The first-ever comprehensive research in India by Voice&Data-Mozark-CMR ranks the country’s OTT platforms on their functional experience and emotional quotient.
An over-the-top (OTT) media service is a streaming media service offered to viewers via the net. The OTT bypasses cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms, the businesses that historically act as a controller or distributor of such content. OTT platforms were widely popular in 2020 as they promised to entertain the customers when they needed it during the lockdown, which had restrained the people movement and most of the other entertainment channels were facing hardship due to lockdown. These times most of the apps plunged into the wagon but some gained more and some a little less.
Riding on top of the massive surge in demand during the lockdown and growing mobile internet connectivity, India has emerged as the world’s fastest-growing OTT market; it is expected to grow at nearly 30% CAGR over the next five years. In terms of revenue, it is likely to exceed USD 3 billion during the period.
No-doubt the content in OTT is the biggest driver for attracting customers. At the same time, user experience is equally important. User experience ensures the loyalty of the customers towards a particular platform so that they can come again and again to the same platform for viewing their favorite show, movies, and other content.
With the rise in OTT popularity, there are many who believe that digital TV may replace satellite TV completely. In order for that to happen, user experience on OTT platforms will need to match that of the satellite TV. Users will need a seamless streaming experience and the OTT players will need to be more responsive. Besides, all these features will need to translate into customer satisfaction, which will lead to high recommendation (advocacy) and disposition.
To check how each of the apps was performing on the rich user experience front, Voice&Data commissioned India’s first study to CMR and Mozark to conduct a comprehensive test to evaluate the performance of OTT Apps in the country using the Synthetic Experience Monitoring (SEM) solution. To get a clear understanding CMR and Mozark also conducted a primary survey to capture customer feedback for Airtel Xtreme, Disney+Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, SonyLIV, Voot, YouTube, and Zee5.
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The joint study used Mozark’s industry-first SEM solution that uses completely non-intrusive methods to measure the user experience. Tests were performed on low-end and high-end smartphones connected to real telco networks (Airtel, Jio, and Vodafone-Idea). The company’s machine learning (ML)-driven platform analyzes automation, OS, and network logs, along with video stream analysis to derive these KPIs. The solution helps test how the apps are performing in real user conditions and how they are perceived by the customers.
The values on each of the above parameters were converted into a four-point scale. The application quality index (AQI) was derived by aggregating the average scores of the responsive index and streaming index. Overall, three major data logs are analyzed to build the AQI.
- Automation logs that provide an understanding of on-field app experience
- Device logs, which provide details on on-device resource performance
- Network logs that provide the app to backend diagnostics
Emotional Quotient: Emotional quotient describes the emotional attachment of the users towards the apps. This was measured using the following two parameters.
Advocacy: This depicts the willingness of users to recommend the brands to peers. This was measured on 10 point scale in which 10 represents ‘highly recommend’ and one (1) represents ‘not at all recommend’.
Disposition: This depicts the disposition of users towards brands. This was measured on a seven-point scale in which seven (7) represent the highest disposition and one (1) represents the lowest disposition as described in different terms – insist, prefer, intend, accept, no opinion, unaware, and reject.
Performance of OTT apps on AQI
Responsive experience: Amazon Prime Video is the most responsive app followed by YouTube, Airtel Xstream, and Zee5. The responsiveness score of Amazon Prime Video is 22% higher than the second most responsive app, YouTube. However, the responsiveness of apps in India falls short of global average scores which are closer to 3.
Streaming experience: In the streaming index, YouTube ranks highest followed by SonyLIV, Netflix, and Disney+Hotstar. A score of YouTube is 10% higher than that of the next best streaming app SonyLiv. The study reveals that global players dominate streaming performance over local players.
While combining the responsive index and streaming index, YouTube scores the highest closely followed by Amazon Prime Video. The research indicates that the AQI of YouTube is 13% higher than Netflix, which came third, over the past year.
It was also observed that global apps performed better than their local peers like Voot and Zee5, perhaps because of their ownership of the content delivery infrastructure that allows them to depend less on third-party integrations and manage existing integrations more efficiently.
Performance of OTT apps on emotional quotient
Advocacy index: YouTube has the highest recommendation score closely followed by Amazon Prime Video. Recommendation scores of Netflix and Disney+Hotstar are almost the same, bringing them both at the third rank. The study reveals that even on this parameter, global apps perform better than their local peers.
Amazon Prime Video has the highest disposition score followed by Netflix. YouTube and Disney+Hotstar are ranked at third and fourth position respectively.
The emotional quotient has been derived by converting the recommendation score and disposition score into one scale. This was done by assigning a maximum value of each parameter to 100 and changing the rest of the value accordingly. The emotional quotient is the average of the converted values of both parameters. Amazon Prime Video has the highest emotional quotient closely followed by YouTube.
OTTs are making a good exchange instead of optimizing both responsiveness and streaming
Getting a reliable experience across the responsiveness of the app and the streaming performance is really difficult. The study revealed that the only OTTs that came close to achieving this are Amazon Prime Video, Disney+Hotstar, YouTube, and Netflix.
The key factors of responsiveness are the performance of the app backend, optimization of images, and efficiency of personalization APIs/algorithms. Streaming requires burst performance where a large amount of data needs to be downloaded in a short period. Here is where the CDN pitches in. Using the most effective CDN as per the geographical distribution of customers is crucial. A CDN gives different experiences in different geographical locations. Even within the country, CDN performance differs widely with respect to locations.
OTTs need to have greater control over third party infrastructure to perform better
For every 100 MB of data that is sent by a typical video app, only 10 MB is exchanged with its own backend. The remaining data is transferred by third-party infrastructures such as CDNs, online video platforms like SDKs, marketing and customer analytics cloud, APM cloud, etc. Understanding the impact that such third-party integrations have on end-user customer journey performance is very crucial.
The study noted that of various available apps, the commonly used third-party integrators include ad networks, marketing and customer analytics cloud, online video platform cloud, and application performance management cloud. We observed the overall latency of these integrations and found that there is a vast latency variation across the board. The overall latency is defined as the sum of TCP handshake time and TLS handshake time.
Such high latency variations would have a profound impact on the performance of the app. These latency variations can be highly improved by transitioning to server-side integration rather than client-side integration. Server-side integration leads to dedicated WAN connections to the respective third-party clouds. By doing so, the communication between the client and server are limited to the app backend and
Choosing CDN is an important decision
Content delivery network (CDN) delivers more than 60% of any video OTT’s traffic. The distribution and performance of CDN have a more significant impact on the app’s performance.
Besides cost, several other technical factors need to be considered while choosing the CDN provider.
- Pops geographical distribution across the country
- Network Connectivity deployed at the pops
- Peak throughputs that can be delivered from the pops
- Caching capacity of the pops
Based on our study on OTT, we observed Akamai, Cloudfront, Jio, and Peer5 were the CDNs that were used. We analyzed the latency variations of these CDNs based on our test and found that cloud front displayed maximum variation across the tests we performed while Akamai was the most consistent player.
In terms of regional performance, all CDNs performed weakly in the Eastern region which indicates that significant investment should be done to improve the CDN infrastructure across the east.
Multi CDN architecture is catching the fancy of various OTTs, in order to avoid locking with one partner and also leverage the performance variations across CDNs to choose dynamically from where to deliver content from.
OTTs are integrating real-time CDN performance intelligence with their load balancers to make such decisions on the fly.
APP architecture needs to take into account the variations in network latencies
Countries that have not invested in the vast fiber networks have relatively higher latencies. Countries with poor infrastructure also witness fiber cuts heading towards a more congested network in an otherwise stable route. Lack of fiber infrastructure implies latencies even with 4G which will never match that of the more advanced counterparts.
In order to assimilate higher latencies, architecture needs to be framed while developing content apps. Limited bidirectional network calls between client and server is the crucial part. Chatty networking calls can result in very high overheads leading to an overall slowdown of the app. Minimizing protocol overheads and maximizing time spent on payload transfer is crucial. For achieving an optimal network overhead by apps, their API architecture needs to be framed carefully to ensure that multiple requests are server with one connection establishment.
Global OTTs like Netflix and YouTube have invested heavily in not only creating content but also laying out their own infrastructures like international fiber networks and CDNs. Smaller OTTs, however, have not been able to make the same levels of investment in technology as the majority of their investments go into content creation. Hence, they have a need to integrate third-party tools. Although not a challenge, deploying monitoring mechanisms to keep a tab on the performance of third parties and being able to enforce strict SLAs as part of their contracts is crucial for OTTs. Thus, the first step in becoming a world-class app is to start measuring user experience. After all, that is not measured cannot be improved.
The research report India’s Top OTT Platform has been prepared by CMR and Mozark for Voice&Data.
Mozark is a digital experience platform that helps clients measure real experience by monitoring on real devices, connected to real networks. Its artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) engine helps to obtain insights to make app-improvements to deliver a rich experience and provide the best care to customers.
CMR offers industry intelligence, consulting, and marketing services, including but not limited to market tracking, market sizing, stakeholder satisfaction, analytics, and opportunity assessment studies. Its bouquet of consulting services includes incubation advisory, go-to-market services, market mapping, and scenario assessment services.
India’s top OTT platforms
YouTube is an American online video-sharing platform headquartered in San Bruno, California. The service, created in February 2005, was bought by Google in November 2006 for USD 1.65 billion and now operates as one of the company’s subsidiaries. YouTube is the second most-visited website after Google Search. YouTube is the world’s largest online video service and competes for user viewership in order to compete for digital advertising spend from businesses. It has over 265 million active users in India.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video, or simply Prime Video, is an American subscription video-on-demand over-the-top streaming and rental service of Amazon.com Inc., offered as a standalone service or as part of Amazon’s Prime subscription. The service primarily distributes films and television series produced by Amazon Studios or licensed to Amazon, as Prime Originals (or Amazon Originals) or Exclusives, with the service also hosting content from other providers, content add-ons, live sporting events, and video rental and purchasing services. Amazon Prime has nearly 10 Mn users in India, of which only 40% of the users pay for their membership while others are members because of bundled subscriptions.
Netflix Inc is an American over-the-top content platform and production company headquartered in Los Gatos, California. Netflix was founded in 1997. The company’s primary business is a subscription-based streaming service offering online streaming from a library of films and television series, including those produced in-house. The company closed the year 2020 with 4.6 million paid subscribers in India. Netflix has 25.5 million paying subscribers in the region, which translated to revenues of USD 685 million, a 64% growth over the previous year.
Disney+ Hotstar is an Indian subscription video-on-demand streaming service owned and operated by Star India, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company India. The service primarily distributes Hotstar originals, Disney+ originals, films, and television series produced by Star, The Walt Disney Studios, and Walt Disney Television. Disney+ Hotstar made up 30% of the total subscription base of its global parent in December, double the 15% figure in August, as Indians flocked to the video streaming app for sports and big-budget movies. While Disney+ crossed 86.8 million global subscribers, 26.8 million of them were Disney+Hotstar users from India.
Sony Liv is a part of the network of television channels owned by Sony Pictures Networks India Pvt. Ltd. in India. It has access to 18 years of content from channels that are part of the Sony Entertainment Network. This has more than 700 movies and 40,000+ hours of television show coverage in Hindi, English, Telugu, and Tamil. It also offers original web series like Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story, Lovebytes, Married Women Diaries, JL50, etc. The application underwent a revamp in its appearance in June 2020.
Zee5 is an Indian on-demand Internet streaming media provider run by Essel Group via its subsidiary Zee Entertainment Enterprises. Zee5 launched in February 2018 with eight original shows, which has boomed to 87, by mid-2019. With the launch of 72 original shows recently, Zee5 gives strong competition to existing OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. The Originals are available in nine languages, led by Tamil and Hindi. Zee5 has dubbed the majority of its content in regional languages to maximize viewership. 39 of the Zee5 Originals are films, which includes both full-length and short films, most of them in Hindi and Tamil. The platform offers the majority of Originals in the genres of drama (33%), thriller (27%), and comedy (18%).
Voot is an Indian subscription video on demand (SVOD) service. Launched in March 2016, it forms the online arm of Viacom 18. It is Viacom 18’s advertising-led video-on-demand platform that is available as an app for iOS, KaiOS (JioPhone) and Android users, and a website for desktop consumption. Voot is available only in India, and hosts over 40,000 hours of video content that includes shows from channels like MTV, Nickelodeon, and Colors. Content is also available in multiple languages like Kannada, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Telugu, and Tamil.
Airtel TV has no original content of its own at present. However, it more than makes up for this with tie-ups with some of the biggest VOD services that have ensured the latest series and 10000+ movies of ZEE5, Eros Now, Hotstar, HOOQ, and ALTBalaji, and the regional players Hoichoi, and Fastfilmz are available on the app. Additionally, NDTV and Airtel struck a partnership whereby the world’s first live channel NDTV Hop was launched for millennial audiences. Airtel TV Premium was launched in October 2018. This subscription includes access to 300 exclusive titles and a 10,000+ catalog of TV shows, live channels, and films.