Yes, those who grew up in 1980s or 1990s longed for a personal screen, compatible and small where they could watch anything that pleases them in their privacy. With the advent of smartphones and internet, they have got what they longed for decades – freedom of choice and privacy. Also, this comes not very heavy on their pockets!
Indeed, this is the rise of millennials (born in or after 1990 to 1995), who unlike their predecessors Gen X, are glued to their personals devices like smartphones and iPads rather than TV and movie theatre or print publications.
It is surprising to see how consumers are abandoning traditional cable TV for OTT services faster than ever, turning what had been an ominous prediction into a clear and present danger.
In the USA, Charter Communications, which offers cable service under the Spectrum brand, lost 122,000 TV customers in the first quarter of 2018.Comcast lost 96,000 customers for the quarter, its fourth straight quarter of subscriber losses, and slightly worse than analyst projections. AT&T’s DirecTV satellite service lost 188,000 customers in the same period, driving down video revenue by $660 million despite growth of its own online streaming service.
Though such things are not happening in India, the dangers are very clear to see.
Recently, a survey (YouGov Mint Millennial Survey) revealed some surprising facts in Indian viewing habits and styles. The report said most millennials and post-millennials (1996 onwards) consume news online, with only a minority of the youth watching TV news or reading newspapers.
The YouGov survey involved 5,000 respondents spread across 180 cities. The purpose of the survey was to understand the habits and preferences of India’s digital consumers. The survey found that the new generation is using social media networks much more. In fact, their daily life is dependent on this.
The report revealed that the difference among generations when it comes to news habits is starkest for television news. Among Gen X (those aged 38-53), 34% depend primarily on TV news and 29% depend primarily on newspapers. Less than a quarter of them depend primarily on news apps and websites. In stark contrast, a plurality of post-millennials/born after 1996 (34%) depends primarily on news apps and websites, while only 18% of them depend primarily on TV news. The share of post-millennials depending primarily on newspapers (17%) as a key source of information is roughly similar to those depending on TV news (18%).
The survey report also said that the share of millennials watching online entertainment (48%) exceeds the share of millennials watching cable television (43%). Among post-millennials, the difference is even starker: 44% of them watch online entertainment content.
If we believe on this survey, we can say that the media and entertainment sector is going through a big disruption.
People simply fall in love with OTT:
This year’s football World Cup also made it clear that mobile phone screen is the king of all screens. People in India watched the games on their phones.
As per OTT app SonyLiv, nearly 70 million people in the country streamed the matches on its platform, which was one of three Indian broadcasters with digital rights, and the only one to release viewership numbers so far. So, the total number is probably much higher. Also, during April-May 2018, more than 200 million people in the country used Star India's digital arm, Hotstar, to watch the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament.
Hotsar CEO Ajit Mohan had said then rightly: “The IPL was an inflection point for mobile phones as a mainstream platform.”
Due to falling data and smartphone rates & greater internet penetration, India is one of the world's fastest-growing internet markets. Also, streaming platforms, both Indian and global, have been tapping into this to target a young digital audience, which is largely ignored by cable TV networks.
The cable TV industry and broadcasting groups have long ignored the changing taste of the young viewers. In fact, they had no idea what they wanted. Many youths stopped owning TV sets after they got smartphones, which tells the brutal ground realities. They watch YouTube or Voot. The children (born after 2008) hardly watch TV; they watch cartoons on smartphones.
The mushrooming of over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, ALTBalaji, Hotstar and 36 other such platforms has also contributed to this mega shift from TV to smart devices. They have together millions of paid subscriber’s across the world.
All this poses risky challenges for country’s 800 TV channels. They are unable to cope against 40 streaming platforms, which are not even 6 years old.
People love TV but they can’t carry it in their pocket:
Though TV has still the most number of viewers, cable networks have to realise that their wholesome, melodramatic soap operas, which are a favourite with many in the older generation, do not appeal to millions of young Indians.
And since most of the OTT platforms are using all tactics including spending massive sums on originals and having regional storylines, it is all clear who is going to win the race eventually. Young people are spending most of their time on their mobile phones. This has given an opportunity to platforms like Netflix to offer something they would watch on their small screens.
The way forward:
In near future, there will be a remarkable shift from television towards streaming platforms. Advertisers seem to agree. In 2017, streaming platforms earned $1.66bn in advertising revenue and nearly $60m through subscriptions.
The other advantages are that streaming offers distinct advantages: you can binge-watch a whole season or watch episodes through the day, especially during long commutes.
Experts say that it's an exciting time for India's video streaming market, which is growing at 30% while television’s growth is not as attractive.
Also, merely uploading contents from the TV/print editions on the internet will not be enough to draw readers and to shift to new media. Publishers/Broadcasters should pay more attention to consumer' experiences and what kind of shows/articles they may like to watch on their phones.
TV will stay in India for family watching but smartphones are the real emperors. Both are in fact complimentary to each other as TV gives larger viewing screen while smartphones offer privacy and content choice. Let’s see where future technologies lead us.
But indeed, OTT is a big disruption.