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Digital Video In India: 14 Points To Ponder

On my way to a seminar called Online Video Revolution, organized by Juniper and Exicon, where I was on a panel, I noted down (rather, tweeted) a few points that I think the ecosystem should be concerned about or aware of; wasn’t able to make all the points, so here they are, along-with a few more; feedback, corrections, additions and counter arguments are welcome.

1. Internet connection speeds: I don’t know who watches online streams from home, certainly not without significant buffering – most Internet connections are 256 Kbps, and that is much too slow. The minimum speed for “broadband” needs to increase (ED: The Department of Telecom never followed through on Dayanidhi Maran’s promise of making minimum broadband speed 2mbps). Prime time for online video in india is office hours. Yes, we will watch video online, but it’s like being back in the dialup days when you visited websites, but had to keep waiting for pages to load. Increase speeds, and watch consumption explode.

2. Completed Streams: Enough is said about number of videos uploaded, traffic to video sites etc, but you need to ask – how many streams get completed? As long as speeds are low, consumers will tire quickly, and only the best content, compelling content will survive. Unlike TV, consumers have multiple options. Online is asynchronous, and consumers of content get irritated quickly.

3. Destinations Need To Be Social: If you’re streaming content, then you can’t do online video without Twitter or Facebook integration, or some means of allowing conversation between viewers. Those like me can’t even watch TV these days without Twitter up on a laptop or mobile. This is going to increase, wait and watch.

4. Preferential Bandwidth and Content Bias: I’m concerned about net neutrality and the fair usage policy in India. The latter will limit the amount of content you can watch, while the former will differentiate between content providers. Airtel has already done it, with Airtel Broadband TV, and before that, higher speeds for YouTube streaming of the Indian Premier League. Net neutrality is going to hit the Online Video business the most in India. If you’re an online content company, you might have to become a white labeled “Value Added Service” to get preferential bandwidth from an ISP. Eventually, all content owners that want to deliver quality content will have to get into bed with the ISP. For a consumer, you won’t get equitable speeds/quality for your content because your ISP is controlling your access speeds and limits, based on the business deals he gets from content owners.

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5. 3G vs Wireline: Don’t get your hopes up about 3G. Connectivity is erratic, and inconsistent, even though increase in usage might be reported, and more and more consumers will get pulled online. The networks will not be able to handle too many simultaneous streams, and there isn’t enough spectrum per operator in any case. Wireline is still very important when it comes to consumption of content. The government has made its money from 3G auctions. Now there’s a need to push for unbundling of wireline.

6. IPTV in India is dead on arrival. See MTNL Delhi’s numbers. It’s not something Airtel publicly shares numbers for, and Reliance still hasn’t launched it. There just isn’t enough money behind IPTV in India, and most telecom operators have chosen DTH. So it has to be video over IP instead of a dedicated channel on IPTV. IPTV content is still regulated.

7. Advertising: Video preroll ads should not be more than 5 seconds. If the content is not compelling, with Indian speeds, people switch off. Skins are better – online video ads are irritating.

8. Discovery: is social. Just because you have a TV channel doesn’t mean that someone will watch it streaming online regularly. People have global content to choose from, so you need to show content that is worth talking about. And people will share it if it is good enough

9. Channels vs Shows: Online, it’s not about albums, it’s about singles; it’s not about channels, it’s about shows. I won’t watch the live stream of your channel, waiting for a particular show. When I’m online, I surf, and watch what I want to, on demand.

10. Content curation and discovery: What’s that number again – 36 hours of video content uploaded on YouTube every minute? There’s just too much video content, and not enough discovery. More importantly, there just isn’t enough content curation going on – targeting a particular user base, with specific content. So far, it’s more about repurposing all your content and putting it in a YouTube channel, hoping someone will find it and view it. If you want to create a destination, curate content for a niche audience. Maybe create several destinations.

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11. Made For Digital Content: There’s just not enough made for digital content – maybe the business environment means that it isn’t sustainable, but I firmly believe that the content has to be created in order to attract an audience, and the advertising, and not just repurposed TV. Why hasn’t anyone done something like Comedy Central online in India? (or for that matter, on TV)

12. Advertising Rates: You can kill the online video market with low rates. The ad networks came in just too early, because there was no one willing to put together a sales team for online video. So ad networks aggregated sales, and brought down rates. Publishers need to take back their inventory and sell ads, and not accept low rates. Ad Networks are best for remnant inventory, not premium.

13. Mobile: is a video content creation tool. The DPS MMS case made mobile video famous. It made people realize that mobile video exists. Many clips that make it to TV are being created with mobile phones – the Varun Gandhi incident during the last elections is one of the many cases in point. There’s need for news media companies to encourage submission of mobile clips.

14. News Reporting: I think there’s an opportunity in reporting events as they happen – streaming them via the mobile Internet then on to TV. With (reliable) 3G connections, online streaming is possible through sites like (Skype owned) Qik. in live streaming key events from mobile, as it happens. Media companies can replace OB vans with mobiles and services like Qik, that they can stream to TV.

That’s about it. If you have insights to share, please do so. Will add to this post. Or if you have your own longlist, we can consider a Guest Post.

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Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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