How Global Players are Trying to Take Advantage of India’s Mobile-Centric Streaming Market

23 August, 2021 

Eighty-seven percent of online video in India is watched on a mobile phone, according to a 2019 survey from KPMG. Given the mobile-centric nature of the Indian online video market, it is perhaps no surprise that the big streaming players are launching mobile-only tiers in the country. 

Last month, Disney became the latest global streaming service to launch a mobile-only tier in India. Disney+ Hotstar was originally launched by Star India as Hotstar in 2015, before being acquired by Disney and rebranding. It is the most subscribed to service in India. Their mobile-only tier will be cheaper than existing plans, and will allow HD streaming on one device at a time. 

This followed similar moves from Netflix, which launched a cheaper mobile-only tier in India in 2019, and Amazon, which launched Prime Video Mobile Edition in January 2021. 

In India, Amazon partnered with telco Airtel to launch its mobile-only edition offering customers data alongside their subscription to the streaming service. Streaming services are often bundled with telco deals in the Indian market.

The Amazon Prime bundles were priced much lower than data plans in other markets. For example, the ₹299 bundle includes Prime Video Mobile Edition, unlimited calling, and 1.5 GB per day for 28 days, and is sold at a price that works out at less than £3 pound per month. 

Mobile data rates in India are some of the cheapest in the world, one reason why video consumption on mobile is so popular. India’s 4G coverage is also very good. In 2019, mobile analytics company reported that India had the tenth best 4G coverage of any country in the world, at 90.1 percent.

In contrast, wifi is not nearly as widely used. “India has among the lowest proportion of wifi users in the world,” said Ashok Mansukhani, an Indian multimedia specialist. 

A recent report from OpenNetwork found that wifi usage had actually dropped between January and March of this year. 

“There are two reasons for the fall. Firstly, low and very competitive cellular charge rates.

Secondly, most Indians use public wifi at railway stations and airports that are partially closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown and offices that are now slowly opening after 17-18 months,” Mansukhani said.

“An abundance of data and a very big smartphone network makes the market conducive to mobile-only streaming plans. The average Indian carries around 50GB of data, which is a lot of data for consumption,” said Vikram Chande, general manager and sales lead, India at Samsung Ads. 

In other markets, the global streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime have a major focus on CTV. In India, only seven million households have a connected TV device, according to EY. However, that figure is expected to grow in coming years, with EY predicting it will rise to 40 million by 2025. 

While streaming on CTV devices has plenty of room to grow in the Indian market, especially when compared to mobile, Ashok Mansukhani says there is still room for mobile video consumption to grow. 

“Personally, I expect mobile OTT viewing to increase in years to come because of its ‘anytime, anywhere’ nature and its ability to significantly expand in rural India. When this happens, regional OTTs will become more profitable,” Mansukhani said. 

Global streaming giants face stiff competition from local players in India. The cheaper, mobile-only tiers could be a valuable tool for these companies to compete in a market that has over 60 streaming platforms, and where ad-supported online video remains popular.

“I think, going forward, global players may come in and try to acquire those regional players to grow their footprint. Regional players also have an advantage, because the type of content they provide connects with a particular type of audience in India,” said Vikram Chande. 



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