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Besides Cheap Data, What is Driving Online Content Consumption in India? The Indian audience was always hungry for fresh content, but supply was an issue. Platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify Zee5 and Hotstar, among others, have filled the gap

By Shipra Singh

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In September 2016, a disruption came about in the Indian telecom space. With the launch of Reliance Jio, data consumption almost became an addiction. In India, cheap mobile data plans—cheapest at INR 18.5 per GB—remains one of the key drivers for content consumption.

Waving the ride, many over-the-top players such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, apart from the likes of Spotify and home-grown Zee5 and Hotstar started to flood subscribers with fresh content.

Meanwhile, the Indian digital media too grew by 41.9 per cent between 2017 and 2018, touching INR 169 million, as per a FICCI–EY Media & Entertainment (M&E) report.

But what is fuelling this growth of content consumption? Is it cheap data alone?

Increase in Demand for Entertainment

With multimedia service-enabled smartphones and better access to Internet, demand for entertainment in India has gone up manifold, said Karan Bedi, CEO, MX Player.

Looking at the supply-demand equation of the entertainment industry, India has always been a supply constraint industry, as per Bedi. "The restricting factor was on the supply side. People wanted to watch but there was limited television distribution. Consequently, less number of producers, less number of shows and movies being produced linked to the fact that distribution was limited," he said.

Now, distribution has opened up significantly due to increasing Internet penetration and rapid increase in smartphones and other portable devices. India's Media and Entertainment Report 2019 by KPMG showed that India added 143 million (29 per cent growth) Internet subscribers between March 2018 and March 2019, crossing 637 million users in March 2019. Out of these, 614 million users accessed Internet through their mobile devices.

With more distribution, the latent demand for entertainment has now surfaced.

Decrease in Cost of Producing and Distributing Content

Shooting, editing and producing videos, shows and movies with professional tools and in professional settings have for long been an expensive proposition. However, gaining popularity of video blogs and other do-it-yourself Web entertainment options has brought down the costs of producing content significantly, experts say. "Huge advances have been made in technology and equipment required for content production, making it more affordable," said Priyanka Gill, founder and CEO of Popxo and Plixxo.

Now, anyone with a smartphone can become a content producer. "While there are producers who are creating professional content, there is also user generated content being created at scale that did not exist until 8-10 years back," said Ashwin Suresh, founder, Pocket Aces.

Through platforms such as TikTok and Youtube, everyone is able to broadcast and find their own audience and hence, no fixed set of producers are deciding what should be created. With something available for everyone, content consumption has grown exponentially over the past few years. "The cycle of creation and consumption keeps fuelling each other, which have been made possible by personalized device, like a smartphone," said Suresh.

Gill added social media has a major role to play in distribution of content. "Social media platforms allow free distribution and makes it much easier to reach potential customers and for them to reach you," she said.

Ease of Consumption

Smartphones have provided users with the option of watching content of their choice anywhere, anytime. Hence, it is not surprising to see that digital media as a segment alone saw a growth of 41.9 per cent between 2017 and 2018, as per a report released by FICCI in March this year.

Taranjeet Singh, chief revenue officer and business head, ZEE5 India, pointed out that the concept of appointment viewing is no longer existent. "Consumer behavior has changed from appointment viewing to on-demand. Instead of waiting for their favorite television show at a designated time, people now watch content at their time, on their device and in a place of their choice," he said.

Suresh of Pocket Aces, concurred with Singh: "Ease of consumption and creation has driven content consumption massively."

Shipra Singh

Entrepreneur Staff

Freelance Journalist


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