Growth of OTT platforms in India – The one industry that profited from the pandemic in 2020

Today, if you don’t have OTT apps like Netflix, Prime Video, Hotstar, Zee5, Voot Select, or Sony Live, then you are a dinosaur in media and entertainment. Ever since the first COVID-19 lockdown and work-from-home scenario in 2020, OTT platforms in India have become the New Normal in the world of entertainment. With no new content on television and theatres closed down, people shifted to watching live TV and on–demand content over OTT platforms from the comfort of their houses. India has an OTT platform list with over 40 providers of Over–the–Top (OTT) media services.

What is OTT Platform and its rise in the Pandemic

An Over–the–Top (OTT) platform is a media service delivering movies and tv series/shows directly to viewers via the Internet. It all began in 2008, with Reliance launching BigFlix, but it was not until 2013, with the launch of DittoTV (Zee) and Sony Liv and big names like Netflix entering India in 2016 when OTT platforms gained popularity. But what happened in 2020 was unprecedented. These Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms offered ease of watching favorite movies, web serials, and other programs to people of all ages and demographics. It helped digital consumers to manage stress and maintain their sense of sanity with some entertainment while being stuck indoors due to the lockdown. 

While several manufacturing and logistics industries worldwide suffered losses, the OTT industry benefitted from the pandemic. In the absence of original content on the linear broadcast medium, there was a significant off-take in the consumption of OTT content leading to a surge in subscriptions and profits.

The platforms immediately localized content to reach out and appeal to 46% of the population in the 15 to 45 years age groups. They also acquired the ready-for-release big ticket films at attractive price points. Yes, OTT platforms have made hay while the sun shines, but retaining the subscribers long after the lockdown ends, will be the actual challenge.

– In 2020, India emerged as the world’s fastest-growing OTT (over-the-top streaming) market.

Image credits: Next Big Brand

All about OTT and OTT statistics 2021

  • More than 75 % of Indians purchased new OTT subscriptions during the lockdown period.
  • Many Indians subscribe to ~2.5 platforms at a given time.
  • India is poised to become the world’s sixth-largest OTT market in 2024, with an estimated revenue of USD 2.9 billion.
  • The average time spent by each Indian subscriber has gone up from around 20 to 70 minutes/day. 
  • Amazon Prime and Netflix saw an increase in subscription of 67% and 65%, respectively.
  • 30% of the viewers prefer watching movies on OTT platforms.
  • 30% of the respondents prefer watching content in languages other than Hindi and English.
  • 87% of the subscribers consume content on their mobile phones.
  • 87% of the respondents install the preferred app based on the uniqueness and quality of the content.

(Information credit: Social Samosa, National Herald)

Also, according to Omdia, the tech research and data company, as of December 2020, 

  • Disney+ Hotstar had 18.69 million subscribers, up from 5.36 million in 2019. 
  • Amazon Prime Video had 5.83 million subscribers, up from 4.34 million in 2019.
  • Netflix added more than a million paying users to reach 3.08 million subscribers in 2020. 
  • Zee5 had 2.7 million subscribers, up from 1.99 million, and 
  • SonyLiv had 1.81 million, up from 6.5 lakh subscribers
Image credits: Sony Live

Production houses and OTT model

As OTT platforms constantly require new content to attract and increase their subscriber base, they enter into two kinds of contracts with production houses producing movies and web series. These contracts are either on an outright purchase basis or revenue sharing basis. In most cases, the producer earns anywhere upward of 20% of the profit from the OTT platforms. Currently, OTT platforms serve the lower budget movies and web series and pay anywhere from Rupees 15 crores to 30 crores for a release. The Rupees 100+ crore club movie releases are still to happen on OTT platforms. 

The platforms use three OTT revenue models to generate profits for their video streaming sites. They are: 

i. Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD): This involves a purchase transaction for every piece of content downloaded by a user.

ii. Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD): Users pay a fixed sum every month to view any content available on the platform.

iii. Advertisement-supported Video on Demand (AVOD): The AVOD model allows users to stream content for free (for example, on YouTube) but runs advertisements at strategic intervals while streaming the content. AVOD offers a part of the ad revenue to the broadcaster as an incentive.   

Production houses have started to realize that OTT is not the adversary but an ally growing from strength to strength. In the New Normal, where millions have begun to watch their favorite movies on a mobile phone, iPad, laptop, desktop, or smart TV, theatre releases will soon not be able to attract large crowds as they did in the past. Production houses are making a beeline with their content for platforms like Netflix, which has 207 million subscribers worldwide.

Image Credits: The Week

OTT and Censorship

In India, the OTT market is gaining a large portion of the media and entertainment pie. While the OTT market in India was worth INR 21.5 billion in 2018 and INR 35 billion in 2019, in 2024, it is projected to reach INR 55 billion. With its growing popularity, The Government of India in 2021 also released a new set of rules that would bring OTT content in India under the standards of censorship that apply to other entertainment content platforms in India. Under these new rules, the government has mandated that every OTT platform classifies content under five classifications – Universal (U) suitable for all, U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and Adult (A) category.

Future of OTT platforms in India

Easy access to the internet and mobile phones and competitive subscription costs of the OTT platforms are just the beginning of the OTT success curve. Besides, the availability of different types of content, original shows, direct-to-digital film releases, content in English and regional languages has spurred growth for content consumers throughout the country. The move is also highly beneficial for advertisers looking for new opportunities to reach niche segments in different states. Regional content on OTT platforms such as Hoichoi (Bengali), Planet Marathi (Marathi), Voot (Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Telugu, Tamil), Aha (Telegu), SunNXT (South Indian languages), Koode (Malayalam), Cityshor (Gujarati), are doing well. Even kid’s OTT platforms such as MyToonz and Voot Kids help advertisers to target kids, young adults, and parents for specific kid-friendly products.


The OTT platforms are not some fad. With every OTT platform constantly raising its bar to better content for its subscribers, they are here to rule the entertainment industry in India. Bollywood and Tollywood releases on OTT platforms have become a reality. While this is only the tip of the iceberg, the rise of OTT platforms in India is imminent.