Nama 4G

#NAMA: Future of Content and Payments on 4G was supported by content delivery network and cloud computing services provider Akamai Technologies.

Golf club graph for sports streaming

“The curve for the number of users coming in for live streaming of sports is more like a golf club than a hockey stick,” Tushar Amin, vice president of engineering at Hotstar, said. In a CXO level discussion hosted by MediaNama and Akamai, a wide variety of problems related to the future of content and payments on 4G was discussed.

Over the last year, the top telecom operators in the country have vastly increased the infrastructure for  LTE networks and have started increasing their customers on 4G. Video streaming has driving up this increased usage on telecom networks. Last year, Airtel’s CEO Gopal Vittal said that 40% of data on their network is video, a number that has surely grown. While Reliance Communications had said that nearly 36% its data traffic is video. 

So it becomes crucial for streaming services to understand existing challenges.

When it came to live streaming of sports events such as the cricket world cup and the IPL, Amin said that Hotstar saw more than half a million users coming in at the same time from different connections. “What kind of network can support half a million users coming at the same time from multiple connections. So this is a challenging environment for us,” Amin added.

Currently, Hotstar sees most of its traffic coming from in from WiFi. “But specifically for sports, we see people on the move. They will come on mobile networks, which is patchy and more unreliable I would say. And that’s when we see the quality of the experience is not as good,” Amin explained.

Uday Sodhi, who heads Sony LIV, the digital streaming application at Sony Pictures Network agreed with Amin’s observations during live streaming of sports. “In football, people don’t end up watching the whole match and they  end up coming in checking pieces which is not a great experience. We want people to watch for a longer period.,” Sodhi said.

He also added that cost of data should drop significantly for streaming to pick up pace in India. “In cricket, the length is of the game is far more and it can become far more expensive. So I think, affordability and reliability in sports streaming is critical,” Sodhi added.

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Pay-per-view and micro payments

While discussing monetization for video streaming, the participants discussed the hurdles for pay-per-view and micro payments. Probir Roy, co-founder of PayMate believes that wallets and new technologies such as the UPI should make it more easier. “These micro payments have not really evolved in creating a frictionless user experience. But I think the verdict is out. With wallets becoming ubiquitous, you can use it for payment to watch your video stream. You pay as you go and it gets debited,” Roy said.

“It becomes a little bit more clunky with debit and credit cards with the RBI’s two-factor authentication. But with the UPI and other technologies, you will find other companies making contributions to creating a business model for pay as you go,” he added.

Carrier billing is still used to pay for content

However , it was pointed out that carrier billing was the most effective way right now for monetization of content. In rural India, the penetration of data infrastructure will take a few years. A report by carrier billing company Fortumo pointed out that 80% of payments for digital content in India are from mobile devices. The report added that a majority of content consumption in India still happens over feature phones, even though smartphone penetration in the country is rapidly growing.

However, Karan Bedi, chief operating officer of Eros Now, said that carrier billing is unfair on merchants. “One of the large carriers we’ve been talking to for one of our other products basically said 50% revenue share.  Are you kidding me? But it’s acutually more than that. This is 50% of the gross revenue. So that is about 38%. So the company and the government get to keep more than 62% of your end user price. Which makes any business unviable,” he said. “But that said, carrier billing offers the most frictionless payment service right now,” he added.