The age of television and entertainment has come across a new topic or a new system. That particular system is called OTT platforms or Over-the-top media services. They have managed to capture the market and place themselves in the hearts and minds of customers. Through the unique addition of shows, movies, and documentaries, these platforms have earned their reward for being the best at what they do. Thanks to that, everyone is on the lookout to know more about these platforms and begin their journey in exploring the same.
But we cannot go about doing so without a proper guide. So come join us as we take you through a special guide that covers the things you need to know about OTT platforms in India.
Meaning: What is OTT?
As you keep hearing the word ‘OTT’, you are eventually going to wonder, ‘what is it?. Well, the meaning of OTT is much more than its full form. OTT or ‘Over-The-Top’ media services refers to a platform that helps you stream media/audios/videos directly to viewers from the internet. In order to avail the service, you will be asked to pay a minimum subscription fee and can also enjoy streaming movies on all kinds of devices. This subscription-based model, also known as ‘Subscription video on demand (SVOD)’, grew significantly and grabbed hold of markets like India.
History of OTT Platforms
OTT platforms were not always akin to delivering top movies and other forms of entertainment. It started small and many would credit the success of Netflix behind the big breakthrough. As a unique idea, Netflix started in 1997 by renting out DVDs/video tapes, blockbuster movies, and whatnot. And they completed the process through mail. However, soon after witnessing the demand in the market, the platform shifted gears and announced a subscription model where a customer will have to pay a basic price and enjoy a monthly service.
But that did not prevent them from discontinuing their DVD rentals. They carried forward the business and even expanded themselves for subscribers of Dish Network. With good customer service and other quality ingredients, Netflix caught on and eventually became a force to reckon with. The disappearance of Blockbuster made matters all the more easy and they would eventually gain a monopoly over the market. As a result, their growth led the way to a new market called the OTT industry.
While the story from the west begins with Netflix, the Indian market had a different outing. BIGFlix by Reliance Entertainment is known to be the first dependent Indian OTT platform to have graced our screens. Apart from BIGFlix, names like nexGTv are also thrown into the mix, mainly because it was the first mobile app that started live streaming and on-demand services in India. The impact that it created was minimal, but that did pave the way for a future where OTT platforms were going to conquer the world.
However, in order to conquer the world, let alone the industry, you need to stand up to competition and be brave enough to face them. So if you want to start an OTT platform, which other market will you have to deal with? Well, the answer is cable TV and ten points for guessing it right.
OTT Platforms Vs Cable TV Services
In the beginning, the fight between OTT platforms and cable tv services was not a complicated one. OTT platforms did not have the right number of shows or movies to compete with it, mainly because satellite rights would always be preferred over digital rights. Due to that, OTT platforms couldn’t seal the deal. However, that period is long gone and now it is OTT platforms that have come on top. But how did they manage to do so?
1. The number one reason behind the success of OTT platforms was the fact that you could choose what to watch and when to watch it. Unlike cable tv services, you need not follow a strict schedule and wait for the show or the movie to begin. You also need not go through interruptions and watch a 2-hour long movie in 4 hours.
2. The second reason involves ease of use. While you’re watching your favorite movie, you might receive an important call from your boss. So what do you do when the movie is being played on TV? Well, there is nothing that you can do, especially if your boss will be angry if you don’t pick up the call. However, on the other hand, you can pause the movie and play it again, if you’re watching it on an OTT platform.
3. The third reason refers to costs and how OTT platforms are cost-effective. Cable TV services require you to pay according to a subscription model that might also need individual fees for specific channels. But OTT platforms refer to the same subscription plan, with the only difference in price being for quality, number of screens, and other related aspects. Due to that, it is cost-effective in the long run.
4. The fourth and final reason on this front would refer to content. Yes, that’s right. The type of movies/shows you watch. OTT platforms came on top because they regularly update their list and hit you with a lot of choices. Along with content produced by the platform itself, other producers are also willing to sell their work to OTT platforms in order for it to be screened.
Thanks to these specific reasons, OTT platforms are now on top and Indian consumers seem to enjoy using their services. But which platforms do they prefer the most? And is there a top five? Yes, there is a top-five and they are known to be the best in the market. So move forward and learn more about the best OTT platforms in India.
The Best OTT Platforms in India
1. Disney + Hotstar
Hotstar, owned by Star India, was first launched in 2015. In the initial stages of their run, they faced tough competition from platforms like Netflix and would eventually back out from the race. However, their pricing model and their reach helped them rise to the top and is now one of the most dominant video streaming services in India. The platform collectively boasts around 300 million active subscribers and things got all the more interesting when they began live-streaming the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Cricket World Cup.
In 2019, Hostar witnessed a change in business when Walt Disney Company acquired 21st Century Fox, which led the way to Hostar being named as ‘Disney+Hotstar’.
Why choose Disney+Hotstar
a. Affordable pricing
There are a number of reasons to choose Disney + Hotstar, with the main one being the price. Hotstar comes with specific plans, i.e. VIP and Premium. Both these plans are available at ₹ 399/year and ₹1,499/year respectively. As a result, the pricing model is bound to make things work and help you get used to a comfortable experience.
b. Live streaming
If you’re a sports enthusiast, then Hotstar will help you cover all major tournaments like the Indian Premier League (IPL), Cricket World Cup, Premier League (PL), and so on. From cricket to formula E, Hotstar has got it all and will surely help you make the experience count. Apart from sports, Hotstar also covers the news and you can live stream famous news channels from all languages.
c. Content for all languages
Hotstar is not a streaming platform that caters to a specific audience alone. Their content moves across languages and you will find movies and shows in Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and so on. Thanks to that, Hotstar is truly an OTT giant that provides you with what you need.
d. Free Content
With Hotstar, you can also watch a few movies and shows for free. Based on the category within which a few movies fall, you can always pick ones that are free and move ahead to explore the same. However, you might come across ads because only a paid service is ad-free.
Why look the other way
a. Bad User Interface
While Hotstar deserves a lot of credit, there are some areas where it can certainly improve. And one of those areas is the user interface. Several customers have complained about its user interface and how it is just jumbled together.
b. Low speeds
Be it for live streaming or other related categories, another problem with Hotstar relates to slow speeds. Regardless of fast internet, users have always spoken about how they would have to wait for a while for shows or movies to load.
c. Lack of screens
A single Hotstar premium account only allows two screens. As a result, only two devices can watch at once. This form of limitation has not worked for good and some even consider it to be a way of encouraging more users to enter the platform.
d. Lack of quality originals
Hotstar originals are a set of shows and movies that are produced by the platform. While it has done the job of increasing the number of content, it has not fared well in terms of quality. ‘Hotstar Originals’ are not popular with the audiences and are certainly not being compared with what other platforms have to offer.
The subscription model
As we mentioned before, Hotstar has two specific subscription models, namely VIP and Premium. Both these plans come at different costs and choosing one over the other makes a lot of difference.
The VIP plan comes at a price of ₹399/year and lets you stream content in HD quality.
It includes Marvel movies, Disney movies, and content for kids, which are only available in dubbed languages. However, it is not ad-free.
In terms of streaming, you can only watch on a single screen and you will not get Disney+ originals and English shows.
The Premium plan comes at a price of ₹ 1,499/year and allows 4K quality streaming.
Disney movies, Marvel movies, and content for kids are available in English as well as dubbed languages. Moreover, the service is ad-free.
Unlike VIP, Premium can be viewed on two screens at a time and you can also access Disney+ originals and English shows.
2. Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video was launched in the United States in 2006. While it took time to develop, the service caught hold of a number of opportunities and began entering various markets. Significantly, they arrived in Indian in 2016 and now produces Indian content. Shows like Family Man, Made In Heaven, Mirzapur, and so on are a few examples of the variety of content that Prime has produced for India.
Thanks to all that, the streaming giant is the second most subscribed OTT platform in the country and enjoys good control over the market.
Why choose Prime Video
a. Huge library of content
Prime did not really need a lot of time to develop in India. Once they established themselves, they went around filling their library with a ton of movies and shows that appeal to all kinds of individuals. Like Hotstar, Prime has a massive collection of movies from all languages, and that only talks about the kind of variety they boast.
b. Affordable pricing
One of the main reasons Prime caught on in the market is due to its pricing. For a Prime subscription, you can either shell out ₹329 for 3 months or ₹999 for a year. They don’t limit the content based on your plan as you end up gaining access to everything.
c. Free trial
Another major benefit of Prime is the fact that they provide a 30 day free trial period. Yes, you heard that right. Upon filling in your details and choosing a plan, you can enjoy access to content, which is free for the first month.
d. Prime Originals
Prime has managed to recruit some good Indian talent and as a result, you are awarded quality Indian content. From shows to movies, Prime produces the kind of content that appeals to the average Indian audience.
Why look the other way
a. Unavailable content
Content not being available for your region is a major drawback that people face. Be it Prime or even Netflix for that matter, unavailable content can be a huge problem, and thus, people will be forced to opt for a VPN service.
b. The issue with live streaming
Amazon Prime Video has entered the live streaming business in India by bagging the exclusive rights to New Zealand Cricket matches, including Team India’s tour to New Zealand in early 2022. But the dates for the same are yet to be finalized and it is still not clear how Prime would stand up against other live streaming platforms.
c. Tough competition
While Prime video has managed to produce good quality content, it continues to face competition in terms of its originals. And on this front, Prime continues to face competition and has even faded out in the background when Netflix enters the mix.
d. Lack of clarity
OTT platforms help you choose what you want to watch based on your viewing habits. While that remains the same for all major OTT giants, there are a few issues that come. Prime Video can be taken as an important example as their recommendations might not always be what you want to watch.
The subscription model
The subscription model for Prime is a simple one and like we mentioned before, there are two major options that you can choose from, i.e. a 3-month subscription for ₹329 and a one-year subscription for ₹999. Moreover, with an exclusive Prime account, you will be entitled to the following benefits.
Ad-free music will be readily available on Prime Music.
The option for free and fast delivery on Amazon Store.
Plenty of ebooks and comics tend to be available on Prime Reading.
Apart from movies and TV shows on Prime Video, you can also gain access to free in-game content on Gaming with Prime.
Netflix and chill has been our tagline for most of the year as we go through a ton of shows and movies on the streaming platform. Launched in 2016 in India, Netflix is known to be the original creator of the binge-watching spree that took over the market. From Peaky Blinders to Sacred Games, their originals have been a huge hit, and each time they launch a new series, it becomes the talking point on the internet.
Due to that, the streaming giant is third on our list and it helps customers get what they want. While they stand tall in terms of a few aspects, they also come short of specifics that cater to the Indian market. So what are these aspects? Well, let’s go ahead and find out.
Why choose Netflix
a. Quality content
Netflix never loses the race in terms of quality and it stands tall in this aspect. Each show they create is unique and will immediately create an impact in the market. Apart from Netflix Originals, viewers are also struck with a number of international shows that further widen their reach. Since some of their exclusive movies and shows have also won big awards, including an Oscar, quality stands on top for Netflix.
b. Comfortable user experience
Netflix offers a comfortable user experience that is hard to find on any other platform. Their recommendations are apt and you can always find what you want. Moreover, Netflix also provides a simple reminder asking whether you are watching the show if there has been no activity for hours. So if you end up sleeping, Netflix has got you covered because if the remainder is unanswered, it automatically ends the show.
c. Offers up to 4 screens
Yes, you heard that right. Upon choosing the bigger subscription plan, Netflix will let you stream content on 4 different devices. It is hard to find another service that provides you with this form of access and that should certainly tell you more about their business.
d. Different plans
With Netflix, you get to choose between different kinds of plans and not a single one of these plans will limit the kind of content that you can watch. However, these plans come with different streaming quality and that is a unique factor that you need to look into before choosing a specific plan.
Why look the other way
Although Netflix is regarded with high quality, it is also known to come at a price and that price is quite expensive. Most of their membership plans are expensive when compared to what other streaming giants have to offer. Due to that, price is an aspect that you need to look into.
b. Content is dependent on the location
One of the major drawbacks of Netflix refers to the fact that content is always dependent on locations. Due to copyright claims and other related aspects, you may not be able to view what Netflix US offers in India.
c. Fewer options for regional content
Regional cinema or regional content tends to rank low on Netflix. While they do have a few choices, it does not boast of a massive library like Prime Video or Hotstar. As a result, if you want more options for regional cinema, Netflix might not be the right choice for you.
d. Data consumption
Another major drawback about Netflix is its massive data consumption. While you get the option of choosing picture quality on other OTT platforms, you don’t get a similar option with Netflix. It automatically chooses the best quality based on your internet. So if you’re looking to save some data while streaming, Netflix won’t be able to help you out.
The subscription model
The expensive subscription model that Netflix follows comes across with different kinds of plans. And the period of the subscription will be based on the plan that you choose.
Mobile Plan – this plan costs ₹199 a month and comes with SD resolution. As the name suggests, it is meant only for your mobile and can only be streamed on one device.
Basic Plan – the basic plan comes at a cost of ₹499 a month and lets you stream content from one device at a time. The resolution available for the same is 480p.
Standard Plan – ₹649 a month is the price at which the standard plan is fixed. With this particular plan, you can watch on two devices at the same time in HD resolution.
Premium Plan – the most expensive subscription plan, known as ‘Premium’ comes at a price of ₹799 a month. It lets you stream content on over four devices at the same time with a resolution of Ultra HD and HDR.
SonyLIV is as famous as ‘Scam 1992’. The hit series which covered the life of Hansal Mehta was a huge hit and helped SonyLIV come up in the market. With more than 700 movies and TV shows, SonyLIV is another giant that you need to know about. It was launched by Sony Pictures Networks India Pvt Ltd and has become a success in recent times. While entertainment has always been a part of the list, they are most commonly known for sports entertainment as they cover a number of major tournaments.
Why choose SonyLIV
a. Live sports events
Cricket, football, and even WWE can be found with SonyLIV. They are a major live-streaming giant that helps you get all the sports coverage you need. Since most of these international events might not be available elsewhere, SonyLIV is a safe subscription for the same.
b. Affordable pricing
SonyLIV’s pricing model is far from that of Netflix as they offer affordable options for everyone. While their plans are specific to the type of content that you view, you can always make things work with affordable options.
c. TV Shows
Another great benefit of a SonyLIV subscription is the fact that you get to view TV shows at the same time. Since the option is flexible, you can revisit the website and watch it at any time.
d. The inclusion of more content
The recent success of ‘Scam 1992’ has helped SonyLIV reach the content market, which places itself away from sports entertainment. Due to that, the OTT platform is bound to come with more shows and scam your heart for the better.
Why look the other way
a. Lack of quality content
“Scam 1992’ might be the only show that you would have seen on SonyLIV. While that significantly helped the platform, it also talks about the type of content they produce. Apart from one particular show, SonyLIV does not have a lot to boast about.
b. Limited screens
Like Hotstar, SonyLIV also offers limited screens and at times reduces the limit to one. Based on the plan that you choose, you can view changes to this policy but the most that you are going to get is two screens. Hence, limited screens are a problem that you will have to deal with.
c. Not a part of the binge-watching campaign
We all talk about how we binge-watched an entire show over the weekend on Netflix or Prime. But we hardly talk about the same thing on SonyLIV. And that tells you a lot about the content they produce. As a result, their shows, except for one, are not always a part of the conversation and certainly not a part of the binge-watching campaign.
d. Not diverse
In terms of the kind of content they produce, you can very well say that it is not diverse. They tend to focus on a particular industry or language and do not have a lot to offer in terms of other languages.
The subscription model
SonyLIV mainly has two different subscription models that in turn talk about the kind of content that you get to view.
The premium plan comes at different prices, namely ₹299 a month, ₹699 for six months, and ₹999 a year. With this plan, you get to view live events (WWE & Sports), international shows, and so on.
It also includes top Indian movies, KBC, content for kids, and the option for offline download.
With this plan, you can create up to 5 profiles but only two screens can be played at the same time.
The exclusive WWE pack comes at a price of ₹299 a year. It covers all live WWE main events and provides unlimited access to the WWE library.
Up to 5 profiles can be created with this plan, although only one screen can be played at a time.
Apart from that, if you wish to gain access to other content, you need to subscribe to Premium.
Other Notable OTT Platforms
The OTT service in India is a huge market and thus there are potential platforms that also deserve to be mentioned. While they don’t boast of top-quality content like the rest, they have what it takes to eventually reach the top.
Zee Entertainment entered the OTT industry with the launch of DIttoTV in 2013. However, it dissolved and later came to be known as Zee5. Today, the platform boasts more than 1000 movies and several live TV channels which can be accessed through a simple subscription plan.
The premium plan is the main subscription model through which Zee5 operates. It comes together with a 12-month plan and a 3-month plan. While it costs ₹999 for a year, the 3-month plan comes at a price of ₹299. The type of content that you receive with both these plans is the same but the 3-month plan limits you with 2 screens at a time. From the Friends Reunion to several blockbuster shows, Zee5 has a lot to offer.
Voot is another Indian subscription video-on-demand service that was launched in 2016. It is owned by Viacom 18 and includes almost 40,000 hours of content. Apart from top movies, the platform also boasts content from TV channels like Nickelodeon, Colors, and MTV. Like other streaming platforms, Voot also boasts of original shows for streaming that are increasingly becoming popular.
Voot’s paid subscription services begin with Voot Select. It comes at ₹99 a month (3-day free trial) and ₹499 a year (14-day free trial). Only paid subscribers can gain access to original shows produced by Voot. Moreover, specific TV shows will be streamed a day before their actual premiere on TV.
MX Player is hitting all the right chords in the market and is thus an OTT platform worth considering. While its library is not filled with ‘Scam 1992’ or ‘Peaky Blinders’, it does cover an impressive 150,000 hours of content in several languages. Moreover, the online feature of MX Player is free of cost and is open to everyone. So you can always opt to watch shows and movies on MX Player, provided you are okay viewing ads in between.
Things To Be Noted While Using OTT
1. While OTT platforms provide you with a lot of content, there are also a few negatives to the matter. By attracting you to binge-watch their shows, you will be spending hours in front of a screen, which is harmful. It is not advisable and health experts have always spoken about the same. So taking it slow will be the right way to go about making it count.
2. Lack of censorship is both a good thing and a bad thing. While it helps you view content in the right manner, kids can gain access to the same. As a result, a proper form of parental control needs to be followed and you should ensure that everything goes as per the plan.
3. Choosing what to watch is another problem that comes with more number of options. You will be spoilt for choice and will get confused about what to do. Due to that, you need to have a schedule that not only limits your viewing time but also helps you choose shows and movies in the right manner.
4. Internet consumption might be another problem that you will have to go through. If you wish to watch quality content at high resolutions, you need to be prepared with a good internet that offers you the things you need the most.
Conclusion: The Right Option OTT Platform For You
With all that OTT platforms have achieved in this short period, it is no surprise that there is more to come in the future. While we once watched movies on TV through channels, we are now doing the same through OTT platforms. As a result, the habit is bound to continue and grow in the future. Due to that, choosing a specific platform and being a part of the process is quite important. But again, which one do you choose?
Choosing the right platform begins by comparing them and understanding what you want. So,
If you want to watch international shows and movies and top-quality content at a high resolution, Netflix would be the right choice for you. However, you also need to be prepared to pay the price.
If you want to watch live sports events, HBO shows and movies, Marvel movies, and regional content, Hotstar would be the right choice for you. However, you should also be aware of the limited options for screens.
If you want to watch top international shows and movies, sports documentaries, and also regional content, Prime Video would be the right choice for you. However, you will have to miss out on live sports events.
Hence, the choice is yours to make and you need to go through these points to arrive at a proper conclusion.
FAQs about OTT Platforms in India
How do OTT platforms earn money?
The main source of income for OTT platforms comes through its subscription-based services. However, platforms that offer content for free will not have the same source of income and will instead rely on ads for the same. Since purchasing digital rights seems to require a huge budget, OTT platforms turn towards producing their content in order to bring down costs.
Are OTT Platforms regulated?
For a long period, OTT platforms did not go through any form of regulation. But in recent times, the government did include these platforms under the Information and Broadcast ministry (I&B). By doing so, these platforms will have to go through a three-tier regulation. While Tier-one and Tier-two will comprise the platform and its self-regulatory body, Tier-three will include the I&B ministry.
Which is the most affordable OTT platform?
Youtube, by all means, is also an OTT platform that boasts a ton of content. But it does not offer a paid subscription and thus comes with ads. However, Zee5 does offer a paid subscription and those plans are affordable. Hence, Zee5 is the most affordable OTT platform.
Can we watch live sports on OTT platforms?
Live sports and live tournaments do come under OTT platforms and you have various services like Disney + Hotstar and SonyLIV that offer the same. However, the type of tournament or sport that you wish to watch will differ from one platform to another.