Eros Now: Made In India, For India

Genres like action, thrillers and comedies are experiencing a larger adoption, observes its CEO, Ali Hussein

India is believed to play a larger role in the global OTT business, given the current online video boom. With Indian shows already being recognised globally and the incessent pace of technology development and adoption, Indian OTT players are hopeful to save a seat in the global growth story of the sector. 

One such story is of Eros Now which is home to 224 million registered users and 39.9 million paying subscribers worldwide. In an exclusive chat with Ali Hussein, Chief Executive Officer, Eros Now, he explains the many facets of the OTT world today and how it is only on a rise.


1. How would you define the growth story of digital video in India? How do you see it grow or change in a post-pandemic scenario?

The digital video consumption in India has gained phenomenal traction in last one decade. The early part of the decade saw a surge in growth of short form online video with YouTube leading the charts and hand-held devices contributing to greater than 95% of time spent on the online videos. 

Whilst the user and time spent growth was phenomenal, the monetisation was always playing catch up. Fast forward into the 2020 decade and we have seen a broad bifurcation of online video into 1) Social video behavior and 2) long form recreational viewing which mirror the television like experience. By the end of 2021 India is stipulated to have ~100M Over-The-Top (OTT) subscribers wherein the large screen would have seen more than 100% Y-O-Y growth. If we were to predict the growth of the next decade, we foresee OTT to replace the current form of television as we know it. I expect us to get into the facets of mixed reality and more engaged forms of content viewership. Hence, the large screen would continue to dominate the growth in the near term for India to then have two robust eco-systems for both short form and long form video consumption.

2. Online behaviour has changed drastically but which among these really remained irreversible, especially in the video space?

The cord cutting is truly an irreversible process as we have seen in the west. And this fact has amplified with the lock down scenario, which broke the consumer’s inertia on OTT content and discovery. With a multitude of content choices for consumers, the basic premise of ‘tune-in’ viewing is now being replaced by ‘personal’ prime time. Discovery remains a massive problem to be solved by the industry at large. However, with advancements in Machine Learning and Neural Network Technologies, the capability of technology to predict content tastebuds will improve by the day. 

3. With plenty of players blooming in the digital video sector, what kind of challenges and opportunities lie ahead of them?

Competition in any industry is a very healthy phenomenon. It is growing competition that is enabling the expansion and evolution of the OTT industry. The OTT penetration is directly proportional to the internet growth in the country. And this is already taking place at a phenomenal speed. We also see proliferation of OTT players, content producers, new content influencers and deep dive into regional and new content genres. This is very similar to the satellite and cable days, when at some point, India had over 800 television channels which have now been consolidated to 5-6 large networks. We believe that the OTT story will follow a similar trend in next 3-5 years.

4. What kind of parallels would you draw in terms of digital video consumption patterns in Tier 1, Tier II & Tier III cities? Also, which genres/ segments have garnered the maximum inclination and why?

Digital original series are now becoming a more mainstream phenomenon in India with genres like action/thrillers and comedies experiencing a larger adoption on consumer time spent as compared to some of the other genres. However, as we penetrate deeper with audience growth, we will see more genres with better adoption. Also, unlike television, with democratised distribution, tier 2 and tier 3 cities have the same access and have adopted the aspirational content/programming at the same if not faster pace than the metro centric audiences. Regional Original content will play a big role to ensure that the long-term penetration of online video supersedes the television penetration in the country.

5. Given the sheer room for growth for digital video content in India, and the consequent impact on increase in online users, the market is still at its nascent stage. Do you agree?

The market is still at its nascent stage. However, Year-On-Year growth figures are unprecedented. Online video via voice discovery is breaking traditional barriers of internet access. First party data suggests that online video could be the first port of call for internet consumption for a good part of Bharat. We don’t foresee challenges in growth of unique users or time spent, however, monetisation models will need to mature soon enough to make the larger business economically sensible.