Reaching India’s digital heartland

By: | Published: June 25, 2018 2:02 AM

Indian language internet users are expected to reach 536 mn in 2021 and regional content creators are taking note.

Media consumption across the globe is increasingly happening on digital formats. (Reuters)

Media consumption across the globe is increasingly happening on digital formats, and India is no exception. And as digital audiences across the country shift to familiar shows in their respective regional languages, there is an opportunity to create specific content for this new audience set. As per EY’s Digital Opportunity report, the next wave of growth in Indian internet is expected from non-metro and rural areas, making it a ripe time to foray into regional digital content.

If one looks at the broader picture, regional content is of prime importance in the overall media landscape in India. On television, regional content consumption accounts for nearly 45% of the overall consumption, as per available data. What is the potential for online content consumption for this digital savvy regional audience?

Eyeing the regional pie

The increasing video traffic has been supported by low data streaming charges, enabling viewers to consume content on the go. “The aggressive drop in data prices has resulted in the average realisation falling from Rs 0.229 per MB in 2016 to Rs 0.020 per MB in 2017,” highlights Girish Menon, co-head, media and entertainment, KPMG India.

Uday Sodhi, EVP and head — digital business at Sony Pictures Networks India, says, “We have observed that approximately 75% of new internet users are from rural India and consume date in local languages.” To cater to this hemerging desire for high-quality entertainment, Sony LIV launched a Marathi web series, Yolo, last year. Similarly, ZEEL launched ZEE5 — a digital entertainment platform for multilingual entertainment. “Seeing the appetite of regional consumers, we will be releasing one original show every month in Hindi, Marathi, Bangla, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam,” says Tarun Katial, CEO, ZEE5 India.

The biggest regional digital markets based on consumption include the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka, which have been traditionally contributing a significant chunk of TV advertising revenues too. Bangla and Marathi are the largest regional language internet markets in India based on the size of their populace and propensity to consume internet.

Having said that, Katial highlights that while there is a lot of good talent for regional content creation for television and films, when it comes to premium original content for digital, the ecosystem is nascent. Most large OTT players have started adding regional content to their libraries, but the demand is higher than the supply. Bharatiya Digital Party (BhaDiPa), the first Marathi-language YouTube channel, feels that regional content has its own set of hurdles which need to be overcome.

Hurdles galore

Platforms are facing the dual challenge of attracting eyeballs and content monetisation. While many platforms are adopting the AVoD model to gain subscribers, investments in library and original content are substantial, and a reliance on purely ad revenues may not suffice. With SVoD still nascent in India, business viability for many digital players may not come in anytime soon, which means only the ones with deep pockets may survive.

“Subscription revenues are emerging and are expected to make their presence felt by 2020,” says Sodhi. Other challenges include a complex IP and licensing regime, and an immature digital measurement system.

“One of the challenges for players in the digital ecosystem is to get the right audience. You may have a good chunk of content on your platform, but if you don’t target the right audience, no one would watch or even know that you have the content that they want,” observes Jason Wang, MD at the free application to transfer files, SHAREit India.

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