It takes just under two minutes for you to find, download and install the app, and a few more for you to fill in the personal details that digital brands crave and chase. But once that five-minute process is through, you have at your disposal a massive collection of shows, short films, music and movies to watch as and when you please. From drama to comedy, from 14-minute webisodes to two-hour movies — it’s all there, with no ads in between. For that privilege, you might have to fork over a nominal fee, but in most cases, all this is yours for free. You can watch as much as you wish, for as long as you wish — whenever you feel like it. All you need is a mobile device connected to a reliable Wi-Fi connection or enabled with a high-speed data pack. With over-the-top (OTT) content providers such as hotstar, OZEE, DittoTV, Eros Now, VOOT, Sony LIV, Spuul, HOOQ and Vuclip flooding smartphone devices, appointment viewing — like in the TV era — has become passé. With India being the second largest smartphone market in the world — an estimated 651 million pieces being in play in the next three years — and video fast becoming the format of choice, these providers seem to be on to something. Add to this the promise of 4G services being rolled out sometime this year, and it becomes clear just why Indian movie producers, content creators and television networks are launching their own OTT platforms. While 18 local players already exist in this space, the entry of foreign players like Netflix has spiced things up, with each service provider busy trying to crack the digital code.
Chicken and egg
But who came first — the big-budget TV networks who spotted the digital opportunity or the new media newbies who pioneered the digital-first strategy? While that is debatable, the new media disrupters certainly seem to have experience on their side. 33-year-old Arunabh Kumar still remembers the day his pitch for a youth-centric series was rejected by a bunch of suits at MTV. “I wanted to make a series called Engineer’s Diary