Rise of regional OTT, music streaming & podcasts is a new segment of the Indian startup revolution. What is it all about?

Sridhar Sachidanand
Nilabja Banerjee

The rise of over-the-top (OTT) content, both video and audio, has changed the Indian media and entertainment (M&E) industry and continues to redefine audience tastes rather than cater to them.

While advertising video on demand and subscription video on demand flood the Indian M&E sector, music and podcast streaming has gathered pace and continues to guarantee that listeners are spoiled for choice.

Analysts point to a massive growth in a very short time period

A report from PwC Global Entertainment & Media outlook revealed that OTT video content growth is happening from inside and outside the home due to proliferation of Smartphone devices and internet connected Television sets. According to the report, subscription VOD will be the prime driver of revenue, increasing at a 30.7% CAGR from US$708 million in 2019 to US$2.7 billion in 2024.

Additionally, India is the fastest-growing OTT market at 28.6% CAGR; and the report claims that it will soon become the sixth-largest market, within 2024. Analysts also claim that India’s OTT market will overtake that of South Korea, Germany and Australia.

Inc42.com indicated that India currently has 95 OTT platforms across video, music, podcast, and audio streaming categories. The average time spent by Indian users on OTT platforms has increased by 30-60% in the last three years.

OTT streaming platforms such as Disney+ Hotstar, ZEE5, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, along with local players such as BIGFlix, Alt Balaji, Voot, Spuul, Eros Now, SonyLIV, Sun NXT, Hoichoi, Ullu, MXPlayer among others have made a splash in the Indian content scene.

Regional content is the champion

The OTT platform Prime Videos by Amazon is known in India for its original web series such as Mirzapur, The Family Man, Tandav, Paatal Lok, and One-Mic Stand, among others. It’s also home to some critically acclaimed international TV shows and movies, regional content, Bollywood, kids content, and iconic TV shows.

Zee5 is another popular OTT platform in India. It’s a home-grown video streaming service, owned by Essel Group, offering a mix of originals, shows, music, and movies in 12 languages and has a bespoke catalog of premium content for audiences across India. Zee5 also leverages its partnership with ALTBalaji whose originals, shows, and movies are available for free to ZEE5 subscribers.

The spread of OTT content beyond English and Hindi is now on the rise. Almost every platform is trying to grab a piece of the pie by either catering to specific linguistic groups, or by promotingmulti lingual content on their platforms

Then there are aggregator platforms such as Voot that bring all these programs under one roof. Another player in this segment is Sony Liv, and you can stream all Viacom18 TV shows and movies via the platform’s app and website at any time and from anywhere.

AltBalaji has also carved out a niche for itself in the Indian OTT platform industry. The streaming service offers many original web series and movies, mostly 18+, in Hindi and a variety of regional languages such as Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, and Tamil.

JioCinema is a video-on-demand OTT service from Mukesh Ambani-promoted telco Jio. The platform is exclusive to Jio users only, with no additional charges. Jio Cinema expanded its viewership recently by strategically offering the T20 World Cup telecast for free.

One segment is leading way to others

While short video apps have lately been seeing a downfall in India and video OTT platforms are still figuring out the Indian market, the audio OTT segment has reached an inflection point. Even as video OTT fails to capture the market the way experts envisioned them to, audio OTT is growing slowly, steadily, and ironically very quietly. According to a recent report, over the past three years, the audio OTT industry has witnessed a surge of 1.6X in daily streams to reach 460 Mn in FY23.

The COVID pandemic witnessed during FY21 and FY22, accelerated the growth of OTT audio, adding over 50Mn music listeners, not only from the young age group but also among the people with more than 40 years of age as per Redseer Strategy Consultants.

The rise of audio OTT platforms has been significant globally as well, with the introduction of Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and blockchain technologies.

For instance, Spotify AB's Spotify Ad Studio, a streaming media intelligence technology, allows advertisers to hyper-contextualize their information, ensuring that they reach the right people with the right content at the right time.

What’s next for Indian OTT?

The latest news in the Indian OTT startup scene is centered around the issue of net neutrality. Over 120 internet companies urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to uphold net neutrality and avoid discriminatory practices against over-the-top (OTT) services.

Telecom service providers are pitching for bringing OTT players under a licensing framework and making them pay network usage fees. This has led to a collective of 128 Indian startups rallying against TRAI’s consideration to impose network usage fees and telecom licensing on online services.

The startups argue that such a move would violate net neutrality, a principle that assures telecom or internet service providers don’t discriminate for or against online apps and services, on the basis of availability, speed, or cost of access. This issue is currently at the forefront of discussions in the Indian startup ecosystem.