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Is Streaming the next big thing for Indian Television

, December 6, 2012, 0 Comments

Decades of viewing cable TV has India craving yet another technology that is now making waves across the world – On demand video streaming services. A service that gives consumers the flexibility to watch mega-serials and movies at their time of choice for a nominal fee paid to the service provider.

While cable TV forces us to plan our lives around TV show schedules, an online streaming service gives you the liberty to plan your life and fit TV programs to suit your schedule. The lack of technology infrastructure, rampant piracy, and a system that is directly or indirectly regulated by government has the media industry experimenting a change in the form of online streaming services.

Is it too premature for a fast developing country like India to adopt a service like Netflix (one that functions without nags)? How will these services impact the cinema and cable TV industry?

A peek at some of the facts

India houses nearly 140 million television sets of which nearly 103 million have access to cable networks. Much of TV viewership in India revolves around sports and Indian soaps or serials that contribute to a large chunk of prime time revenues.Incidentally, India is also the home of 137 million Internet users contributing to nearly 6% of worldwide traffic on YouTube.

Today, the concept of purchasing online streaming services in place of cable network services is not widespread. Companies are creating marketing efforts to create awareness among customers to choose streaming services over a service that dictates how one must watch television. Here are some of the big guns in this segment in India today:

 Impact on cable media

 For a long time, we have rearranged family get-togethers, work and study schedules just to catch the latest show being aired on TV. In an era where Internet speeds have improved tremendously, a streaming service allows users to view their favorite shows or sports on their laptops, TVs, tablets or phone. The best part of an online streaming service is that it can be viewed whenever and wherever.

When Aamir Khan’s show Satyamev Jayate rolled out on Youtube, it was almost an awakening moment for media producers across the country on the viral effect Youtube produced in India that they removed the block on many countries to help reach millions across the world. The fact that customers could view these videos whenever they wanted and without interruptions that do not require a technician to come fix your problem is just the icing on the cake.

Paying for a device that lets you record your shows is not as attractive an option since the availability of unlimited online streaming. As the transition from cable to streaming takes place, I do not foresee the end of cable TV. Instead I see cable TV used as just another service in the house as customers add on to their devices making streaming services their primary choice for using their TV in future.

Impact on the film industry

Our country’s film industry enjoys the status of being the largest in the world in terms of number of films produced and number of moviegoers every year. This excludes the fact that rampant piracy contributes to a lot of movie theater shutdowns every year. Many leading companies seek online streaming websites to broadcast original content to tackle the growing problem of piracy in India. Offering a service at a nominal fee all under one roof will detract users from resorting to pirated videos.

While online streaming will disrupt DVD/Blu-ray sales, it would only mean another source of revenue for the film industry by way of pay per view and license fees. Hollywood makes profits despite a drop in DVD sales as the loss on DVD sales is compensated by way of streaming.

Would the average Indian give up an entertaining cinema on the big screen to watch the same movie weeks later in a confined screen? I believe that movie enthusiasts and customers who hit the movie screens every weekend will continue to do the same while embracing this new technology in their lives.

When the challenges to establish this industry are overcome, I definitely see streaming services and the film industry going hand in hand. Online streaming could only be beneficial to the film industry and be the first of steps in allowing customers appreciate genres as they choose.

The Challenges

 Resources – Out of 140 million TV sets, only a small percentage currently own smart televisions that can download streaming service apps to access videos on TV and an even smaller percentage that owns a device like a PlayStation or an Xbox that will allow you to stream videos on your TV.

Awareness – Currently many streaming services that exist in the country do not house more than a few lakh subscribers. The benefits of such services have not been advertised in a manner that can educate a large portion of the population.

 Rural Market – Many across the country still do not have Internet connectionsthat allow them to make use of streaming services.

 Govt Interference – Nowhere in the world is the constitution ignored like it has in India that conveniently overlooks “freedom of speech” as and how politicians or certain sects of the society please.

On many instances, the government has blocked videos due to the whims of one or two members of the parliament. This could act as a major challenge in distributing videos in India.

 Network speed- Our 3G network speeds are still confounded with problems and makes streaming on the go not so pleasurable for the viewer.

In an era where the Internet has made possible for customers to get anything under the sun, it should be possible for customers to choose how they want to watch TV.

De-cluttering bureaucratic practices and enhancing technology may be quite the challenge. However, with creating the right mode of communication to create awareness, removing technology obstacles and controlling government interference would make streaming services the next big and profitable thing for India.

About author
Divya Ramamoorthy is a graduate from Madras university and a post-graduate (MBA) from Jain Group of Institutions- Bangalore, India, based in San Francisco Bay Area, United States. Divya area of expertise revolves around creating careers, identifying talents, recruiting and assisting people . she is also currently enrolled in a certificate program in human resources with the University of California, Santa Cruz. ...more ...more