The pandemic was a gold mine for the OTT industry: Markand Adhikari

SAB Group's chairman, co-founder, managing director speaks with Campaign India about the shift of consumption patterns, advertising interest during the pandemic and more...

Feb 08, 2022 03:52:00 AM | Article | Noel D'Souza

OTT gained precedence over traditional TV during the pandemic. Stringent lockdowns topped with impressive content libraries containing original series, newly released blockbuster films, affordable plans, and regional flavour has led to this enriched digital shift. 

 

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, traditional TV was in the backseat with production halts and a lack of fresh content. Even as the market began to look promising and production houses gained a footing in the new pandemic market, the appeal for OTT did not die down. 

 

Having launched a media conglomerate back in 1985, navigating the testing waters of the Covid pandemic wasn't new to Markand Adhikari, chairman, co-founder, managing director, SAB Group, as he has undergone many media transitions over four decades.

 

In conversation with Campaign India, Adhikari talking about the pandemic blues, said, "This unprecedented circumstance is a once in a century experience and a learning curve for our businesses." 

 

Edited excerpts: 

 

At the onset, how has SAB TV grappled with production shoots during lockdown restrictions and what strategies were employed to deal with the curbs?

 

The production quality suffered due to multiple lockdowns. We had to deal with restrictions on the number of people working in the crew. Sometimes, we had to compromise shooting in a smaller vicinity than initially planned. 

 

There were restrictions in metro cities like Mumbai, a hub for shooting our shows. But now, we have changed our locations where there are fewer restrictions. We now shoot content mostly near Umbergaon, Gujarat. 

 

Has the pandemic influenced advertising spends? 

 

During the first wave, all our advertising clients clipped their budgets drastically from April 2020 to September 2020. During the first initial months of the lockdown, the revenue witnessed a drop of 10-15%, and then declined further to 20%

 

Initially, advertisers were also feeling the heat in the market as people were hesitant to purchase certain products. Hence, broadcasters had to cut down the rates, and once the rate card lowered, it became difficult to increase them when the market went back to normal. 

 

A few of the advertiser's behaviour patterns changed in the pandemic. Previously, advertising and media agencies at the start of each month used to issue release orders (RO) but now, it has moved on to weekly release orders. Every advertiser reviews the situation and then decides further steps in investment. 

 

Recently, during the rise of the Omicron threat in January 2022, advertisers were conscious of spending as well. We hope that from February 2022, everything will go back to pre-pandemic spends. 

 

With OTT consumption taking precedence, where does the fate of traditional TV channels stand? 

 

The pandemic was a gold mine period for the OTT industry. OTT has gained popularity and increased subscription rates during the pandemic. 

 

Viewers also started realising that the content produced is qualitative on OTT platforms. The content on OTT nowadays matches the budgets and quality of blockbuster films. 

 

This shift from TV or cinema to OTT was a habit formatting trend. That is why during these last two years of the pandemic, 80% of the feature films had OTT releases.  

 

At the same time, broadcast channels have also grown during this period when it comes to viewership, even though revenues of these traditional channels have had a tough time during the pandemic. 

 

In India, predominantly viewers will support traditional TV, especially in regional markets. India has a socio-economic disparity, and hence, a complete shift will take time. OTT markets are higher in the metros at the moment. 

 

Nevertheless, the days are not far when people from even the regional markets will shift to OTT. It may take five years more for this to transpire. 

 

Trends in TV that will take centre stage in 2022?

 

Firstly, OTT will become more robust in 2022 and enter more households. 

 

Secondly, film consumption in cinemas will revive this year because middle-class consumers look forward to experiencing multiplex movies. 

 

The third trend is an increase in news consumption on digital. Youngsters are more engaged with digital news mediums and are interested in the news genre. Sites like Dailyhunt are growing at a value of 3 billion USD, which amounts to s 22,500 crore INR. It has a value that is 10X more than the biggest newsgroup's market cap. These meritable revenues display a bright future for digital news.