching or tying up with online video sites and platforms.

Multi Screen Media (MSM) India recently launched its digital video-on-demand service Sony Liv, where shows from the Sony stable are streamed on to users’ laptops, smartphones or tablets. Users can also watch hit shows such as Boogie Woogie and Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin from the archives.

Nitesh Kripalani, Senior Vice-President – New Media, Business Development and Digital/Syndication, MSM said, “For the past one-and-half years, we have been experimenting online through MyIndianIdol.com and KBCSony.com, which were a big success. We finally decided to launch Sony Liv.”

With the prices of tablets, smartphones and broadband connections decreasing, mobile phones and laptops have emerged as a key second screen for the television viewer, he says. The broadcaster has been holding Web auditions for reality shows such as Indian Idol and offering exclusive content of a game show to subscribers of a telecom service which was its advertising partner.

Most other channels such as Star and Colors also offer short clips or full episodes of their shows on their official Web sites and have launched mobile apps. At the same time, video-on-demand services and over-the-top (OTT) TV platforms such as iStream and Ditto TV are inking deals with major content owners to establish a consumer base.

Industry players believe broadcaster-owned apps and platforms will help them engage better with consumers and work well for brand building. But the deals that they sign as official content partners with third-party OTT platforms or video-sharing sites are expected to earn them big bucks.

Zee-owned Ditto TV, which launched last year, has as many as 9.4 lakh users and expanded its presence in over 267 countries. It has also added variety by tying up with channels across genres and now offers more than 50 channels.

“Ditto TV provides live channel-agnostic TV content to its users. Currently we have more Indian users since our communication activities have been more India-focused. Having said that, we plan a greater thrust on international markets in 2013-14,” says Vishal Malhotra, Business Head-New Media, ZEEL. The platform’s business model is purely subscription-based and in India ranges from Rs 49 per month for three channels to Rs 129 per month for all channels.

Free vs fee

Some service providers that follow the paid content model offer live streaming, which means that the programme is simultaneously telecast on television and online. However, video-on-demand players offer the show after it has been telecast on television.

On competition from bigger video sharing sites that offer free content, Malhotra said, “There is a departure from the age-old trend of appointment viewing and today’s mobile customers demand content at their own time, screen and convenience. While a user might be accustomed to streaming content for free, there are some other important factors like quality which they overlook. Now, at an affordable rate, they can enjoy far superior streaming.” He also said that such high-quality live streaming cannot be guaranteed with pirated content.

Broadcasters are also tying up with big players such as YouTube to curb piracy and monetise their content by becoming their content partners.

Other premium video-on-demand services such as iStream are offering their services for free to the consumers and depending on advertisers for revenues. “Our business model is based on the advertising revenues. We do plan to launch a pay-per-view model for premium events and shows in the next six months,” said Radhakrishnan Ramachandran, Founder & CEO of iStream.com. He added that the company believes that television content is expected to drive the growth of online consumption of videos in the country, besides sports and news.

No wonder the entertainment channels are fast inking distribution deals to be able to reach out to the consumers online and mobiles. IndiaCast, the company that looks after distribution and content monetisation across platforms for about 35 channels which include those owned by TV18, Viacom18 and ETV, among others, has in the past two months inked several such deals.

Anuj Gandhi, CEO, IndiaCast, says there has been a spurt in the number of consumers turning to laptops and mobile phones for content in the past 12-18 months alone.

Asked about monetisation, he says, “We believe monetisation of content online will be a mix of subscription and advertising revenues.” He says it is still early days as contribution of revenues for broadcasters from online and mobile phone apps are still small, but adds, “We at IndiaCast expect nearly 20 per cent of our revenues to come from these emerging streams in the next three years.”

Experts also believe that for India-based entertainment channels, online has emerged as an inexpensive way to expand to international markets.

Smita Jha, Leader - Entertainment and Media, PwC India, says, “India television channels are looking to expand their reach to international territories by tying up with online platforms as carriage fees charged by international cable and DTH platforms are steep.” She adds that as far as the domestic market is concerned entertainment players are expanding their presence online and on social media to test and experiment the medium as well to promote and market their content and engage with consumers.

(This article was published on February 7, 2013)
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