As per industry analysts, regional OTT already holds nearly 40-45% share of the overall OTT pie in terms of consumption
From Hoichoi (Bengali) to Aha (Telugu), Sun NXT, Koode (Malayalam), City Shor TV (Gujarati) are just some of the regional OTT platforms which seems to have gained popularity among Indian audiences and have been able to carve its own place among large players such as Netflix and Amazon. “In the last year, we have seen a surge of interest in regional content. India is a country of many languages and with new rural users coming in, the mass numbers will continue to be regional as they prefer watching content in their native language. The contribution of regional OTT is likely to be in line with audience distribution and internet penetration in the country,” ML Raghavan, head, digital business, Sun Group, told BrandWagon Online.
From movies to webseries, regional OTT platforms ramped up their content offerings to cater to the upsurge in audience base. For instance, Sun NXT has a library of over 4,000 South-Indian movies and its production arm (Sun Pictures) is in the process of producing more than five feature films in Tamil, at the same time acquiring content in Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Similarly, Hoichoi, which has a library of 80 original shows, had rolled out 25-27 original shows and 12-15 movies, last year. It plans to roll out another set of 40 new content pieces this year. Aha, on the other hand, had plans of launching 30-40 original content in a year but was unable to deliver on the plans due to lockdown. As of right now, the platform comprises over 20 original content.
Furthermore, regional OTT platforms in the last one year have focussed on increasing reach — thereby subscriber base by inking distribution deals with telecoms. Moreover, platforms such as Hoichoi have signed a content syndication deal with Hindi OTT players such as MX Player. Meanwhile, Planet Marathi plans to launch a pay-per-view model on its platform to be able to cater to both one time visitors as well as filmmakers. Planet Marathi was supposed to debut last year but the plans were shelved due to the pandemic. Now ready with five-seven original web-series along with a library of 120 films, the Marathi streaming platform will be launching in two phases in June and July. “Last year we watched the change in viewership trends across the OTT industry and took it as a learning opportunity. Now, we are launching our platform with a broad content slate that goes beyond web series and films by also including Karaoke tracks, chat shows and seven original films. Our library consists of content which will appeal to both the urban crowd as well as the tier 2, tier 3 and rural viewers, thereby catering to everyone,” Akshay Bardapurkar, founder, Planet Marathi, stated.
For quite some time now Amazon Prime Videos has been strengthening its regional content library and now other players such as Netflix, MX Player, among others have also started to capitalise on this trend. While these national players dominate the metropolitan cities subscriber base, most of the regional OTT platforms are fetching eyeballs as well as subscriptions mostly from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. “A lot of our subscribers are from tier 1 cities such as Mumbai and Bengaluru. Other than this, Dhaka has emerged as another big market for us. We have also filmed five original shows in Bangladesh and have set-up an office in Dhaka,” Vishnu Mohta, co-founder, Hoichoi said, adding that the platform has witnessed a 50% rise in subscriptions in May 2021, when compared to last year.
Interestingly, while regional content dubbed in Hindi has been well received by the audience, there is no demand for Hindi content to be dubbed in regional languages. “Barring a few, Hindi movies dubbed in regional languages are not received well with the audience, a trend which is carried forward from broadcast media. Instead, other regional languages such as Malayalam and Tamil movies dubbed in Telugu have been received very well by our audience,” Ajit Thakur, CEO, Aha, explained. Industry analysts believe that Amazon Prime Video’s The Family Man Season 2’s approach of making a multi-lingual show which had both Hindi and Tamil dialogues was a step towards appeasing the South audience.
According the latest FICCI-EY report, share of regional language consumption on OTT platforms will cross 50% by 2025 from the 30% share it held in 2019, easing past Hindi at 45%. However, consumption of regional content has accelerated in the past year with the overall OTT industry witnessing high growth. Regional OTT already holds nearly 40-45% share of the overall OTT pie in terms of consumption, as per industry analysts. This is primarily due to the original content offerings which the mainstream OTT platforms are unable to provide. “During lockdown, when viewed from the lens of quality, the content rolled out by the regional platforms was higher than the content released by Hindi dominated Bollywood. Previously, Hindi speaking market viewers could not consume the content because of the language barrier but now with subtitles making content universally understandable, OTT has opened the native language content to Hindi speaking viewers. Thereby, putting quality of content over actor preference or grandiose of a set. It will not be long before the regional OTT market becomes mainstream,” Shankar B, chief executive officer, Fourth Dimension Media Solutions, explained