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Indian OTT giants unfazed by original content push from Netflix, Amazon

India's leading over-the-top services, STAR India Pvt. Ltd.'s Hotstar and Viacom18 Media's Voot, are unfazed by an aggressive push into local original content by the likes of Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.s Prime Video.

Senior executives from Hotstar and Voot said at the Media360 conference in Mumbai that their affiliation with India's top networks Star TV and Colors, respectively, ensures they have no dearth of original content. The recent big money deals by the U.S. streaming giants is a necessity to survive in the Indian market where nearly 90% of the premium content is available for free.

Amazon Prime Video India recently ordered three reality shows, in addition to nearly a dozen originals that it has in the pipeline. It is currently streaming cricket-centric corruption drama series "Inside Edge."

Similarly, Netflix recently announced two Indian originals: "Selection Day," a cricket and corruption drama based on the book by Aravind Adiga, and "Again," a supernatural detective series written by Marisha Mukerjee of "Quantico."

Both Netflix and Amazon have identified cricket-oriented content as a must-have. Facebook Inc. recently bid US$600 million for streaming rights for Indian Premier League cricket, only to lose out to Hotstar's parent Star TV.

Hotstar has used its cricket content, from live streaming matches to shows focused on the sport, to amass nearly 100 million monthly active users within two years of its launch. That is almost as many as Netflix's estimated global subscriber numbers.

"Everybody loves cricket" in India and "for us it is a strategic agenda to try and use cricket to make more and more people come to Hotstar," Prabh Simran Singh, consumer and revenue lead at Hotstar, said at the conference.

He said: "Once they are on our platform, they can see the wide variety of content we have."

Hotstar is looking to double the number of users for its non-cricket offerings to 150 million within six months. The platform offers both free/ad-supported and premium subscription services. The premium service includes access to live sports streaming and premium U.S. content, including day-and-date releases of shows such as "Game of Thrones" and "This is US."

While Star and its OTT platform have almost captured the sports market and key U.S. shows, Voot is looking to capitalize on reality TV and children's shows. The free streaming service offers content from Viacom18 channels such as Colors, MTV and Nickelodeon, and has 30 million monthly users. Viacom18 is a 50/50 joint venture between Viacom Inc. and India's Network18.

Gaurav Gandhi, COO of Viacom18 Digital Ventures, which operates Voot, told the audience that India is looking at an exponential growth in video consumption.

"In two years, we are looking at over 400 million digital video consumers and if the trend continues, in five years, there will be more users on streaming devices than TV sets in India," Gandhi said.

However, both Singh and Gandhi believe that the Indian OTT market is bound to see consolidation in coming years and that 20-odd OTT services is too many.

Singh said: "In e-commerce, there were over 30 players three to four years ago [in India] but that number has come down to two large players and a few niche platforms; my sense is that OTT market will also mirror that trend."

Consolidation may not come in the way of one buying another, but a Hulu-like service with a number of content creators coming together on a single OTT platform, he said.