India is among one of the rapidly developing digital economies today. The country has approximately 13.3% universal internet users. As more consumers get digitally savvy and data infrastructure becomes cheaper, OTT players and content creators are observing market trends and wooing masses with regional content. The trend of regional language content being available on digital entertainment platforms is a refreshing change and brings a wide variety of options for audiences who prefer entertainment in their own language. With 1.2 billion people and more than 1,000 languages, India is one of the biggest multilingual nations in the world today. The rise of mobile devices has changed viewing habits and has also facilitated content in regional languages.
Today, companies are making investments in original regional content and not just aggregated content to spur growth from the regional market. The ecosystem around OTT players is changing with the telecom boom. This growth of viewership in tier II, III and IV cities is a result of smartphone penetration, infrastructure enhancement and low cost 4G plans. OTTs are taking a step further to invest in original and acquired digital-only regional content in languages besides Hindi and English, like Marathi, Punjabi, Oriya, Tamil, Bhojpuri, etc.
Southern India has recorded the highest level of regional content uptake, where Tamil and Telugu are dominant. In recent times, home-grown players such as SonyLIV, ALTDigital, Voot and YouTube are creating or aggregating regional content. Even international players like Amazon Prime, Hotstar and Netflix have gradually increased their selection of regional content. Amazon Prime recently tied up with the Bengali cinema production house Shree Venkatesh Films (SVF). Hotstar started showcasing Hindi serials and movies. It also has movies and TV shows in other local languages.
As per the GfK ViewScape 2017 study, access to smart TVs and other smart mobile devices are enabling access to more self-curated content — both paid and free. Two-thirds of SVoD users also subscribe to pay TV services; and are generally very positive about retaining their subscription. TV viewing has now moved online as viewers revel in the freedom and flexibility of OTT catch-up viewing. The regional language revolution is taking off and is obvious from the slow shift in the content strategy of OTT players.
The author is MD — South Asia, GfK