OTT’s Changing Definition Of ‘Family Viewing’

OTT players are clearly undergoing transition and for marketers, this means more benefits if the family viewing code is cracked

Once upon a time, ‘family viewing’ implied members of the family coming together at the end of the day, and irrespective of what one wanted to watch, the choice was relinquished in favour of the remote-control master, typically the homemaker. Video streaming platforms or over-the-top (OTT) service providers, emerging from the mobile-first, data-present phenomenon in India, completely changed this. In the then free world, OTT platforms really pushed the envelope in creating cutting edge, bold themes, largely leaving family-oriented shows to the ‘legacy’ broadcasters.

This did not mean only a particular demography was served and stereotypes of a different kind set in. But homegrown apps did indeed not begin audience slicing as much as broadcaster-borne streaming apps and international service providers presented. End result nonetheless was that even as several members of a family were on screen, ‘family viewing’ was still personal screen time.

In the wake of the crisis, more opinions from viewers, and changes in the regulatory ecosystem, this aspect of OTT content is changing.

According to a report, about 60 per cent of Netflix’ global audience chooses to watch kids and family content every month, with the animation segment alone grew by 10 per cent in India in 2020. This data has its application, in varied degrees, for other players as well.

Fast Growing Kids Audiences

Kids have already been one of the fastest-growing audiences on digital media, and OTT players have been busy vying for their attention with exclusive offerings. While YouTube was the first mover with YT Kids, players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Viacom18’s Voot, have introduced standalone apps for kids too.

Speaking about how the platform is looking at family audiences, Srishti Arya Behl, Director, International Original Film, Netflix India says, “Netflix recognises that all families are different. We are investing in best-in-class kids and family titles across genres from all over the world, including the immensely popular Indian animated series ‘Mighty Little Bheem’ and the Academy award nominated ‘Over The Moon’. We want to give families more reasons to laugh together and bond over stories.”

Behl informs that Netflix has been investing in improved controls to include pin controls, age ratings, and the ability to filter out titles that are not appropriate for kid’s age that help parents make informed decisions about what their families watch on the platform.

“We want kids all over the world to be able to see themselves, their families, and their culture reflected in the films and series they watch on Netflix. We also want to ensure that parents have a wide choice of stories - as well as the controls - to make the right decisions for their families,” she adds.

Like Netflix, many players are customising the kids’ profiles to deliver a more personalised, discovery-focused viewing experience. Parents may not need to supervise content with such controls, and advantage marketer changes to kids targeting versus the erstwhile kids plus mother targeting.

The ‘Family’ Viewing

Some players, especially that come from large broadcast houses, have an inherent advantage when it comes to family viewing, given the content library they command.

“By the virtue of the base that we have, which is thousands of hours of network television content, that is more geared towards family consumption, we have a clear advantage on family viewing,” observes Ferzad Palia, Head- Voot Select, Voot Kids and International Business, Viacom18.

Palia makes the distinction here on the kind of targeted content OTT players have focussed on. “The Network TV content caters to a particular section of the family. While customers come in for that kind of content, in some cases they do discover many other pieces of content, which they like. There are certain originals which cater to everyone in the family as well. The international content may not necessarily be for family, but more for a particular kind of a demographic and a psychographic. We have a well-rounded offering for everyone,” he explains. 

For India-borne apps however, family shows were not a priority, at least from the line-up seen across several OTT players. This trend however is shifting as well, as the likes of Amazon Firestick, change personal screen to family screen. Even players like ALTBalaji, that has given a slew of adult focussed shows such as ‘Paurashpur’, ‘Broken But Beautiful’, ‘Virgin Bhasskar’, ‘F…U OK?’, many that were streamed on the likes of Zee5, also had its eyes on family shows hence.

The SVP for revenue and marketing at ALTBalaji, Divya Dixit, believes that “any show that is entertaining enough and brings the entire family together to watch it at once can be termed as family content”. She adds, “We, at ALTBalaji, have web shows which have a massive fanbase of a family audience. As a result, we have brought out sequels to such shows purely on audience demand. Family viewing lays in our communal diaspora, and we cherish it wholeheartedly.”

OTT players are clearly undergoing transition. For marketers, this means more benefits if the family viewing code is in fact cracked. While the current setup, allows for more precision marketing, at least on platforms that allow for advertising messages to show up, if family viewing can move beyond just the likes of high value properties such as sports, OTT too will have the potential to be a reach medium.



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