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10 emerging trends from India's online video consumption boom

OTT services are growing but social media networks continue to be the most popular video platforms

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With deeper penetration of smartphones, faster internet speeds, a wide range of content offerings, and an increasingly younger audience that is craving for more, digital video is the hottest thing right now. However, little is known about how India watches video on the internet. What videos are most-watched? Where is most of the audience likely to watch a video? How much are they watching? And so on…

We scanned through an exhaustive report on the online video landscape in India in the period between Jan. 2016 and Jan. 2017 and arrived at 10 trends that highlight India’s online video-viewing habits. The report — a combined effort of IMRB, Kantar Media and Culture Machine — samples audiences from across geographies, genders and socio-economic classes.

Rise of social video, especially on Facebook
With Facebook and YouTube being the two most popular social networks in India, social video consumption has grown by leaps and bounds. Facebook and YouTube account for 47 percent and 42 percent of overall videos watched online, respectively. The remaining 11 percent belong to OTT services such as Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Jio TV and VOOT. The average Indian user is watching 8.5 hours of video content every month on Facebook and YouTube put together.

Generally, there is more video content available on Facebook. To be specific, about 60 times more than what was available three years ago. Plus, Indian users’ frequency of accessing Facebook is 2.5 times more than that of YouTube. Also the fact that FB videos are native that can be viewed by simply scrolling through the Newsfeed (and not by having to click a separate link) has helped. ALSO READ: Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to make Facebook video-first

Short, crisp videos perform better
Those tasked with the creation of online videos are often unsure about the perfect length of an offering: Should it be a webisode? Should it be a short? Or should it be an Insta-length video capped under a minute? What is that sweet spot which ensures that the message gets across and the audience doesn’t lose attention either?

As it turns out, Indians prefer shorter, crisper videos as opposed to the longer ones. The under-10 minute videos are hugely popular with 85 percent of the internet audience viewing them. Anything longer than that, the user is likely to scroll past.

Mobile data used more than Wi-Fi
This is what makes India inherently different from the rest of the world. And this is precisely the habit that Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio is milking. 65 percent of the audience is watching videos over mobile data.

In the West, there is a 50:50 split between Wi-Fi and mobile data. However, in India, the gap could widen further. With the advent of Jio, mobile data has become inexpensive across the board. This is fuelling consumption that is likely to go up to 7 GB per month per user by 2021.

Comedy / Entertainment is the most popular genre
This isn’t much of a surprise. More than 50 percent of the video content consumed on Facebook and YouTube is comedy and entertainment. A recent report by Google reveals that this category is growing 100 percent year-on-year. AIB, TVF and Vir Das are the most popular YouTube stars in the genre.

“Generally, entertainment content across region and genres is the highest in demand, since it can deliver audiences while also fitting brands well,” says Sameer Pitalwalla, Co-founder & CEO, Culture Machine [a digital content creation company that works with brands across industries].

A host of artistes and performers leverage digital video platforms to put out their content to a global audience. Quite often, fringe artistes are discovered on social media before they go on to become big, mainstream stars. AIB is the best example. ALSO READ: AIB, TVF are audience favourites, Youtube stats show

Women are more avid viewers than men
An avid viewer is defined as someone who watches more than the average. For YouTube and Facebook, 11 hours of content consumption per month is considered ‘avid’ viewing, while 8.5 hours is ‘average’ viewing. Interestingly, women are 30 percent more avid viewers than men on YouTube, and 37 percent on Facebook. And ‘women’ as a content-genre is also growing, says Pitalwalla.

Hindi videos are the most-watched ones
While the social media world often breaks into a fight over the cultural supremacy of Hindi and whether that is even right, Hindi continues to be the most consumed language when it comes to online videos. Hindi videos recorded 20,550 million views in the last year across platforms. Telugu was the second-best with 12,567 million views.

Film, comedy and animation are the most-watched categories in Hindi videos. Given the popularity of Bollywood content online, it is hardly surprising that Hindi videos lead the rest. And even regional language films dubbed in Hindi secure a lot of viewership. Goldmines Telefilms, a company which does exactly that, notched up 515 million video views last year.

Average money spent on subscription
While Facebook and YouTube videos are free, Indians are slowly warming up to paid OTT services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and even Hotstar (which operates on a freemium model). There are 24 million OTT users in India. Currently, the average amount spent in a month for paid content is Rs 255. The market for OTT subscription is estimated to grow to 4,000 crore by 2020.

The need for high quality video is driving subscriptions. About 80 percent of the users who have upgraded to a paid plan did so for a better viewing experience. The other factors making paid content popular are ease of access (offline viewing/downloads) and wider content choice. ALSO READ: Reliance Jio subscribers get free access to Hotstar premium subscription worth Rs 199 per month

Weekday-versus-weekend viewing
One would tend to believe that weekends are when people binge-watch videos. But India is a different story. Online video-viewing across platforms significantly drops over the weekends as opposed to weekdays (nights). 89 percent of the audience tunes in on weekdays compared to 65 percent on weekends.

Viewership is low at the start of the day; it slightly takes off between noon and 3 pm and then finally peaks between 8 pm and midnight. This means that people are turning to online videos to take a break from work as well as relax when they reach home after work. Surely the popularity of YouTube at workplaces is evidence.

Hotstar is the most popular OTT service
Hotstar has fully leveraged its first-mover advantage. The homegrown service which launched in early 2015 is the most downloaded, most accessed (7 hours a month), and most heard of video streaming service in the country, ahead of global giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and later domestic entrants like Jio TV, VOOT, Eros Now, and so on. It has penetrated to SEC D viewers too, claims the report.

One of the things that made Hotstar so popular is live sport that is missing on other platforms. Sports, in fact, is the most viewed genre on Hotstar. Comedy and talk shows are the next most popular categories. 8 out of 10 OTT video viewers have accessed Hotstar at least once. And 75 percent of Hotstar users are paid subscribers. ALSO READ: Hotstar named Apple TV’s app of the year in India with 130 million downloads

Netflix remains a large-screen phenomenon
While it’s mobile that is driving the online video boom in India, premium services such as Netflix have remained exactly that — premium, mostly preferred by the affluent class, and largely viewed on laptops / desktops or TV screens.

Netflix provides 4K HDR video quality which is best viewed on the large screen, thus limiting its reach for mobile video viewers which dominate the internet audience. The dearth of live content also adds to this phenomenon. No user is compelled to watch Netflix in transit.

  • Published Date: June 1, 2017 8:00 AM IST
  • Updated Date: June 1, 2017 8:50 AM IST