OTT: Technology, censorship and the future
Representative image Pixabay
The next decade in streaming will be very exciting and also very challenging

OTT: Technology, censorship and the future

The next decade in streaming will be very exciting and also very challenging
  • From buying groceries to ordering a paracetamol, the lockdown forced the entire nation to avail digital services.
  • It has opened up an opportunity for Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms to rise to the situation and curate a seamless streaming experience for their consumers as they are quarantined 24x7.
  • Shashank Singh, CEO & Founder, FLYX writes how innovation in storyline is the key factor that is fuelling the growth of OTT platforms and why OTT needs to be censorship-free.
Times are tough for businesses across industries, including the entertainment industry. Though theatres have been opened with limited capacity, the unprecedented growth and breakthrough of OTT platforms have been undeniably unparalleled. Even though the charm of cinemas and going to a theatre can never be replaced by streaming platforms, it is interesting to acknowledge and recognize how far we have come along in our content-viewing journey.

During the past few months of the global pandemic, people staying at home around the world have turned to various streaming services for entertainment. The once advocated hypothesis that there are not enough hours in the day to consume content has changed, and streaming services worldwide are seeing a huge spike in traffic.

According to a report by ACT Fibernet called ‘State of Internet Traffic Trend’, India saw a staggering 55% hike in overall streaming traffic during the lockdown1. Various industry reports throw light on the popularity of homegrown OTT platforms. Indian player Disney+Hotstar has the most number of subscribers, followed by Amazon Prime Video and Netflix. This is mainly due to the local language content available on Disney+Hotstar that appeals to the majority of Indians.2

According to a recent PwC report, India is currently the world’s fastest growing OTT (over-the-top streaming) market, and is all set to emerge as the world’s sixth-largest by 2024. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 28.6% over the next four years to touch revenues of $2.9 billion. With covid-19 pandemic resulting in a seven-month shutdown of movie theatres, several producers have taken their films directly to digital platforms which has seen OTT platforms gaining at the expense of cinemas. In 2018, SVoD revenues were a third of India’s total box office revenue but the shift of eyeballs to digital platforms in the medium to long term will ensure India’s movie box office falls by 2.6% over the next four years as SVoD grows by 30.7%.

Using technology to gain competitive edge

Content is one of the most important factors that makes people subscribe to a streaming video service, but another equally important factor is the ease of use. This is where technology comes into play.

Deloitte in its recent digital trends survey found that streaming during Covid-19 compared to the pre-pandemic market is not so much ‘before and after’ as it is ‘before and faster’. People are signing up for services quickly and are leaving services even faster. With almost every streaming service offering free trials, consumers are lapping up the trials. However, the real test in retention will come down to technology.

Streaming providers have to create a seamless experience for content viewing, and it starts with content discovery. Leaders in this market should look to invest more in technology by offering a great search experience. This means not only making it fast, but also very personalized. Providers will have to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand the consumer’s intent and offer the right content at the right time.

Streaming Content and Censorship

With so much content being produced and added to streaming platforms every day, there has been a growing issue about content censorship across the world. Platforms such as Netflix and Amazon, among others, are receiving content removal notices from various governments and authorities.

Recently, the debate about regulation and censorship is heating up in India. Patal Lok on Netflix in India has been surrounded by controversy because of violence, sexual content and portrayal of the hypocrisy of upper caste men. Rasbhari too has created a furore because of its sexual content. While currently there is no censorship of OTT platforms, this is likely to change in the future. The Information and Broadcast Ministry of India is proposing that OTT platforms fall under its purview so that they can be regulated just as other media such as TV, radio, films, etc.4

The Future Path

Innovation in storyline is the key factor that is fuelling the growth of OTT platforms, and it is currently free from any regulation or censorship before it hits your favourite device. Censorship kills creativity, and this can be easily seen by how good the content of new streaming shows is versus content released in theatres.

Streaming content should ideally follow the food industry model, meaning series/ movies should have full disclosures about its contents and allow the consumer to decide if they want to purchase or watch it. Currently, all major streaming players are following their own standards. What we need is a regulatory body that standardizes these disclosures and uses technology to audit for compliance, without censoring any content. Here again, artificial intelligence and machine learning could play a big role in automatically classifying the content and generating full disclosures.

The next decade in streaming will be very exciting and also very challenging. Winners will not only be decided by who has the best content but also who has the most advanced technology to make the service more intelligent and super easy to use. Ultimately, the streaming wars will empower consumers and revolutionize how they consume media.