In December, Amazon Prime Video showcased a multilingual medical thriller Breathe its second Indian original series. Meanwhile, Hotstar made sure viewers could watch series from the stable of Awesomeness. With video streaming audiences tipped to double every year, albeit off a small base, OTT (over the top) players are making sure they have a wide variety of content and don’t run out of it. While they’re acquiring some amount of library content — typically films — they’re increasingly focussed on creating shows. ALT Balaji for instance, recently released its first Tamil show Maya Thirrai with 16 episodes. “Youngsters are already moving away from television to video streaming,” says Jehil Thakkar, partner, Deloitte. Thakkar adds online viewing is fast transitioning to becoming an alternative to television. Market research firm Counterpoint expects the video OTT market, currently valued at USD 280 million with nearly 100 million subscribers, to grow at 35 percent year-on-year.

While no accurate information is available, industry watchers reckon OTT players spent more than Rs 1,000 crore last year on rights for Hindi films and close to USD 100 million on English films. Amazon has acquired digital telecast rights for more than two dozen films for its OTT platform; Netflix and Hotstar too have been shopping for movies. And all of them are doubling down on locally customized original content which is what could drive viewership. Vijay Subramaniam, director – content, Prime Video India, observes that after building a library of local content last year, the idea is to further enhance the content offering. “This would include films as well as 10 original shows. Among these are a music reality show The Remix and a trilingual fiction show Breathe, starting CYQ1 of 2018,” Subramaniam said.

Ajit Mohan, CEO, Hotstar confirms more affordable mobile data has boosted consumption of online content. “For instance, if earlier viewers residing in top 50 cities watched content on Hotstar, today viewers in small towns and cities too are spending a good amount of time on the platform,” Mohan said. Netflix too has lined up a lot of Indian original content. ” Our survey told us Indians are the second-highest bingers in the world just behind Mexico. And more Indians today are bingeing while on the move, much more than last year,” said Jessica Lee, VP, Communications, Netflix Asia. Netflix will unveil shows including Sacred Games, Selection Day, Again, Bard of Blood, besides a couple of original series for children such as Mighty Little Bheem and Love Per Square Foot. It has also acquired the rights to films such as Shah Rukh Khan’s Raees, Kaabil and Jolly LLB2.

Bank of America analyst, Sachin Salgaonkar, wrote some time back he believed India to be at the cusp of change in terms of content viewing pattern. The inclination– currently more from urban consumers–, to watch content on small screen such as smart phones or tablets rather than on TV, he had observed. Currently, Hotstar leads the pack with 75 million subscribers followed by Voot with 22 million and Amazon prime Video with 11 million. Sony Liv and Netflix each have five million subscribers. Mobile data users in India added up to 420 million, in June, 2017 according to IAMAI. In January, 2016, the cost of one GB data was Rs 250; today this is available for Rs5/7 per GB.

As NachiketPantvaidya, Group COO, Balaji Telefilms, observes with data costs having fallen sharply, more viewers are catching their favourite films online. “They prefer to watch content at home rather than going out to the theatres,” Pantvaidya said. Since video streaming platforms are now acquiring telecast rights for films faster than before, viewers don’t need to wait too long to watch a film. “The latest content can be viewed much sooner than before when a movie would make it to television screens almost after six months of the theatrical release,” Pantvaidya said. Disney’s recent acquisition of 21st Century will give Hotstar access to Disney’s huge movie library. Moreover, director and producer Vikram Bhatt is gearing up to launch his OTT service, while Spuul has signed a 100 film catalogue deal with Shemaroo Entertainment. As companies aggressively acquire digital rights to spruce up their OTT content offering, the competition between traditional movie theatres and OTT platforms is expected to gain momentum. Tubelight to BadrinathkiDulhania, Hindi Medium, among others are some of the films available on Amazon Prime Video. – Financial Express