Content streaming platforms are betting heavily on regional content, but how good is the money?
by Sonam Saini
OTT services from traditional broadcasters, the likes of ZEE5, Voot and Hotstar, as well as independent streaming platforms ALTBalaji and Eros Now, are investing big bucks in creating original regional content. Amazon Prime, the bigger fish in this space, already has content in five languages — Tamil, Bengali, Hindi, English, and Telugu — and will soon launch a content library in Kannada. Besides, there are exclusive regional OTT players such as Hoichoi (Bengali) and Sun NXT (Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada), too.
Speaking their language
ZEE5 has curated 21 regional originals across five languages and is rolling out two shows each in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, and Marathi every month, and one each in Bengali and Malayalam.
Its India business head Manish Aggarwal says ZEE5’s raison d’être is the dearth of regional content in the OTT space. “There were more choices available on television than on OTT platforms.”
The platform has created regional subscription packs for Tamil, Telugu and Kannada viewers. These SVOD packs enable consumers to watch premium content in a language of their choice at half the price. “The contribution of regional packs launched in November, 2018, to the overall subscriptions is in high double digits. Half our customers hail from outside the Hindi belt,” shares Aggarwal.
As per industry estimates, the cost of creating regional content on digital is almost 30% lower to that of Hindi original content; the cost per episode is approximately `50-60 lakh. A small budget web series in the regional genre could cost `25-30 lakh per episode.
In August 2018, Voot launched 18 shows in different languages and plans to go big on multi-lingual originals. Here’s why. “In three years, the next 200-300 million consumers are largely going to be over 25 years of age, from tier II and III towns, with a good skew coming from females,” says Akash Banerji, head, marketing and partnerships, Viacom18 Digital Ventures.
He further shares that 40-45% of consumption across large OTT platforms is from the non-Hindi and non-English content libraries. On Voot itself, more than 25% of the consumption comes from non-Hindi content. “Hindi content consumption has grown threefold, whereas regional has grown sixfold,” Banerji points out.
Waiting on ads
Popular IPs such as Kaun Banega Crorepati and Bigg Boss get more traction on digital in regional languages. According to media planners, OTT players have a separate rate card for such key IPs. Meanwhile, the average CPT for a regional show is around 30-50 paise, depending on the content; there are shows that charge an additional 10%.
Mihir Mehta, AVP, digital planning and buying, iProspect India, says, “Whenever an original show comes to the market, it has a premium charge to it for the first two months. But once a majority of the audience has watched the show, it comes down to the ‘top 10’ section.”
Vineet Sodhani, CEO, Spatial Access, says that while content is being created for the local audience, advertisers aren’t on board yet, even for mainstream content. “Right now, players are just pumping in money to build the user base; monetisation is happening only through subscription.”
Mehta believes that the scope for regional content is immense. “If the overall OTT space is growing 10-15% month-on-month, and 40-50% y-o-y, the majority of growth is coming from the regional sector,”