India to overtake US in digital video consumption by 2020

Subscription video on demand services boom in India leading to decline of pay TV.

India’s sudden rise of short-video consumption from its smaller cities, coupled with a similar viewership increase from metropolitan cities for long video content on platforms such as Netflix, Hotstar, and Amazon Prime, have put the country on top in the global ranking for consuming around 7.69 gigabytes per month.

A forecast by digital trends research firm eMarketer claims that by 2020 India is likely to overtake US in terms of time spent on watching digital videos. This year, an average Indian adult spends two hours and six minutes daily watching digital videos majorly through mobile devices. By 2020, this figure is set to touch 2 hours and 21 minutes. The spike in the viewership of short videos is a key driver with the usage of popular apps like YouTube that has 265 million users in India, and TikTok with 200 million users and 120 million daily active users in the country.

In a scenario where the US market seems to have reached a saturation point in the subscription video on demand (SVOD) market, countries like India have taken up the ante, and that too in landslide numbers. By 2020 India will have 159.7 million SVOD users up from 140.2 million in 2019, while there are 182 million SVOD users in the US as of 2019 according to eMarketer.

Source: eMarketer

It comes as no surprise that the big over-the-top (OTT) streaming services—Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hotstar—are finding their moolah in the evolving Indian OTT market and thus pushing their stakes aggressively.

A report by Leichtman Research Group says that the US market has matured with 74% of all US households having a SVOD service in 2019 from either Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu—up from 64% in 2017.

Just two years ago, the number of SVOD users in India was a mere 28.7 million. The explosive growth was because of the ‘Jio Effect’.  In September 2016, the Indian wireless telecom space was disrupted by the launch of Reliance Jio that offered 4G services at dirt cheap rates. The result: 50 million subscribers signed up to Jio within 83 days of launch at that time.

The growth of SVOD in India is also attributed to low-priced subscription rates by top players like Hotstar and Netflix. Walt Disney-owned Hotstar tops the OTT market in India with a 70% share, and offers an annual subscription service for just USD 5.34 (Rs 365). While Netflix recently launched a low-priced mobile-only monthly subscription plan for India, starting from USD 2.78 (Rs 199).

The lucrative OTT space in India now has 34 players comprising American platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as local Indian services like ZEE5, VOOT, Eros Now and ALTBalaji.

With the boom of SVOD platforms, video viewers in India can watch popular TV shows and movies online at a cheap rate and at their own convenience.  This has led to the decline of the number of pay TV users in the country. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, there were 170 million pay TV users in India in 2018, which it expects to drop to 116.3 million by the the end of 2019.