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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 49-52

Over-the-top platform: A boon or bane during COVID-19 lockdown

Department of Community Medicine, Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospital, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India

Date of Submission24-Aug-2021
Date of Decision05-Sep-2021
Date of Acceptance22-Sep-2021
Date of Web Publication14-Sep-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Prem Sagar Panda
Flat No A-303, Shree Mahodadhi Nilaya, Tomando, Bhubaneswar - 751 028, Odisha
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jphpc.jphpc_23_21

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COVID-19, an unprecedented global pandemic, has changed the way of media consumption by the audience. A new trend surfaced during this period – prioritizing over the tops (OTTs) over normal ongoing media channels. This points to the growing market and consumer appetite for content of choice available on OTT platforms. OTTs offer a naïve and consumer-friendly advantage – choice of content, simple access, and choice of device/mediums (hand phone, laptop, tablet, or TV screen). However, its rampant usage has also affected the mental and physical health of people of all generations. It is imperative to know the impact of growing content consumption on psychological behaviors across generations (children, adults, and elderlies) as there is limited censorship within the OTT space. As the mental health issues are on rise, the primary care physicians are the key role players to address this issue as they meet number of subjects as a primary contact. Hence, to find out the impact of OTT, an extensive literature search was done from PubMed and Google Scholar, and the relevant findings were noted down.

Keywords: COVID-19, lockdown, over-the-top platform

How to cite this article:
Panda PS, Salim S. Over-the-top platform: A boon or bane during COVID-19 lockdown. J Public Health Prim Care 2022;3:49-52

How to cite this URL:
Panda PS, Salim S. Over-the-top platform: A boon or bane during COVID-19 lockdown. J Public Health Prim Care [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Feb 6];3:49-52. Available from: http://www.jphpc.org/text.asp?2022/3/3/49/354815

  Introduction Top

The novel coronavirus named COVID-19 causes acute respiratory distress syndrome. The outbreak was first identified from Wuhan city in December 2019. The virus spill over got amplified, which, later on March 11, 2020, was officially declared as a pandemic by the WHO. Globally, as of August 11, 2021, a total of 204,800,030 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported. In India, a total of 32,036,511 cases have been reported, of which 31,220,981 cases have been recovered and around 429,183 deaths took place.[1] This pandemic not only has a crippling effect on the physical health but also on mental health among all age groups, resulting from necessary safety measures taken to tackle the escalation. The mental health issues are on rise, and they need to be addressed from the primary level itself and the primary care physicians should be aware of this.

  Lockdown Effect on Mental Health Top

The lockdown, as a part of social isolation restrictions, has been observed to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 infection and showed that the spread of the virus can be significantly reduced by this preventive mobility restriction. Throughout the pandemic, due to confinement in one's home with no social interaction, preexisting or the present-day mental illnesses are re-emerging which is being manifested in the form of panic attack, anxiety, depression, sleep disruptions, eating disorders, and thoughts of suicide. Social isolation is majorly associated with physical activity, so those who confined at home are less physically active and more likely to report multiple health risk behaviors. Sedentary lifestyle can negatively affect our physiological process in the long run, increasing the risk of cardiovascular dysfunction, obesity, and insulin insensitivity.[2] Overall, the lockdown has impacted the physical as well as mental health of all age groups, all professions, and both the sex.

  Impact of Lockdown on Different Groups of People Top

Impact on children and adolescents

It has greatly impacted on emotional and social development. Based on the survey, findings reveal that children felt uncertain, fearful, and isolated. They have also experienced disturbed sleep, nightmares, poor appetite, restlessness, and inattention. Youth is anxious regarding the cancellation of examinations and academic affairs. To beat this, they are using Internet compulsively, in the way, getting access to objectionable content, and eventually, it increases the vulnerability for getting exposure to illicit contents available in web portals.[3],[4]

Impact on adults and older age group

The constant fear and worry about one's own health and the health of the loved ones, financial security for the family, and the thought of uncertainty for future is giving rise to physical and mental health issues. Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs for relief of anxiety or to induce sleep could pose long-term side effects. Over 20% of adults aged 60 and over are already suffering from mental or neurological disorders with preexisting mental illness. However, most of the studies show that elders are less affected by mental problems compared to other age groups. However, when compared to the old-age homes, social isolation or poor social support has increased the burden for the caregiver and hence poorer mental health. This was reported in earlier studies following the 2003 SARS epidemic, which found increased rates of suicide among the elderly population.[5],[6],[7]

Impact on girls and women

About 85% of working women are facing job losses. Reports suggest that there has been escalation of domestic violence against women. At such time, greater Internet usage during pandemic has increased gender-based violence and online sexual assault of women.[8],[9],[10]

Impact on health-care workers

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health Tracking Poll conducted in mid-April 2020 found that 64% of households with a health-care worker said that hysteria and stress over the coronavirus caused them to experience adverse impacts on their mental and physical health, such as difficulty sleeping or eating, increase in alcohol or drug consumption, and worsening chronic conditions.[11],[12]

  Lockdown and Media Surge Top

Adults spent nearly 6½ h a day watching TV online or video (or 45 h a week). Approximately 1 h 11 min/day was spent on watching online streams, double to what it was before pandemic. About 12 million subscribers signed into over-the-top (OTT) services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Older viewers switched over from the traditional TV watching to increased use of streaming platforms. The most popular source of news and information about COVID-19 was BBC, used by 4/5th of adults during the 1st week of lockdown.[13],[14],[15]

  What is OTT (Over-the-Top) Media? Top

OTT stands for “over-the-top” and refers to the productized practice of streaming content to customers directly over Internet. It is anticipated to be the future of entertainment – one that is already unraveling. Few years ago, a consumer would register for a cable subscription and their cable TV provider would be liable for the supply and availability of programming. In the modern era, users can sign up for services over Internet and have the access at their fingertips. OTT services are typically monetized via paid subscriptions, but they also offer free services with some limitations. The technology, however, is just not limited to video on-demand services but houses a broad range of web-based content:[16]

  • Video: Video streaming is the most popularly recognized version of OTT media services. It includes subscription platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar, Zee5, Voot, and YouTube
  • Audio: Audio streaming is also possible through OTT solutions. Popular examples include online radio stations and podcasts
  • Messaging and voice calling platforms: Services such as Facebook, Google, Skype, Zoom, and WeChat connect directly through the web, challenging the mobile SMS networks, potential to replace or merge with the smartphone texting services.

  Why is the Over-the-Top Consumption at Rise? Top

In the wake of lockdown measures, Internet and social media use has reached a pinnacle. People who are stuck in their home having much free time started shifting toward OTT platforms for entertainment and information because of its cheaper and choice of content, originality, ease of access, and selectivity of device/mediums (smartphone, laptop, tablet, or TV screen). The evolution of faster and cheaper broadband networks (4G, 5G, and LTE) has deviated the attention of common masses toward the Internet as a source of information and entertainment. Advancements of technologies and digitalization of media have significantly impacted the global production and consumption of information and entertainment.

  COVID-19 Lockdown and Change in Over-the-Top Consumption Top

The world has witnessed a change, in which the media is consumed. There was a surge and increase in viewership of OTT platforms during the lockdown.

  • As per India Brand Equity Foundation, the paid subscriptions on OTT video platforms grew to 29 million by July, a growth of 31% in just 4 months
  • According to PwC's Media and Entertainment Outlook 2020, India's OTT market is on the way to becoming the world's sixth largest by 2024[13]
  • According to the State of Online Video 2020's report by Limelight Networks, Inc., Indians spend on an average 11 h (10 h and 54 min to be precise)/week watching videos online while the global average is 8 h (7 h 55 min).[14]

India is currently the second-largest online market in the world, with over 560 million Internet users.

  Over-the-Top Market in India 2020 Top

Currently, there are 40 OTT platforms. Disney + Hot tar has 41% share, followed by Eros Now, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Zee5. The subscriptions have reached almost 62 million in 2020, doubled since last year.[17] It is estimated that about 325 million Indians watch online video either free or paid. According to Broadband Indian Forum, over 65% of OTT consumption during the lockdown was recorded in rural India.[18],[19],[20]

  Impact of Over the Top on People Top

OTT platforms come with a series of benefits undoubtedly. However, there persist certain challenges that need to be addressed. For a country like India, with a diverse population, cultures, and demographics, appropriate contents need to be broadcasted.

Going with the former first

  • It has somehow been a good year for women-centric content on OTT and most have been able to break gender stereotype. In the last 1 year, they have released and promoted more women-centric content than what mainstream cinema has done in the last years
  • OTT has also been providing good job opportunities. In addition, there are several monetization apps aiming to help earn from home
  • It is providing platform for every person to voice their opinion and bring some positive change to the society
  • It is an influential avenue that one can choose to showcase their skill and talent to a wider section of community. Many content creators have encouraged people to stand for their right, make their own choices, and aim toward individual growth
  • OTT for children has been helping them mostly with educational content. The available platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet is providing them with virtual classrooms, thereby balancing their academic schedule. In addition, other educational apps such as BYJU's and WhiteHat Jr are honing their skills
  • For adults and the elderly, access to the OTTs has been effective in killing their boredom and state of seclusion.

Coming to the pitfalls

Streaming services do not hold the same restriction as broadcast services, which make it vulnerable for children. They exploit to such an extent that they neglect their studies, and in this era of tough competition, this can prove fatal. Depression, anxiety, lack of sleep, attention-deficit hyperactive disorder, weight gain, difficulty in concentrating, and other serious health problems are consuming them. The “Binge watching” craze is taking the shape of addiction, leading to disturbances in their personal life, whether it is displaying anti-social behaviors increased emotional sensitivity or disrupted sleep cycles which may have long-term destructive effects.[21]

Violence, use of vulgar language, and sex are overstated in the name of authentic presentation of the real world, while ethics are often compromised, leading to destructive impact. Crimes over Internet (cyberstalking and cyberbullying) are gradually rising.[22]

Through the content, they are getting detached from the reality. By comparing their lives with others, they are feeling despondent with their current circumstances, leading to low self-esteem. The rise of fake news through social media has become a serious problem with the potential of it, resulting in mob violence and community riots.

  Conclusion Top

Digital media is one of the most powerful wings of mass media, and mass media being an integral part of the public sphere can contribute a lot to highlighting different important issues of our society. However, this might abysmally go wrong with severe consequences if mass acts differently by reflecting realities of society with misrepresentation, understatement, or even overstatement.

Although we cannot completely avoid such platforms, we can minimize and use it for our benefit. Monitoring the duration of watching and going to sleep early after dinner should help stay away from a potential addiction. In India, due to the growth of 3G, 4G, and 5G Internet facility, the OTT media has also attracted almost 25% of the total population, of which 2/3rd belong to the rural area. Hence, the digital media can be taken as a double-edged sword, either it may be used for educational or learning purposes or on the other side of the mirror, it can have a huge impact on the mental health of viewers. To tackle such type of mental health issues which are on rise, the primary care physicians can play a key role in the identification of the problems at the early stage as they are the primary contacts of several subjects with mental health issues.

We can minimize the risk of OTT or any media addiction through limiting our time spent on them and finding some healthy alternatives such as exercise, preparing own meals for the week, organize, map out own goals, knit, journal, read, dance to music, or learn how to do something you have always wanted to. For children, parents can monitor their usage and try engaging them in some creative works, appropriate for their age. Over and above all this, government should impose the same censorship for all media or should set mandatory specifications to gain access to those media.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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