Smartphone penetration, coupled with the comfort of viewing on multiple devices, is fuelling the audience’s appetite to sample content. As a result, over the top (OTT) content players are not only seeing high demand for movies and original content, but also content in local and regional languages. And with India being a multilingual country, this is a hotbed for opportunities. OTT players such as SonyLIV, ALTBalaji and Viu are upping their investment in regional language content production, while the likes Amazon Prime Video are building a strong base of regional content through various licensing deals. In fact, Sun TV network recently launched its digital content platform — Sun NXT — to enable viewers to watch its portfolio of content on-the-go. But among the first movers in regional content production has been Viu, which partnered with Annapurna Studios to launch two Telugu originals, Pilla and Pelli Gola, and has four more shows lined up in regional languages. The platform claims to see viewership as high as 40% from regional content. With focus shifting beyond metro cities, non-Hindi speaking content will grow exponentially. So if OTT needs to address a larger audience, it has to dabble in regional content.
Identifying markets that are underserved by digital and have strong local content, SonyLIV created shows in Gujarati and Marathi, which will be followed by Bengali and the southern languages. Similarly, the focus for ALTBalaji is content in Indian languages, besides Hindi, which will enable it to grow its viewership. Gopa Kumar, VP, Isobar India affirms that regional content on OTT in the years to come will command close to 30% of overall share and will keep on increasing as more and more consumers join the fold. “With the urban market saturating, rural India will have huge untapped audiences which these OTT players will look for in the next round of growth,” says Kumar.
While Voot has announced content in Kannada, Marathi, Bengali and Tamil, plans to have children’s shows in seven languages and add content from the network’s Oriya channel for Amazon Prime Video originals in Hindi seems to be the focus for now. “We aim to launch originals in Hindi first and then go into regional markets,” says Nitesh Kripalani, director and country head, Amazon Video India. Similarly, Hotstar seems to have a different strategy in mind. While it has recently launched an original in Tamil, Kadhal, it also plans to expand CinePlay into other languages. As Indian language internet consumers surpass English content consumers, language-driven content will play a very important role in OTT players’ growth.