Saving the cord: How TV service providers can remain relevant to Young India By Sunder Aaron, Co-Founder and General Manager of Q India

Saving the cord: How TV service providers can remain relevant to Young India
By Sunder Aaron, Co-Founder and General Manager of Q India

One of the most talked about phenomena in recent years is the trend of cord-cutting, and it strikes fear deep in the hearts of Pay-TV executives the world over. Except perhaps in India. Bucking the trend, India’s Pay-TV market is thriving, with revenues set to hit $16bn by 2023 according to a report by Media Partners Asia. But just because India’s Pay-TV market is flourishing, it doesn’t mean that broadcasters and operators should be complacent when it comes to attracting and retaining subscribers, particularly the high-value and tech-savvy ‘Young India’ demographic.

Between 20and 30-yearsof age,Young India is a generation born and raised in the digital era with programming preferences and consumption habits reflectingan always-on and always-connected outlook. And it’s not just TV that they watch; every day they immerse themselves in the world of online video, watching bite-sized shows across a range of genres – from comedy skits to make up tutorials – created by local content creators and influencers. The Q India is among the fastest growing youth focused networks in Asia and produces content that remains relevant for this particular audience by sourcing top influencers in the region to help create short entertaining videos.

Some of the biggest influencers in India include Kanan Gill, who has quickly grown his following on YouTube with his intelligent humour, Tanmay Bhat known for entertaining Snapchat videos and for producing the comical success show All India Backchod, and Shirley Setia, said to be the next Bollywood sensation with her well-loved musical covers. Young Indians love this type of online content as it’s short, funny and allows them to independently watch content that they find entertaining, instead of having to sit through another one of their parent's favourite TV programmes.

Online video has a huge audience. YouTube alone has225 million monthly users in India,with the countrynow acting asYouTube’s fastest-growing market globally.The sheer scale and pull of this medium is a signal to traditional TV providers that they need to add more of this exciting short-form video content to their programming line-ups. Innovative broadcasters such as Airtel and JioTV are currently doing exactly that,adopting this approach and including viral videos and previously undiscovered gems to their service mix. Putting themselves ahead of their rivals, the JioTV app has over 100 million downloads and the highest number of channels streamed by any mobile app or telecom service provider.Meanwhile Airtel TV has partnered with forward thinking content providers such as SonyLIV and AltBalaji to stream content across a multitude of different categories including entertainment and lifestyle.

In the OTT space, Watcho and SonyLIV are also competing for the eyes of consumers by jumping on this opportunity to provide content for younger audiences in the region. Watcho was launched by Dish TV in order to target this high-value age bracket, and recently added The Q India’s 24/7 linear stream of digital-first content to its line-up to provide a wide array of premium curated content. India’s leading OTT platform SonyLIV has also followed suit by partnering with The Q India to help bring disruptive online video offerings to its programming line-up in response to and respond to the rapid growth of the digital video market in India. SonyLIV’s ‘State of Digital Entertainment 2018’ research (via Social Samosa) states that the market is expected to exceed 500 million users by the year 2020.

These forward-thinking operators have stolen a march on appealing to Young India, but the good news is that it’s not too late for other broadcasters in the region to follow suit. A focus on integrating dynamic digital-first content amongst traditional long-form television formatsis, in our view, a kind of insurance against Young India cutting the cord in the future.

Another way broadcasters can remain attractive to youthful audiences is by enhancing their mobile offerings. India is the world’s second largest smartphone market, and Young India spends over 1 hour a day on their smartphones watching short-form video content. With online streaming platforms tapping into this to try and target a young digital audience, it makes sense then for TV service providers to equip their mobile services with the same compelling programming. This is something Tata Sky is already doing by offering programming that includes an expertly curated mix of short-form video content via their mobile app.

We also expect that more TV service providers will start offering premium-mobile programming, which is short-form video content with the budget of a high-end TV show. This idea is being pioneered by Hollywood mogul, Jeffrey Katzenberg, for his recently founded company Quibi,but it’s also very much within reach of India’s world-famous movie and entertainment businesses.

India’s Pay-TV market is continuing to grow at an impressive rate. Butin order to maintain this trajectory, broadcasters need to keep adding content that is fresh, on-trend, snackable and appealing to Young India. Many forward-thinking broadcasters are already investing in short-form video content and bringing it to their services, and we believe this is what will help underpin the continued growth of India’s Pay-TV market.