The Indian Railways (IR) does not seem to have lost its enthusiasm to add to its revenues by offering paid content (music, movies and more) on demand to passengers, despite failing in its previous attempt.
The transporter is nowredrawing a tender to invite over-the-top (OTT) players to become content providers for railway passengers. While the railways is still to work out the financials — how much it will charge passengers and share with content providers — one of the incentives offered to OTT players will be earnings through advertising, said railway sources.
Content on demand was a part of IR’s ambitious plans launched in January 2017 to boost its non-fare revenue (NFR), which also included out-of-home advertising and train branding. However, because of a cold response, IR discharged most of the tenders and decentralised most programmes a year later. In the video OTT space, competition is intensifying in India with the number of players increasing from a mere nine in 2012 to 32 in 2018, as per a Boston Consulting Group report.
The market for audio OTT is divided among domestic players and international players. However, despite audio streaming in India (excluding YouTube music viewers) reaching 150 million listeners in 2018, only 1-1.5 million listeners paid for the services generating Rs 80 crore in revenue, as per a recent FICCI-EY report. While some OTT players are purely subscription based and do not allow advertisements for premium offering, others use a mix wherein some free content is offered with advertisements.
In its earlier attempt, the transporter had planned to offer films, television serials and music on around 1,300 premium trains wherein passengers for a fee would have been offered pre-loaded content on their smartphones, laptops, tablets and other devices during journeys. The content on demand contracts were to be signed for a tenure of 10 years and the IR expected to earn Rs 6,000 crore by the end of the contract period. NFR, which is part of the sundry earnings of the railways, has yielded negligible earnings.
In FY18, NFR contributed Rs 205 crore to the total sundry earnings of about Rs 7,500 crore, and it marginally rose to Rs 320 crore in FY19 of the total sundry earnings of Rs 9,800 crore, according to sources. Sources said sundry earnings are likely to get a boost going forward as earnings from land leasing and station redevelopment, which are its part, are going to increase substantially given IRSDC is working on offering stations to private players for redevelopment. “Vinyl wrapping of trains (also part of the initial NFR strategy) is gaining traction with the Assam government taking over two trains and Odisha also coming up with a scheme,” said a source.