Over-the-top (OTT) or video streaming platforms around the world have grown significantly over the years. According to statista, in 2021, the market size of the global OTT platform is 178 billion dollars, which is estimated to exceed 275 billion dollars by 2027. As a result, the big tech giants are bringing their own streaming services to the market one by one. As of February 2021, there were about 112.715 million Internet users in Bangladesh, of which more than 9.5 million were using ISP or Broadband Internet. Users in the video streaming platforms are increasing with the improvement of internet speed and a growing number of internet users. Along with smartphones, the adoption of smart TV is increasing. As a result, the popularity of streaming platforms continue to grow while people’s interest in traditional TV media begins to wane.
Rise in Bangladesh
Video streaming or over-the-top media streaming is basically an audio and video streaming service. Although this industry started it’s journey as a content hosting platform, it has been gradually offering a wide range of content, including short films, documentaries, and original web series. Streaming platforms provide content suggestions to their users based on viewers’ preference using artificial intelligence and most platforms allow viewers to view the content for a monthly subscription fee.
In the late ‘90s, the commercial satellite television channels in Bangladesh started their journey. Before that, the BTV channel was the only medium of entertainment in Bangladesh. Dramas such as “Kothao Keu Nei”, “Bohubrihi”, “Nokhotrer Ratri” were very popular back then. In 1997, ATN Bangla became the first commercial satellite television channel in Bangladesh. Afterward, Channel I started its journey in 1999. However, Ekushey Television was launched in 2000 which brought a revolution in the Bangladeshi media world. Quality news and shows aired by Ekushey Television were able to gain a lot of popularity among the people of the country. Several new recreational channels and 24-hour news stations have been licensed since 2002. At present, among 36 television stations in Bangladesh, 32 of them are private and 4 are owned by the state.
According to a report by NMS and Nielsen Bangladesh, the number of television viewers in Bangladesh was 42% in 1998, which increased to 74% in 2011. Furthermore, by 2016, the percentage of viewers had risen to 82.9%. However, since 2017, the number of viewers of television channels has come down to 80%. As time went by, the preferences of the viewers changed. In addition to that, the lack of quality content has significantly lowered the demand for cable TV channels. Besides, sitting in front of the TV for a certain amount of time due to excessive ads is inconvenient for the audience.
At present, people in our country prefer online TV or video streaming platforms over cable TV. Some of the reasons are the growing demand for better options for the audience, ad-free HD quality content, the availability of high-speed internet, and an increase in the usage of smartphones or smart tv. These are all considered as the main reasons behind the rising popularity of video streaming platforms. In 2013, Bongo was established as the first subscription-based online video streaming platform in Bangladesh. During that time, Bongo provided International content alongside local content. However, even before Bongo, the people of Bangladesh had access to a variety of global services using various methods. Meanwhile, in 2016, another video streaming platform called Bioscope was launched which is currently being operated as a concern of Grameenphone.
Bangladeshi Cellular company Banglalink launched a subscription-based non-stop video streaming platform BanglaFlix. After that, several OTT video streaming platforms started to launch in the market. However, the platforms aroused a lot of hype in the beginning but later on, they didn’t get much of a response from the consumer. After the government announced a lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the adoption rate of these platforms started to increase. Due to the lockdown, the satellite TV channels were not able to come up with anything new. On the other hand, as a result of quarantine, everyone started leaning towards online content. At that time, big streaming platforms like Bongo and Bioscope started coming to the limelight again to meet the entertainment needs of the people of the country. Besides that, Bongo and Bioscope offered all their services for free to attract consumers. And, some platforms even reduced their subscription charges. Meanwhile, domestic platforms are offering free international content. One of the reasons behind the popularity of video streaming platforms is that, unlike TV, these online platforms offer fewer commercial breaks and viewers do not have to follow a fixed time to enjoy any content. Consumers can easily view any content of their choice from the phone’s app or website at their convenience. Although these initially started with content hosting, now most video streaming platforms are gradually bringing their original content as well. This is actually helping Bangladesh’s video streaming platforms to increase their popularity.
Bangladeshi Video Streaming Platforms
Although there is a lot of demand for Netflix, or Amazon Prime Video in Bangladesh, not everyone can enjoy these services due to several payment barriers. Meanwhile, the video streaming platforms of Bangladesh were not getting much response from the audience due to a lack of original content. The majority of OTT services only provide satellite channels, outdated movies, and series. But now streaming platforms like Bongo, Bioscope, Binge, are becoming very popular among the public by adding some of their original content as well as international content to the library.
Bongo, Bangladesh’s first subscription-based online video streaming platform, was established in 2013 by Ahad Mohammad and Navidul Haque. A variety of content is available on this platform, such as Bangla movies, dramas, telefilms, web series, music videos, and kids’ videos. Alongside streaming Bangladeshi and Indian channels, Bongo also offers live streaming of several international channels, including BBC World, Al Jazeera English, Front Row, and Kick Flix. According to an article in the Dhaka Tribune, as of February 2021 Bongo has more than 4.3 million subscribers. Bongo claims to offer one of the world’s largest collections of Bangla content and during the lockdown in 2020, Bongo allowed Bangladeshi users to use their service for free.
Bioscope was founded in 2016. It is another popular video streaming platform in the country, and is a concern of Grameenphone Bangladesh. The platform offers Live TV as well as Video on Demand services. Bioscope also offers many contents like original web films, Bioscope live cricket, drama, Bangla movies. Live cricket and football matches can also be streamed using Bioscope Prime. In addition to most of the satellite TV channels in Bangladesh, several Indian sports channels and Indian Bangla channels are also available on Bioscope. The platform is currently streaming about 70% of its content for free.
On May 21, 2020, Robi Axiata Limited’s subsidiary RedDot Digital Limited launched a digital entertainment platform, Binge. The platform has more than 150 satellite TV channels, including local and international web series, latest web films, Binge exclusive originals, and a variety of other contents. This platform is easily accessible through mobile apps as well as smart TVs. Even without a smart TV, customers will be able to get a full HD TV experience through the Binge device.
In 2016, Bangladeshi cellular company Banglalink launched a subscription-based non-stop video streaming platform BanglaFlix. The platform mainly includes Bangla movies, drama, music videos, and various other categories of content. Users can use the platform via web and app.
In 2019, Banglalink launched a new video streaming app called Toffee alongside BanglaFlix. Initially, the app started with 70 channels, but now there are around 100 live channels. Bangladeshi local and international TV channels can be streamed for free on the full Android-based video streaming platform. In addition, the channel is composed of exclusive videos and teleﬁlms.
Several platforms like TeleFlix, CineSpot, and JagoBD are also operating in Bangladesh. In addition, several platforms based on Facebook and YouTube are serving consumers with dramas, movies, and islamic content. Although these platforms are currently only available on social media, many will soon have their platform as well. However, since the local video streaming platforms do not have any original content of their own, they are mainly conducting activities through content hosting. It is hoped that other Bangladeshi producers will focus on creating original content for video streaming platforms.
Popularity of International Streaming Platforms
While the popularity of local platforms in Bangladesh is slowly increasing, the hype of platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video has been rising for several years. Besides, platforms like Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, and HBO Max are also gaining massive popularity. However, Bangla content is not available on any platform other than Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Although Netflix has some content from Bangladeshi producers, none of them are Netflix’s original content. In addition to these global platforms, subcontinental video streaming platforms like ZEE5, and Hoichoi are also quite popular in Bangladesh. These two platforms invested in Bangladeshi creators and their stories to produce original content after realizing the demand for local content among Bangladeshi users. Hoichoi and Zee5 have already released their content on Bangladeshi stories. The quality of such content is much better than the local platforms and has also received a good response from the audience. As a result, local producers and directors are also encouraged to create content for video streaming platforms.
As time changes people are gradually moving from television to video streaming platforms. Production companies and video streaming service providers are currently investing in the production of original content. But will these platforms be able to compete with other global platforms? And with the growing popularity of streaming platforms, will the country’s traditional TV media be able to survive in the future?