Business Standard

The smart shifts in video


How often do you watch Youtube or Reels on your TV at home? If you do, you are among the 200 million Indians that use a connected TV — that is a smart TV with a broadband connection for streaming videos. The baffling deluge of choices online means that, according to Nielsen data, most viewers spend an average of 11 minutes trying to decide what to watch. Many break this loop by either watching some random film or video that is already streaming when they switch on the TV or they go to Youtube. These are the default options.

Almost 80 per cent of the 510 million people online (Comscore data) are regular viewers of Google’s Youtube. More than 45 per cent of the total time they spend online is devoted to Youtube. Not surprising­ly, the world’s (and India’s) largest streaming video brand is the bellwether and the biggest gainer of the growth of connected TVS. It has been Youtube’s fastest growing “surface” in the last five years.

That is because, in this period, the installed base of smart TVS in India has hit 50 million, going by IDC data. Not all of these are connected. Often people buy an internet capable smart TV but use it to watch linear TV through a direct-to-home or cable connection. Only 35-40 million of all smart TV homes are estimated to be connected to the internet. That translates into an audience of roughly 200 million — over a fourth of the reach of television and just under half of those browsing online.

Note that there are many overlaps between these audiences — you may own a smart TV, yet watch video on a cable connection and surf online on your mobile. Put it all together, and you have a roughly ~1.3 trillion market at stake. That is how much money TV and digital made in advertisin­g and pay revenues in 2022.

A bulk of the TV sets sold in India are smart. It is only a matter of time before all the 210 million TV homes, or about 900 million viewers, will have access to streaming in their living room.

This is changing both streaming and broadcasti­ng. For streaming video players, it has brought stability, appointmen­t-viewing and the ability to play around with more genres. Shark Tank India, now in its third season, has so far drawn a combined audience estimated at 95 million on Sony LIV and Sony Entertainm­ent Television. This doesn’t include people who watch it on Youtube after the season ends. It was more viewed online than on regular broadcast television, according to media buyers. Roughly half its online video views for season two came from people watching it on a connected television. That is up from onethird for season one. “Connected TV is bringing habit to OTT (overthe-top) consumptio­n,” says Danish Khan, executive vice-president and business head, SONYLIV and Studionext.

On the other hand, “Youtube is the opposite of appointmen­t viewing. It is about serendipit­y, discovery. We see that coming to the living room as well,” says Ishan John Chatterjee, managing director, Youtube, India.

This puts broadcaste­rs and traditiona­l OTTS like Netflix or Zee5 in a different bracket from Youtube or Meta in terms of what works for their audience. For Youtube, it continues to be about user-generated programmin­g. It has no interest in entering the whole premium original programmin­g space.

For traditiona­l OTTS, the focus will be more on non-fiction/reality shows like Shark Tank India and sports, not just fiction. More than 90 per cent of Indian TV homes choose to have only one television set. This means programmin­g will be driven by “family viewing”. Some of the risqué stuff, creative experiment­s and the like might go out of the window — especially for ad-supported OTTS.

What is common to both sets of players, however, is that monetisati­on improves. The price advertiser­s pay to reach every thousand viewers on connected TV is twice that for reaching them on a mobile phone. That is because when streaming took off, advertiser­s lost access to premium audiences, which went behind a paywall. The growing reach of connected TV offers them an opportunit­y to reconnect with affluent audiences — even if it is just on the landing or opening screen of the TV.

Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, among the manufactur­ers that sell smart TVS are leveraging the opening screen to create additional revenue streams. Samsung, for example, offers 118 TV channels such as The Movie Club or South Station on the home page under Samsung TV Plus. The firm doesn’t share how many viewers these channels — called Free Ad-supported Streaming Television (FAST) — have. Globally, advertiser­s spent an estimated $10 billion on FASTS in 2023, with the bulk of it in the US.

The growth of FASTS raises the fear that these TV manufactur­ers could become the cable or DTH operators of the future — charging a fee to place say Zee5 before Netflix on the screen. Already, deals are being struck to embed an app or a service on to a TV.

What should be a bigger worry but isn’t, is the lack of authentica­ted third-party data. Not every brand allows Comscore to tag it. If Jiocinema tells you it reaches 100 million people, advertiser­s simply have to accept that number. This puts both digital and CTV in the same room as radio, out-of-home or print where metrics have been missing. Media planners complain, but the fact is that digital has now become a seller’s market with the trio of Google (Youtube, search), Meta (Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp) and Amazon (video, audio, shopping) in complete control.

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