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How Smart TV Is Changing India

February 23, 2024 10:05 IST

The way video is being watched and monetised is changing.
This is the first thing that stands out as the penetration of smart TVs continues to rise.

IMAGE: Kindly note the image has been posted only for representational purposes.The Sharks of the Sony series Shark Tank India: Vineeta Singh, founder, SUGAR Cosmetics; Peyush Bansal, founder and CEO, Lenskart; Anupam Mittal, founder and CEO, People Group; Namita Thapar, Emcure Pharmaceuticals Executive Director; Amit Jain, CEO & Co-founder CarDekho; Aman Gupta, co-founder and CEO, BOAT. Photograph: Kind courtesy Tumisu/ and sharktank.india/

Priyasha Saluja is hilariously persuasive. She is pitching to raise money from a panel of entrepreneurs on Shark Tank India.

Saluja's 2019 venture, The Cinnamon Kitchen, a bakery offering treats free of gluten, dairy, and sugar, is looking for capital to scale up. Her cussed charm works.

She sells a 5 per cent stake for Rs 60 lakh to Aman Gupta, co-founder of boAt, the audio and electronics accessories brand.

Shark Tank India, now in its third season, is one of the biggest hits from Sony, having drawn a combined estimated audience of 95 million on Sony LIV, the streaming app, and Sony Entertainment Television.

This does not include people who watch it on YouTube after the season ends.

It is also an illustration of the future of video.

Shark Tank India was viewed more online than on regular broadcast television, going by media buyers' estimates.

Roughly half its online (read: streaming) video views for Season 2 came from people watching it on a connected television or Internet-enabled smart TV. That is up from a third for Season 1.

"It was the first time we saw appointment viewing on streaming. Connected TV is bringing 'habit' to OTT (over-the-top) consumption," says Danish Khan, executive vice-president and business head, SonyLIV and StudioNext.

"Connected TV consumption is driven by sports, originals. The session length is twice that on mobile. Of every new 1,000 connections, a larger proportion come from Connected TVs," adds Khan.

Data from Lodestar UM, a media buying agency, shows the price advertisers pay to reach every thousand viewers on connected TV (CTV) is twice that for reaching them on a mobile phone.

Often people buy an Internet-capable smart television, but use it to watch linear TV using a direct-to-home or cable connection. A smart TV with a broadband connection and used to stream video is CTV.

"Viewers on connected television want a more linear experience. That is why a lot of platforms are releasing shows one by one," reckons Shrikant Shenoy, associate vice president, Lodestar UM.

Watching a show on CTV is a lean-back, big-screen experience, unlike the fleeting, on-the-go mobile watching, especially for premium audiences.

IMAGE: Fans watch the India-New Zealand World Cup 2023 semi-final match on a mobile phone outside the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

"When streaming took off, advertisers lost access to premium audiences, which went behind a paywall. However, the big screen TV always remained a preferred device of choice," says Mihir Shah, vice-president, Media Partners Asia.

"With CTV expanding in reach and consumption, it offers an opportunity for advertisers to reconnect with affluent audiences," adds Shah.

He points out that JioCinema's 25 million connected reach generated 30 per cent of its net advertising revenues for the Indian Premier League, the popular T20 cricket league it streamed.

The way video is being watched and monetised is changing. This is the first thing that stands out as the penetration of smart TVs continues to rise.

"If you take the last five years, the installed base [of smart TVs] should be 40-50 million," says Navkender Singh, associate vice-president, International Data Corporation India.

IDC is a provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events.

Of that installed base, 35 million to 40 million are estimated to be CTV homes. That translates into an audience of roughly 200 million people -- a fourth of the reach of television, and just under half of those browsing online.

Now add the money. At last count, television made Rs 71,000 crore (Rs 710 billion) and digital Rs 57,100 crore (Rs 571 billion) in advertising and pay revenues. That is the size of the market at stake.

Serendipity in living room

Comscore data shows almost 80 per cent of the 510 million people online are regular viewers of Google-owned YouTube. More than 45 per cent of the total time they spend online is spent on YouTube.

Not surprisingly, the world's -- and India's -- largest streaming video brand is the bellwether and the biggest gainer of this rise.

This is the second thing that stands out.

"Connected TVs, or what we refer to as 'the living room', is where viewership is growing the fastest," Philipp Schindler, senior vice-president and chief business officer, Google, said in a recent earnings call.

In India, of the total time spent watching YouTube, the time spent watching it on CTV more than doubled in July 2023 over July 2022, going by Comscore data.

"It has been our fastest growing 'surface' in the last five years," says Ishan John Chatterjee, managing director, YouTube, India. But the texture of this growth is different from that on other OTTs.

"YouTube is the opposite of appointment viewing. It is about serendipity, discovery. We see that coming to the living room as well," says Chatterjee.

Does that mean YouTube will start commissioning premium shows a la Netflix?

Chatterjee demurs on the question. YouTube may aim to be the home for all things video, but its focus remains user-generated content.

Some of its biggest investments in technology -- especially generative artificial intelligence -- and marketing are about making it easier for content creators to edit, create, and monetise their videos.

"The nature of content being watched is not different from the mobile," says Chatterjee. He points out that even 'shorts', branded as snacky on-the-go content, have been doing well on CTV.

FAST and furious

Since the bulk of the television sets sold in India are now smart, it is a matter of time before most of India's 210 million TV homes become CTV homes.

That would be the third thing to stand out -- the growing clout of the companies selling these TVs, the ones that own the real estate, or the screen.

"According one study [by Nielsen in 2019], people in the US were spending seven minutes on an average figuring out what to watch. That rose to 11 minutes in 2023. The numbers are similar in India," points out Prabhvir Sahmey, senior director, Samsung Ads.

That is why from 2015 onwards, Samsung has worked to aid content discovery on its landing page.

In India, it now offers 118 TV channels, such as The Movie Club and South Station, on the home page under Samsung TV Plus.

The company does not reveal how many viewers these channels, called Free Ad-supported Streaming Television, or FAST, get.

"News [channels], movies, and music get lots of views. And there is a constant clamour for more programming from South [India]," says Sahmey.

This raises fears.

"Samsung, LG, Xiaomi will become the cable or DTH operators of the future. We might have to pay carriage fees to get the right position on the home page," says an OTT insider.

LG and Xiaomi, like Samsung, are smart TV manufacturers.

The other, bigger issue, says Shenoy, is "The lack of validated data. Broadcast Audience Research Council is seen as authentic, but when it comes to digital it is anybody's guess." BARC provides data for television viewership.

Not every brand allows Comscore to tag it. If JioCinema tells you it reaches 100 million people, advertisers must simply accept the number.

That puts both digital and CTV in the same room as radio, out-of-home, or print, where metrics are missing.

For now, though, it does not seem to bother the brands, advertisers, or viewers.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

Vanita Kohli-Khandekar
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