Union Budget 2019: The online streaming industry in India has rapidly amassed a reasonable user base that's decidedly moving miles ahead. All that comes from the ability the users have in terms of affordability, as well as the network infrastructure. While the government claims it is making efforts to alleviate the hurdles to ensure affordability, the latter is one area that has room for manifold growth. With the refocus on BharatNet, which is the government's project to lay down the high-speed optical fibre in villages, the streaming industry is likely to get a big shot in the arm.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's proposal to infuse more investment into the BharatNet project with public-private partnership via USOF has brought cheers to the music streaming industry. According to reports, citing BIF President, 65 per cent of online video consumption comes from the rural areas that have less than 40 per cent of Internet connectivity as of May this year. Of course, the private sector is bullish about going knee-deep into the rural markets but the government is paying as much attention.
Considering the volume of consumption the rural Indians bring to the table, it becomes even more lucrative for online streaming companies to double down on their strategies that should be tailored specifically for the kind of market. Almost all the major music streaming services are now available in India but their reach in rural areas is still less than urban outfits. The reason is the affordable Internet that is as much as capable as in cities. With BharatNet, the government plans to introduce wireless Internet for dirt-cheap tiers or even cost-free.
Last year, the government proposed setting up public Wi-Fi hotspots in the areas covered by BharatNet. That solves a major chunk of the problems that streaming services are possibly facing in venturing into uncharted areas.
"This Budget, we are particularly excited about the potential of Bharat Net in facilitating free access to digital-first services like governance, education, banking and entertainment across rural India. As every panchayat in the country gets internet connectivity, it will make way for an entire generation of digitally literate citizens who live better lives and create a vibrant market for internet entrepreneurs & businesses," said Prashan Agarwal, CEO – Gaana.
Gaana has grown leaps and bounds over the recent years, giving a tough competition to the foreign players such as Spotify, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music. However known Gaana may be, it is not as popular as Wynk Music, especially in tier-III cities and rural areas. Owned by Airtel, Wynk Music has a wider presence than other services, thanks to the company's user base in rural India. In May, Airtel said it has 157.7 million users in rural areas out of a total of 340.3 million. Leveraging the same base, Airtel introduced Wynk Tube in May to grow video consumption along with music streaming.