Online streaming companies may adopt self-censorship

Online streaming companies may adopt self-censorship
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Pixabay
28 Dec, 2018

Global streaming players such as Netflix, Hotstar, Reliance Jio and others are likely to adopt a voluntary censorship code, said a media report.

The Economic Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter, that the censorship code will likely adopt a mechanism that would allow viewers to send complaints about content that is offensive.

However, Amazon, Facebook and Google are unlikely to sign up for the code, the report said, citing the people.

A few months ago, several media reports said Amazon is trying to discourage the idea of self-censorship even as other players are looking at self-regulating their content in India.
The government had released a paper on regulating the broadcasts on video-on-demand platforms. “Hence, we are not surprised that the platforms, pre-empting formal legislature, have instead proposed to adopt a voluntary censorship code. All platforms are striving to produce new and original programmes with more in-your-face content. This will undoubtedly stretch the boundaries of any censorship code. Whilst this code may be beneficial in the short run, it is to be seen how the government reacts to opinions of the public viewers in the long term,” said Hormuz Mehta, partner at law firm J Sagar Associates. 

Mehta added, “By adopting a voluntary censorship code, the online video-on-demand companies have ensured their right to show content on their platforms remains intact whilst eliminating, if not reducing, the risk of unnecessary litigation. Production of Indian series by video-on-demand companies has exponentially increased over the last couple of years and with that we have already seen multiple lawsuits filed by people whose sensitivities were affected by these programmes.”

As data prices and device costs for smartphones have fallen, India has emerged as the key market for OTT content, attracting players across the spectrum to set up shop.

However, several concerns such as regulatory uncertainty, arbitrary censorship and court ruling have raised the eyebrows of many video-on-demand platforms.

According to a report by Boston Consulting Group, the number of OTT players in India grew 3.5 times from 2012 when there were only nine players to 32 in 2018.

With multiple contenders, the shape of OTT content will be determined by multiple aspects including partnerships formed in a market, which is expected to grow 10 times over the next five years.

Nevertheless, global OTT players like Netflix and Amazon Prime are turning to the Indian market, investing heavily in developing local content and shows. Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos recently said as the US market saturates, the company will look to expand rapidly in Asia, starting with India. In an interview to CNBC, Sarandos said that the company is looking to add 100 million subscribers in India alone and is experimenting with different pricing models.

According to a separate report by market and competitive intelligence platform KalaGato Pte. Ltd, the Indian OTT segment was dominated by Hotstar in terms of viewership followed by Zee5 and JioTV between September and October. Netflix ranks eighth and Amazon Prime ninth. However, Netflix tops the net promoter score, which is a metric for measuring customer loyalty, followed by Jio TV.