State of streaming: Indian platforms look beyond subscription revenue


Soumya Gupta

35 reads

Soumya Gupta

35 reads

Global giants Netflix and Warner Bros Discovery have bit the bullet on ads after the drop in subscriber numbers. Indian players, too, are moving in this direction — Zee5, Hotstar and MX Player, among others, are testing new revenue streams. Will this unlock a new growth phase for the industry?

September 07, 2022


In the middle of 2020, the first year of Covid-19, no one thought there could ever be a streaming slowdown. Paid subscriptions and revenues, platforms believed, would go only one way: up. But two years on, there’s been a jarring plot twist, with global giants such as Disney+ and Netflix scrambling to hold on to users in a market more loyal to content than brands.

Ad-supported subscription plans, either free or cheaply priced, were once seen as uncool — the fastest way to ruin the premium viewing experience. These days, they take pride of place in companies’ internal discussions: Disney+ and Netflix are already working on this format, as is Warner Bros Discovery.

This struggle will sound familiar to streamers and the larger over-the-top space in India, where the appetite for entertainment has always been out of line with the spending power. In 2021, for instance, just 10% of the total OTT viewers were paying subscribers, FICCI-EY’s recent report revealed.

Indian players experimented with advertisements and a few other revenue models to stay in the game long before major US platforms warmed up to diversification. The global trends are now prompting them to move more confidently in this direction.

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