How Synamedia helps OTT providers boost engagement, drive revenues and combat piracy

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OTT platforms in India will have to generate additional revenue streams in a way that doesn’t turn off viewers in the face of intense competition, says Deepak Bhatia, General Manager & Head of Sales, India, Synamedia. In an interview with, he speaks about the bright future for the OTT sector in India, and the challenges such as intense competition, low ARPU and the high prevalence of ad-supported models, etc. He says that many streaming services will struggle to build a sustainable business without a revenue boost. It is in this context that Synamedia offers a cloud-based modular architecture that powers streaming platforms, offering scalability, flexibility, agility and personalization, even while helping OTT providers combat rampant streaming piracy.

Excerpts from the interview:

Congratulations on your appointment as GM and Head of Sales India at Synamedia. You joined Synamedia last summer and since then OTT platforms have witnessed a phenomenal spike in viewership due to the pandemic. What are the opportunities here for Synamedia?

Lockdowns have seen TV viewing times skyrocket across the globe. One study by Barc India and Neilson showed non-primetime viewing minutes in India increased by 43% during lockdown, while other studies recorded viewing times surging from two to five hours per day. The biggest winners have undoubtedly been the OTT service providers.

There are two market drivers fueling this rise in OTT viewing. First, the availability of reasonably priced wired and wireless broadband plans from telcos and other service providers has made streaming services affordable for the masses; and second, the closure of movie theaters during lockdown has led to many Bollywood premieres being released on OTT platforms.

While the future for India’s OTT sector remains bright, intense competition for viewers, low ARPU and the high prevalence of ad-supported models mean that many streaming services will struggle to build a sustainable business without a revenue boost.

Synamedia offers a cloud-based modular architecture that powers streaming platforms and offers scalability, flexibility, agility and personalization, as well as addressable advertising and business insight solutions. The focus is on helping OTT providers boost engagement and drive incremental revenues.

And from a revenue leakage perspective, our security team is adept at helping OTT providers combat rampant streaming piracy which, if left unchecked, could threaten the very existence of some legitimate providers.

How is Synamedia’s addressable advertising solution, Synamedia Iris, helpful for OTT platforms?

The biggest challenge facing OTT providers in India today is low ARPUs. The reality is that many OTT players in India will struggle to break even, let alone turn a profit, unless they can generate additional revenue streams in a way that doesn’t turn off viewers. Unlocking insights from customer viewing and behavioral data that can be used to drive additional routes to monetization is the answer.

Addressable (or targeted) advertising has a massive role to play here. Because India is a predominantly AVOD country, addressable advertising offers OTT providers a fantastic way to boost revenues. This is because addressable ads provide brands and ad buyers with far more data on the audience being reached and so can typically command CPMs that are 2-3 times higher than traditional ads.

Synamedia Iris is a great example of an addressable advertising solution that helps OTT and pay-TV providers, as well as broadcasters unlock untapped revenues. An end-to-end solution, Synamedia Iris was launched in September; and we are already seeing a lot of traction from our clients.  Put simply, it helps OTT providers merchandise their inventory more efficiently while minimising operational costs and combines the power of TV advertising with the precision of digital campaigns.

Synamedia Iris incorporates a unified campaign management capability to make it easy for OTT providers to offer compelling targeted advertising propositions that reach specific audience segments across all devices and screens. And it’s a really great alternative for advertisers looking to reduce their reliance on online ads. Importantly, in a country of India’s size, it also opens up revenue opportunities from a new generation of TV advertisers that want to reach specific audience segments cost-effectively without wasting impressions and without paying national TV ad rates. The beauty of this approach is that consumers also get to see more relevant advertising, thereby increasing engagement.

Synamedia has just announced a video business insights solution Clarissa. Can you explain how this will benefit OTT providers?

Synamedia Clarissa is the industry’s first business insights solution to take a holistic view of OTT and pay-TV businesses and reveal critical behavioral and consumption insights. Importantly, it allows OTT teams without dedicated data science skills to discover new connections in their viewers’ data and make more informed decisions that have a real impact on the bottom line. Businesses achieve greater clarity on, for example, how to create more compelling subscriber experiences, and cut unnecessary costs.

To achieve this universal view, Clarissa applies AI and ML techniques to previously siloed datasets including content consumption, device usage, content discovery journeys, advertising measurement and operational performance. Until now, most video analytics solutions have focused on operational performance, which is useful but it ignores the content trail – the digital path of breadcrumbs that viewers leave behind.

Armed with these granular insights, OTT providers can outsmart their competitors and boost viewer engagement by, for example: acquiring the right content that customers will love (and prove it with ROI tracking); upselling enhanced services; and creating special offers based on behaviours or preferences for targeted individuals. In a nutshell, Clarissa turns trying to second guess viewers’ behaviour, intentions and more – into a science that yields genuine business-boosting results.

Are there any other technologies Synamedia offers that can help OTT providers in India personalize their services, and scale their business?

Ensuring that the underlying technologies powering OTT services are future-proof is vital for a resilient business. At Synamedia, our cloud-based modular architecture gives OTT providers the scalability, flexibility and agility they need to employ personalisation and drive engagement and loyalty, and ultimately impact the bottom line too.

Personalisation is especially important as the volume of available content increases because consumers will go elsewhere if they spend too long trying to find something to watch. Getting the content discovery journey right is a key customer retention strategy and, as every marketer knows, it is far less expensive to keep your existing customers happy than to onboard new ones.

With Synamedia’s modular approach, OTT providers can choose to personalise the UI on the fly – for example, changing the content in specific swim lanes and altering poster sizes to appeal to specific viewers based on behavioral and viewing data. Personalised recommendations, federated search, and the ability to seamlessly onboard new apps to drive engagement and revenues are a few other examples.

The other area worth mentioning is content and service protection. Streaming piracy is a real threat and our range of anti-piracy technologies (e.g. watermarking and CSFEye Credentials Sharing and Fraud Insight) and intelligence services focus on disrupting and taking down illegal pirate networks. Our world-leading intelligence-led anti-piracy model combines both deterrents and incentives to encourage viewers of pirate streams back to legitimate services – something that is important but often overlooked.