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The State of Video Streaming Services in India [Part 2: The Aftermath]

It's been a year since I published my post about the state of video streaming services in India (which can be found here). I wrote how media companies were trying to get a piece of that market. A lot has changed in a year. For starters, Hotstar has received a revamp and it works on my Kubuntu system now. Prime Video remains the best option for most people. Many more services have launched. Ozee has rebranded itself as Zee5. But a few things have stood the test of time. Netflix's pricing is as expensive as it was a year ago. Yes, that was sarcastic. Now there are lot of streaming services to choose from.

Here's a list of some of the popular ones.
  1. Amazon Prime Video
  2. Hotstar
  3. Netflix
  4. YouTube
  5. Zee5
  6. Eros Now
  7. Spuul
  8. Voot
  9. Hoichoi
  10. ALTBalaji
  11. Hooq
  12. JioCinema / JioTV
  13. Sony LIV
  14. YuppTV
  15. BIGFlix
The list goes on and on. It is said that competition is good for the consumer. More the competition, more the aggressive pricing, more the benefit for the consumer. Just look at what has happened to the mobile network industry. Reliance Jio has turned the industry on its head. Now every operator is trying to retain its customer base with aggressive pricing. And #JioEffect is now a thing. This is awesome news for the public. At first it seems the same would be true for the booming video streaming industry. But as you dig deeper, a worrisome tale unfolds. While it's great to have so many options, sometime it seems overwhelming.

Option, option everywhere!
But that's not the real issue here. The content library is fragmented. Some of the movies and shows are available in one platform, some are available elsewhere. Yes, of course the original shows will not be licensed to others. It's a selling point for that particular service. I get that. Original content creation is getting the bulk of the focus now-a-days. Netflix, Amazon, YouTube even Apple is pushing into original content creation. Frankly, I couldn't care less about original shows. What I look for in a platform are movies and TV shows. None of the platforms has all the recent movies. This is probably due to exclusive licensing deals. And these deals between platforms and media companies seem to expire in a year. So no rewatching after a year or two.

The thing that got people, including me, excited about VOD platforms were that you choose when, where and what to watch and that you could find different TV shows and films at one place for a relatively low subscription fee. Now that the movies and shows are scattered across different platforms, how many are you going to subscribe to? But a bigger issue is lurking for some time now. Now that show/films producers have seen the potential of online videos, they don't want to deal with the middle man. They don't want these platforms to take a cut from their profits. Media conglomerates like Disney, HBO, Fox, ESPN have revealed their plans for building their own platforms. Disney is taking it one step further and pulling its content off of Netflix. This will be a huge setback for Netflix. But it should an even bigger concern for the average consumer. If every media company comes up with its own service and pulls its content from other platforms, the advantages of subscribing to a service will cease to exist. At some point in time, the market is going to reach an inflection point and the growth will fall flat on its face. So will the profits. And I believe people will flock back to cable/satellite TV, which at that point should be cheaper because of all the competition from online services. It will interesting to see how these online platforms sustain their businesses and make people shell out cash when the benefits for them are so little.

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