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India's OTT industry loses up to 30% revenue to piracy

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Advertising and subscription-led video streaming services are losing up to 30% of their annual revenue to piracy as more and more Indians log in to digital platforms to watch content.

Popular shows such as Scam 1992 on SonyLIV and Ashram on MX Player have seen pirated versions surfacing within half an hour of their launch.

India is not only plagued by rampant password sharing but also by problems of content being circulated on file-sharing platforms such as Telegram and apps such as Popcorn Time that allow you to search through the Torrent ecosystem through one interface, according to media experts.

The digital and over-the-top (OTT) content industry in India is estimated to grow at 17% over FY21 to touch a revenue of Rs33,800 crore by FY22, according to a recent KPMG report.

“It is true that all forms of digital content are available on pirated sites and that is a huge problem for the OTT sector that is still a maturing space in India and far from profitable," said Gourav Rakshit, chief operating officer, Viacom18 Digital Ventures.

Piracy in Indian happens for two reasons, said Sanjeev Lamba, executive producer, Hungama Originals at Hungama Digital. One is when the product isn’t available in the country at all or at the right time but has been released internationally. Two is if the consumer can’t afford access. At present, there are more than 60 OTT platforms vying for attention in India.

A lot of piracy takes places through apps that do not fall within Indian jurisdiction and are unavailable on Google Play Store, said Karan Bedi, chief executive officer (CEO), MX Player. It impacts even advertising video-on-demand (AVoD) platforms such as MX Player. The platform's content is available for free, but the firm stands to lose advertising revenue, which is determined on the basis of viewership. MX content is watched via illegitimate means by at least 15-20 million people on a regular basis leading to loss in ad revenue, Bedi said. One of their more popular shows Ashram would have managed at least 20% more viewership had it been watched legally on the service, he said.

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