By- Anand Chakravarthy
India is predominantly a local language content consumption market with Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Marathi, etc ruling the charts; and English language content will always have a limited audience footprint. This reflects in the absolute viewership numbers of English channels (movies and GECs), which still cater to a niche market. The concentration of viewership of English content is largely limited to the top 15-20 metros and younger viewers, skewed towards NCCS A and B households. There are certain brands which would like to talk to this audience and therefore, the English genre becomes quite relevant for these brands.
However, this is the same audience which forms the largest pie of digital media consumers. India is still primarily a single-screen household nation and English content is not necessarily something the entire household would like to watch. Therefore, digital becomes a much more viable platform for the younger English content viewing audience as it offers flexibility and convenience as per a viewer’s ease. To add to this, we are now seeing the rapid growth of the OTT space in India with the entry of international players — Netflix and Amazon Prime, along with homegrown OTT platforms like Voot and Hotstar. Apart from offering quality English entertainment, these platforms can be viewed as per convenience. They offer the latest seasons of English GEC shows concurrent with the television broadcast, and in some cases, are available only on digital platforms. And they offer English movies as well. So while the TV English genre will continue to have a role in media plans; over a period of time, digital content providers and OTT platforms will take away a large share of advertising from English GECs as there is a huge overlap between their audiences.
There is also a challenging business reality. India as a market is heavily dependent on advertising revenues, and not on subscription revenues. If the consumer has to pay a subscription fee for a channel versus the subscription fees for an OTT platform, it’s very likely that they will opt for an OTT platform because it offers convenience of viewing, depth of content libraries, etc and reasonable fees. Secondly, content acquisition costs for latest shows on TV are very different compared to digital rights. Therefore, building an English entertainment channel showing latest content becomes quite challenging.
Thus, there continues to be a gap for English TV channels which are well-positioned and offer distinctive content that is potentially unavailable online. These audiences that English GECs target, do have a strong digital inclination and hence retaining them will be challenging. Marketers have begun to move monies from these genres on TV to digital, and are currently using both. As the digital ecosystem evolves in India over a period of time, we will see an increasing shift of investment to digital, as has been seen the world over.
(The author is managing partner, Maxus India)