Podcasting a wider net

Regional podcasts are the next big thing on audio OTT

Several podcasting platforms have reported an increase in their listener base in the wake of the pandemic, more so driven by regional content.
Several podcasting platforms have reported an increase in their listener base in the wake of the pandemic, more so driven by regional content.

Homegrown audio OTT audio players JioSaavn and Gaana are now launching original content in languages apart from Hindi and English. Even global platforms like Spotify and Audible Suno, after launching originals in Hindi, are now creating content in other Indian languages. Gaana has introduced seven original podcasts in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. These include Tamil Varalaru, Simply Malayali and Ramayan Kannada. JioSaavn says its Tamil original MindVoice with RJ Balaji was streamed one million times in six months.

The size of the nascent podcast market in India is difficult to ascertain since news media platforms, standalone podcast platforms as well as music streaming apps host such content. According to a report by PwC, India had about four crore monthly podcast listeners in 2018, which is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 34.5% to reach 17.61 crore by 2023.

Regional rage

Several podcasting platforms have reported an increase in their listener base in the wake of the pandemic, more so driven by regional content. Gaana claims to have seen a 50% jump in the number of listeners for its podcasts in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada in the past six months. Similarly, Khabri, which hosts content in Hindi, Bengali and Bhojpuri, has hit the two million user mark in the last few months. Most of these platforms and creators focus on genres such as motivational, devotional, horror and culture.

“If you look at the culture of India across languages, there is a lot of content and stories that have not seen the light of the day,” says Prashan Agarwal, CEO, Gaana. The company is targeting its next 100 million users from tier II and III towns, and hopes regional audiences will account for at least 30% of its podcast listeners.

Launching podcast creation platforms has helped these companies attract regional language content creators. JioSaavn says the number of regional podcasts on its app has grown 150 times since 2019, and attributes this to its podcast creator platform YourCast launched in April 2020. Tamil, Telugu and Punjabi podcasts are most popular on JioSaavn, after Hindi and English.

Similarly, Spotify’s podcast creation platform, Anchor, added 25,000 podcasts from India this year. Amarjit Singh Batra, MD – India, Spotify, says, “Hindi featured in the top languages in which creators uploaded podcasts to Spotify via Anchor.” The company has tied up with radio channels Radio City, Big FM and Aawaz.com to stream their content.

Gaana, too, plans to launch a platform for creators in January.

Making money

Monetisation has been tough for most audio streaming companies, even for popular content such as music. A recent report by RedSeer Consulting says that only 1% of the total user base of the top five music streaming apps in India are paid subscribers. Hence, for newer formats like podcasts, the challenges are amplified, especially when reaching out to regional audiences.

According to a senior media analyst, listeners in the smaller towns are not used to the podcast format, and prefer listening to the radio. “These companies will find it challenging to change this behaviour,” he adds.

Hence, relying on brand integrations and ad insertions — instead of a subscription-based model — to monetise content in regional languages will be wise, as listeners warm up to the new format. However, the advertisement-driven format, too, could be tough to crack for some of the smaller platforms.

“Unless you are a big platform like YouTube or Facebook, earning revenue from advertisements could be a struggle,” says Pulkit Sharma, co-founder and CEO, Khabri.

Read Also: OTTs and the regional rush

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