How can OTT trump the next way of entertainment with Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality is going to pave the way as the next medium of content entertainment via OTT platforms and services

Kumar Ahir
Jun 26 · 8 min read

Virtual Reality as a medium has slowly started getting into OTT space and has an opportunity to become a new way of viewer engagement and content distribution with better feedback.

The OTT company either will have to depend on other hardware manufactures for distribution of VR headsets or do it as part of their service. Remember they are already providing a set-top box or broadband router for delivering the content and service.

The latest — OTT launches VR headset

QIYU VR range

A year back, Chinese video entertainment company iQiyi released a VR headset that has 4k resolution. As a part of its service subscription, it will give this headset at an extra cost of $294. Well, not sure how many will be picked up unless there is some good VR content on its charts. This, however, will allow iQiyi to engage with users in a unique way. Putting out its own VR headset is a novel step for a major company focused on producing and distributing entertainment.

OTT — The content scenario

Originals Production content by different OTT players

Many of these like Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon have started their own production house and delivering content in different formats to the viewers. We haven’t seen any branded content coming from TataSky, Airtel, Reliance JIO TV, Dish TV, and the likes yet. But with the field of delivery formats moving from Dish to Broadband Internet and from the living room to anywhere mobile am sure these infrastructure companies will have to closely work with content creators to up their offerings.

With the youth forming the major population of India and change in their demographics and mobile usage the content consumption pattern has completely changed from living room TV to on the go mobile. These changing paradigms of content delivery and consumption patterns will now drive the acceptance of new Virtual Reality media.

The engagement and interaction of the content with young audience is driven by their unique behavior of urge to explore, share socially, and being mobile.

LiveLikeVR

One of the most important content segment for OTT is sports which makes it a great use case for social viewership on OTT. During a recent cricket match, the number of simultaneous viewers reached almost 10M on Hotstar. Imagine if even 10% of these viewers were able to watch the entire match in VR as if sitting inside the stadium.

However, the content viewing is still about sitting back and watch. It’s now supplemented with a lot of other activities that happen simultaneously. Like ordering pizza while watching a show/movie/sport or commenting on a scene or referring to some product being used during a scene or wanting to find out a bit more about the place or material used in the scene.

Hotstar is leading the pack of technology explorations and is the first in India to offer some of the sports events in Virtual Reality. Though it’s acting as a medium to provide content through it’s OTT channel, it’s playing a significant role in building the infrastructure for the entire content ecosystem for better delivery, engagement, experience, and above all an innovative monetization model.

Virtual Reality for OTT

https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/portrait-young-couple-touching-air-wearing-virtual-reality-glasses_4503162.htm

So what role does Virtual Reality play for OTT streaming services and companies? VR provides an immersive experience which elevates the brand engagement. It allows content distributors to understand their experience pattern so they can push relevant content and better their monetization models based on advertisement of products and services. An actor walking in a car showroom can also be experienced by the viewer the same or better way. This is far more enticing than just showing photo or video of the showroom. As a viewer, I can pause the actual scene and get to experience the product first hand in a virtual environment. The advertisement, in that case, isn’t an intrusion any more but embedded in the storyline itself.

And with hardware game distribution companies can allow advertisers to deliver unique experiences that may not be possible by pure hardware companies like Vive or Oculus. Imagine a scenario wherein Comcast or Netflix or TataSky provides an Oculus Quest device with their yearly subscription of channels and this enables them to deliver content in the context of the advertised immersion. Or a VR content with advertised products embedded ready to be explored and bought.

TataSky which is Dish enabled D2H has around 1.2Cr subscribers and on contrary Hotstar which is only internet distribution platform has 7.5Cr. And hence it is very evident that Hotstar is an apt platform to up their game by offering VR content through its platform. It has got the leverage and scale to experiment this new medium, gain traction and establish its flagship in times to come.

Hotstar from the beginning has been the mobile first company with its major content being watched on this platform by individual viewers in silos. And this is what makes it the apt company and channel for distributing VR content first on mobile (which is partially VR device if used with mobile VR headset) and then via room scale VR devices like Oculus Quest or HTC Vive focus or Valve Index.

Virtual Reality hardware in its current form may be misunderstood more like a gaming device it surely is a rich media consumption device too. And Hulu which is rival of Netflix understands this lot better.

YouTube, on the other hand, has silently added features to view an amazing list of 360 video content. 360 videos can be seen on its mobile app as well as VR app on Oculus Go, Rift and Quest devices making it the strongest player in experimental content distribution and test platform.

An obvious hypothetical scenario

Imagine watching an ancient mystery thriller like The Da Vince Code, which presents different facts during the movie and viewers want to know more about the place or book or relic. With Virtual Reality, the viewer can get to visit the place, look around and make more sense or watch the cryptex in 3D and its working.

Sketchfab model of Cryptex

With an appropriate monetization model embedded, these artworks can be bought directly from within the experience!

Conceptual Rendering of VR OTT setup

Final Take

With so many hours of programming to be rolled out, the content game has just begun. This has set the foundations for bigger scale and quality content, making the future of the OTT industry bright, as Vijay Subramanium, Director & Head, Content, Amazon Prime Video, India, sums up, “There is a significant customer demand for entertainment. India’s streaming video space is growing rapidly, primarily driven by growth in mobile broadband, lower data charges and significant investments in the digital media ecosystem. The future of the streaming industry looks bright.” — excerpt from Exchange4Media

Challenges

VR Headset is not available with everybody today since the medium is still in the nascent stage in the consumer domain. And this is the prime reason for iQiyi to offer VR headset to its customer.

VR hardware ergonomics are not well suited for long time viewing, making the experience uncomfortable. Mobile VR headsets are being targetted to reach the scale, but these low-cost headsets give nauseating feeling after 30–45 seconds of use. The better ones are really expensive (approx 200k) and need a full room setup.

Storage and Distribution infrastructure is 4 times compared to even 4k content, making the operational cost shoot up and disheartening for production houses to sustain. Star India has shown a genuine step forward in backing this medium. Oh and when there is a surge in traffic (10M simultaneous viewers) the scaling of infrastructure becomes the major obstacle.

Mobile Internet speeds aren’t fast enough to stream the content live. This is a big setback for experiencing the sport live. One of the biggest pullers of a sporting event is to watch it live. Even for any other type of content like short movies downloading it before playing adds to the woes. Streaming the heavy load of 360 videos (which is 4 times the size of normal video) requires a stable and fast internet connection. 5G internet is going to be the savior here.

Content designed and built for viewer immersion and engagement. The current set of content is all scripted and shot with one camera angle in mind. With the new format, directors need to produce content that engages the viewer and not confuse them.

Singular viewing interface creates a little bump on the road towards adoption. However, with changing living room dynamics this may be seen as momentary. Also, there is a host of features built on the platform to support social engagement.



Kumar Ahir is an independent consultant working in the field of Immersive Technologies, Product Design, Design Leadership, and Strategy. He is evangelizing Design for Immersive Technologies and UX by actively doing workshops on Design Thinking, Design for AR and VR, Prototyping for Mixed Reality technologies.

He aims to create a better Design Ecosystem for Immersive Technologies.

Know more about him at KumarAhir.com, LinkedIn and Twitter

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Data Driven Investor

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Kumar Ahir

Written by

successful exit in first startup oobi.in, AR VR enthusiast, ex CISCO, SYMANTEC, interaction designer, entrepreneur. More at www.kumarahir.com

Data Driven Investor

from confusion to clarity, not insanity