How OTT platforms are using gamification as an engagement strategy

A simple search on the Internet will reveal that the roots of gamification can be traced back to Boy Scout camps, where kids would be rewarded, in order to encourage, engage and motivate them, through fun and games. The same gamification concept, over the years, reached the corridors of corporate offices as rewards and motivation tactics. Technology helped amplify it further and in the universe of Apps, it has broken every creative barrier to on-board and hook users.

While the concept of gamification in itself may not be new, the adaption and adoption by digital-first companies have seen the space experiment with the interactive concept like never before.

Latching on to this trend are the video streaming OTT platforms that see immense potential from an engagement point of view. In fact, most industry experts have reiterated time and again that gamification holds immense potential for video streaming platforms. After all, in the world of digital advertising, OTT offers hyper-personalisation like no other vertical. It is for this reason that brands are increasingly collaborating with OTTs for its gamification features.

The rapid adoption of the Internet and smartphones in India has changed the way we consume content. According to Group M’s mobile report 2020, India ranks 2nd in the world with 502 million smartphone users and this number is expected to touch 700 million by 2023. Time spent on mobile phones has also grown to 3.7 hours per day. Factors such as these have over the years paved the way for the phenomenal growth the OTT sector has witnessed.

As OTT players mushroomed, India can now boast of over 40 plus players in the market. However, the ever-increasing number has also put pressure on platforms to innovate, experiment and explore every opportunity to stay ahead. Gamification is one such experiment which OTT players say is working for the platforms, users and advertisers.

Taranjeet Singh, Chief Revenue Officer and Business Head, ZEE5 India said, “The viewer today is spoilt for choice and we are competing with media formats across the spectrum for their attention. A powerful social engagement strategy to boost engagement is to integrate elements of gamification into your marketing, social media, community and other digital brand experiences. Though not a one-size-fits-all proposition, gamification helps amplify brand and content awareness in a number of ways in the OTT video market when deployed strategically and custom-fit to the content.”

When one talks about gamification on OTT platforms it is not only related to mainstream gaming (though some platforms are also experimenting with that). Content, fiction or non-fiction, can be gamified, the watching experience can be gamified, rewarding users for watching content is another example, the list is long but impressive. In short, our relationship with video platforms has transformed content into an interactive two-way street. If gamification does improve consumer stickiness, then brands will not be left far behind, thus helping OTT platforms monetise their platforms better. Some have, in fact, successfully reaped the benefits from brand collaborations.

ZEE5 as part of their Ad Suite, introduced PLAY5 which is an interactive tool that allows brands to engage with consumers via customised gamification, branded polls, quizzes etc. For example, beverage brand Tuborg chose the tool to create a gamified karaoke platform and witnessed 5X more page views and 80 per cent more consumer engagement.

Elaborating further, Taranjeet Singh says, “With PLAY5, our endeavour is to let brands across categories engage with the audience through hyper-personalised and interactive formats. Since the launch of PLAY5, we have seen popular brands like Colgate, Asian Paints, CEAT, Fortune Premium Kacchi Ghani Pure Mustard Oil making the best use of gamification to bring alive their offering before the audience rather than just target them. In addition to this, the recently announced ZEE5 Super Family (ZSF), India’s first and only fiction gamification will be an inflexion point for the industry and how one can monetise such offerings appropriately. Our other offerings from ad-suite have been extremely well-received by our brand partners and we are confident that PLAY5 will continue to reimagine ‘Gamification’ in more ways than one.”

In 2018, the leader in the OTT space, Hotstar launched an immersive game, Watch ‘N Play, for VIVO IPL. The most awaited LIVE cricket experience of the year was juxtaposed with interactivity to allow users to play along while watching the match. To make it even more interesting, viewers were given the opportunity to win rewards by predicting the outcome of the next ball and answering trivia questions. The following year for VIVO IPL 2019, the streaming giant took it a step further, irrespective of a user’s location, the viewers could invite friends and family to watch the matches, and participate in the Watch ‘N Play game. The game allowed fans to compete and see where they stood against their friends and family through Hotstar’s new social leaderboard.

And there is more in store with VIVO IPL 2020. Users will not only be able to participate in the Watch ‘N Play game together but can also share their fandom with everyone through images and videos. The winners of Watch ‘N Play can then redeem their points, via Hotstar’s exclusive partnerships with various brands. In the past editions of IPL, brands like Amazon Pay, Mahindra, One Plus, Future Group, etc., have leveraged this immersive experience to drive user acquisition and engagement for their respective brands.

Meanwhile, as a means to boost engagement on its platform, MX Player recently introduced pure-play gaming on its app which gives users an opportunity to win MX Coins. These MX Coins can unlock premium content on the application and can also earn discounts and deals coupons for other brands such as Paytm, Myntra, OYO, and many others.

Elaborates Vivek Jain, COO – MX Player, “We are positioned as a super app for every entertainment need of our large user base. Gaming is yet another step in that direction. Hyper casual gaming is a large opportunity in India, estimated to be $5 billion. We have launched 10 games and are planning to scale this further. More so, gaming is very well suited for monetisation in India. Rewarded video advertisements for gaming tournaments is growing exponentially for us. Expect to see more announcements in this space soon from MX.

Major OTT players in India today are looking to drive engagement via harnessing the potential of content and tech through gamification says Divya Dixit, SVP – Marketing, Analytics & Direct Revenue, ALTBalaji. “Through these extensions that feature increased interactivity, the introduction of gamified content on the platforms will not only add value for the viewer but push the aspect of personalization to the next level. Not shifting the focus from content, we shall witness an influx of more novel ways for gamification via VR as well as fresh revenue models. It’s an exciting industry building up that will not only provide more impetus to engaging content but also elevate the audience viewing experience exponentially,” she explains.

The DAN-e4m Digital Advertising Report 2020 stated that spends on Online Video contribute 22% (Rs 2,986 crore) to the digital media pie. This share has grown by 32% over 2018, the highest among the digital media formats. OTT players have a huge role to play in pushing growth in this vertical.

Revenue, according to Shradha Agarwal, COO, Grapes Digital, is driving OTT‘s towards tools such as these. She explained, “At the end of the day whatever we are doing is to drive more numbers to the platform. An advertiser looks at an OTT platform from two perspectives, one is how many users you have and second is the stickiness, which is how much time is spent on the platform. Gamification is a great tool for platforms to increase the shelf life of a brand and improving interaction between brands and consumers”

Adds, Arvind Nair, Regional Director, Mirum India, “While the OTT’s increasingly are getting pushed into creating ad-free content, this would be a good space to build out brand integrations. We’ve seen a lot of integration between movies and games in the past and we will continue to see these going forward. HBO had created a Westworld based game which had launched as a teaser to the new season and had great success with fans. Given the OTT growth is on the rise, this is a great space for a brand to create immersive experiences, and co-create user experiences.

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