India has more than 65% of the population under 35, with the national median age being 29. In addition, only half of India’s 1.3 billion people currently use cell phones and less than half of them are smartphones.
Although India is one of the most populous countries in the world, internet usage remains at 41%. There are currently 700 million Indians connected to the Internet. This leaves incredible scope for growth in India, which lags behind other emerging markets in both internet access and smartphone ownership. This large, underserved population has long been the target of global entrepreneurs and mega-tech companies.
A $ 5 billion opportunity
According to a survey, around 84% of Indian users access the Internet for entertainment purposes. In 2019, there was a surge in over-the-top, or OTT, streaming of audio and video, driven mostly by original content and sports. For example, the World Cricket Championship was streamed on OTT platforms.
And there is also the Bollywood effect – a wave of movie star migration from the big screen to streaming services. This is an attempt to gain loyal fan bases and hack adoption. It can be good business too. According to a report, the Indian OTT streaming market is expected to be worth $ 5 billion by 2023.
This market is currently led by Hotstar (a Disney subsidiary) with over 300 million users. Other big players like YouTube, Amazon Prime and Netflix as well as domestic services like Eros Now, Voot, Zee5, Arre and ALT Balaji are building their content libraries to gain market share in India.
There are numerous options on the music streaming side. Despite this diversity, there is still criticism of how streaming services enable the very model that many of them originally sought to disrupt. Whether by intent or by accident, these platforms have become new gatekeepers for digital content and distribution.
Technological revolutions are always carried out on the backs of idealists who often lack the political clout, but who are driven by a burning desire for change. Many versions of this revolution are currently underway. They are changing the industry, washing away the foundations of old business and letting people build new and better systems. However, when it comes to digital media, a deeply ingrained status quo persists.
Most streaming providers currently offer either pay-to-play subscriptions or extractive ad-based systems that aggressively monetize their users’ attention. But what if there was a better way to meet consumer digital content needs while removing the limitations in current media models? There is, and that’s in part thanks to technology that has become more economically viable in recent years.
Building a new foundation
In recent years, blockchain technology has emerged as a transformative force in several aspects of the public and private sectors. The promise of decentralized ownership, immutability and cryptographic data security has turned more than just a few heads.
In India, blockchain use cases are being studied and the technology is in demand in banking, insurance, logistics and healthcare. While financial players are the first to benefit from this technology, others follow suit. We have left the phase behind us in which blockchain was practically more than a buzzword. Now the hype has subsided and there are more realistic implementations.
Digital content in the blockchain
Some blockchain projects have popped up to offer an alternative to the growing hegemony of streaming platforms. When it comes to digital content, the technology is interesting from many angles. First, it may reduce the power of corporate gatekeepers. This is because, at its core, it enables the distributed storage and processing of data without interference from a central body.
By distributing energy more equitably, blockchain technology offers the opportunity to redefine the relationship between producers, brands and viewers of content. And this is the most exciting promise as it changes business models and builds systems with direct participation and benefits for everyone involved.
A blockchain-based video-on-demand platform simplifies interaction. A major benefit to content creators is the removal of intermediary services. At the same time, customers can use the pay-per-view model, a significant departure from standard subscription models. But it can also go a step further.
A blockchain-powered VoD platform can be designed so that users can derive value to bring their attention, engagement and data to the network. This is a major improvement when it comes to financial inclusion. Instead of being treated as a commodity, charged for access, or bombarded with ads, users can make money watching content and engaging with the community. These rewards can come in the form of blockchain-based rewards – a benefit for users as well as an engine that drives loyalty and growth on the platform itself.
Such models address issues such as the dilution of revenue for content creators, copyright issues and – critical in a country like India – economic access to media. In addition, in some cases, developers have to grapple with lost monetization opportunities due to inefficiencies in distribution, opaque returns, and unjustified legal assignments – other issues that the introduction of blockchain can solve.
On the user side, a system with new, blockchain-based incentives eliminates the need to take care of data protection, as might be the case under a freemium model. Such a network is inherently trustworthy and secure and uses encryption schemes that have been tried and tested over many years. While centralized services can be censored, controlled or even switched offline, decentralized networks remain censorship-resistant.
Piracy and illegal file sharing are a major problem for the creators and distributors of digital content and are mainly caused by cost barriers. The result is that producers are not adequately compensated and advertisers looking for a target audience are ignored or skipped. This is especially a problem for brands that want a more direct, insightful relationship with consumers.
It is possible to solve these problems by using the unique properties of the blockchain to increase transparency and disrupt the relationship between consumers and brands. Proof logs make it possible, for example, to closely monitor usage and monitor rates, provide real-time engagement data, and reward users for their attention. This undermines the user incentive to pirate and compensates content owners. It also creates a more direct, insightful relationship between advertisers and consumers.
While the number of internet users and smartphone owners is on the rise, India has a unique confluence of factors: a young, tech-hungry population and relatively low penetration rates for digital technology. Additionally, India’s monthly active internet user base is expected to grow faster than expected through 2021 thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown. In the next five years, the number of users is expected to be close to 1 billion.
The current digital content delivery in India is fraught with problems – centralized power supply, poor user experience, fragmented markets, piracy and structural constraints – that limit consumer choice. Blockchain technology forms the backbone for revolutionizing digital media by enabling innovations for customer experience, data-driven engagement and ecosystem economics for the benefit of the community.
The vision and the technology are there; What remains is the fight against incumbents and educating consumers about a better digital world.
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The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are the sole rights of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.
Mario Casiraghi is the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Strategy Officer of Xfinite Global, a blockchain-based global entertainment platform. Mario has been involved in the blockchain industry since 2016, initially as the founder of DandYlion and as a partner at Blockchain Solution Partners. Previously, he worked in the traditional financial markets at both Bank of America Merrill Lynch and RBS.