Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra
In the Indian mainstream media ecosystem over-the-top (OTT) platform YouTube was considered as the most influential by the beginning of 2024. Senior media analysist Sevanti Ninan described the trend as ‘post-television era’ in her column published in the English daily newspaper The Telegraph during last week of December 2023. In the post-independence period television claimed prominence after the print supremacy and during the post-pandemic New Normal YouTube acquired the position as a video-sharing platform practically allowing everybody to view or post content free of charges. Sevanti has mentioned, “It does seem like India lives and breathes on YouTube ”. She further explained that “both news-makers and news producers” prefer the platform and “it offers more public broadcasting in real sense of the term than the public broadcaster does.”
Quoting statistics from the English daily newspaper The Hindu, she has pointed out that active YouTube consumers in India extends to 45 crore. It is 32.8 percent of our population. Generally it is believed that YouTube could promote a democratic setup in the field of mass communication. However, the exhibition pattern of the videos posted by public is decided by the algorithms. Previously there were no specific laws to govern the content of OTT except the general provisions. But the central government have mooted the concept of regulators in the proposed ‘Broadcasting Bill 2023’. Both the exhibitor employed algorithms and government induced restrictions go against the democratisation efforts of the OTT platform.
Placement and exhibition of user generated videos along with monetary payments to video producers are the remarkable features of YouTube. A study conducted by ‘Oxford Economics’ revealed that YouTube provided monetisation capability to seven lakh creators and partners in India by the end of 2023. Ishan John Chatterjee, Director (India) of YouTube in an interview published in English business daily newspaper Business Standard in its edition dated January 1, 2024 mentioned, “two in three creators in India who earn money from YouTube agree that YouTube is their primary source of revenue”. It reveals that a good number of people have accepted production of videos for YouTube in professional capacity.
Sevanti in her column presented a case study on popularity of YouTube creators in the rural setting. A village of 10,000 population in the Raipur district of Chhattishgarh province boosts 40 YouTube video creators. The District Collector sanctioned Rs 25 lakh for setting-up a studio in the village recognising video production as a new avenue in job creation for the rural youth. One creator said that using the studio facilities, a music video produced with expenditure of Rs 10,000 could yield Rs 1,00,000 from the market. On onehand, video production for YouTube may have opened-up employment opportunity for some, on the otherhand a section of experts criticise the payment method adopted by YouTube claiming that it lacks transparency.
YouTube was developed as an OTT platform in 2005 and spread in India during 2008. By 2023 there were an estimated 20 lakh YouTube creators or YouTubers. Monetising facilities for YouTube shorts was introduced in India during February 2023. YouTube offered advanced Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) tools free of cost for the creators. John Chatterjee has said, “the barriers to creation have gone down. Earlier one would need a laptop or some kind of big editing software to get it up. Now, every thing is done on the phone and anyone can jump on and became a creator.”
Apart from ‘Create’ app meant for editing video and audio, ‘Aloud’ allows the users to dub the original language into many different languages. It will allow the video to spread across language barriers among enlarged audience and monetise. ‘Dream Screen’ being tested in the beta stage can further enable the creators for better creative expressions. “GenAI” will revolutionise video content in the years to come.”
YouTube officials in India are hopeful of further expansion of the consumer base. John Chatterjee has said that the popularity of ‘short’ videos grew by 120 percent in 2023 in comparison to 2022. Families are increasingly interested to enjoy YouTube and the other OTT platforms in their television screens in the living rooms. Falling price of smart TVs and rising penetration of fixed-line broadband will complement to the trend. Growth of content in regional languages and genres may be identified as yet another factor for growth of YouTube consumer base.
Justification in calling the trend of rise in OTT consumption as ‘post-television era’ denotes to three important developments. Firstly, popularity of mobile phone use for viewing television programmes drifted the audience away from living room television sets. Secondly, common people preferred content circulated through social media and messenger apps by known persons instead of television broadcast. Thirdly, consumption of OTT content in smart television sets, democratisation of broadcasting through platforms like YouTube and free service opened-up new opportunities both for content creators and viewers.
YouTube has been regarded as the largest OTT player in the Asia-Pacific (APac) region. A report entitled ‘Asia Pacific Video and Broadband 2024’ published by Singapore-based Media Partners Asia (IMPA) released during the first week of January 2024 noted that YouTube earns the largest share of OTT revenue flowed by TikTok and Netflix. In Asia-Pacific region 51 percent of income of OTT platforms comes from the advertisement revenue. It is expected to reach 54 percent by 2028. In India, income by OTT platforms from advertisement is expected to reach 65 percent by 2028. The report forecast a better future for OTT platforms including YouTube in India with growth rate of 26 percent on year-on-year basis. However, the subscription rate of Netflix and Amazon Prime may not cross the limit of nine per cent. On the otherhand advertisement share of the Indian television industry is expected to decline from 70 per cent in 2023 to 55 per cent in 2028. Such equations in the media landscape justifies the coinage of the term ‘Post-Television Era.’
(English translation of the original Odia newsletter by the author circulated on January 19, 2024. https://pmjournalism.substack.com/p/c0a . It is an open-access content, free for translation and reproduction)
Dr. Pradeep Mahapatra is a retired faculty of Journalism, Berhampur University, Odisha.https://about.me/pradeepmahapatra
Ninan, Sevanti. Brave new world. The Telegraph (Kolkata Edition). December 25, 2023
Shinde, Shivani. ‘Connected TV fastest growing surface for You Tube in last 5 years.’ Business Standard (Bhubaneswar Edition). January 1, 2024
Kohli-Khandekar, Vanita. Advertising to charge out major revenue, drive growth of online video. Business Standard (Bhubaneswar Edition). January 5, 2024.