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OTT platforms in India to face stiff competition with the entry of foreign video streaming services?

There are also speculations that players like HBO Max will cater only to the upper end of customers

Akhila Damodaran
Nov 10, 2021
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OTT platforms 

With foreign players like HBO Max entering Indian markets, OTT players like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+Hotstar are likely to face stiff competition. Subscription plans along with a price list of the Warner Bros-owned platform were leaked in early September. The platform is expected to launch in India early next year. There has been no official confirmation on the same by the company. However, they have hinted at it by appointing a managing director for Southeast Asia and India. 

Meanwhile, Lionsgate Play, the OTT platform owned by Hollywood studio Lionsgate has already entered into the domestic OTT market and has just announced its first Indian show Hiccups and Hookups, starring Prateik Babbar and Lara Dutta. This could add to the rising competition among OTT players with media analysts reportedly pointing to the need for local programming from all new players while established players are enhancing their appeal with content in multiple languages and advertising campaigns. 

One of the challenges for OTT platforms has been customer retention. Amit Dhanuka, executive vice-president, Lionsgate India, told Mint that while viewers like to try multiple services, keeping them hooked for a whole month is difficult. A media analyst told the portal that few people in India would sign up on a new platform but would continue to use the subscription of other players as a smartphone can host at least around three OTT apps. The analyst was quoted saying, "Any new player would need significant investment in local programming but with talent and production costs increasingly escalating, that is a never-ending game." There are also speculations that HBO Max may choose to remain niche, catering only to the upper end of the audience. 

Hiccups and Hookups, the first Indian original content on Lionsgate Play

According to Mint, Rahul Vengalil, managing partner at media agency Isobar India said that the platform that can democratise content best will lead the way. Disney+ Hotstar now seems to be leading with the kind of subscription basis it has and the wide content it offers. Sport is a popular category on the platform. He further said that Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are only catching up in India catering to a niche segment and not a mass audience.

Media Partners Asia (MPA), an independent research firm, recently released a report which suggested that the subscription of Netflix is expected to grow to 5.5 million by the end of this year while Amazon Prime and Disney+ Hotstar have projected a growth, estimating its total subscription base to 21.8 million and 46 million respectively.

Mihir Shah, vice-president, MPA said that the OTT market is still at a nascent stage in India. He also predicts mergers and acquisitions amongst existing players to 'build scale, which will heat up the streaming wars in India'. He further told the portal that OTT players may try to seize the opportunity and invest heavily in local content, sports and new products. "An increase in competitive intensity will drive up content investment through both volumes and inflationary pressures," he said.

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