Bangla OTT firm Hoichoi set to launch 25 original series, 6 movies in FY21

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Published: February 26, 2020 5:47 AM

Apart from beefing up its bucket of originals, Hoichoi’s broader content strategy would be to get a considerable chunk of Bengali theatrical releases on the platform before they are aired on television.

netflix, ottGlobal OTT player Netflix has been building on its India library — currently comprising over 10 regional languages (including Hindi) while also increasing its slate of originals.

At a time when over-the-top (OTT) players are upping their regional play to bring more viewers to the fold, Bengali OTT firm Hoichoi, owned by SVF Entertainment, is all set to ramp up its slate with original content. Vishnu Mohta, co-founder at Hoichoi and director of SVF, said the company plans to launch at least 25 original series and six original movies in the next financial year starting April 1. Hoichoi’s library comprises over 50 original series and as many as 12 original films at present.

The Kolkata-based firm that counts only on subscription to monetise its business gets the bulk of user traffic from Bengaluru, New Delhi, Pune, Mumbai, Lucknow and certain pockets of Agartala (outside West Bengal). Bangladesh, the US and the UK are Hoichoi’s key overseas markets while the platform also sees considerable following in markets like Sweden and Japan, Mohta said.
“We are focused on the Indian Bengali, Bengalis residing in Bangladesh and the diaspora markets. About 250 million people speak this language globally and we think that is a large enough community to go after,” Mohta told FE in an interview.

At least four of the six original movies slated for FY21 launch will be produced out of Bangladesh where the OTT company has an office, Mohta said.

Apart from beefing up its bucket of originals, Hoichoi’s broader content strategy would be to get a considerable chunk of Bengali theatrical releases on the platform before they are aired on television.

Content forms as much as 65% of Hoichoi’s overall cost but the platform is not looking at advertising to garner revenues. “SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) is the only way to make meaningful money from premium content. If I want to premier Dwitiyo Purush (a recent Bengali movie) on my platform, I can only do it behind a paywall. We are premiering it next month on Hoichoi first. The kind of content that we have cannot be best monetised through advertisement,” Mohta said.

A diverse market like India where the English-speaking segment forms a minuscule percentage of the population, regional play is critical to keep viewers hooked, analysts reckon. Not surprisingly, global OTT player Netflix has been building on its India library — currently comprising over 10 regional languages (including Hindi) while also increasing its slate of originals. Local firms like Zee5 have introduced regional sachet packs to get more subscribers on board.

Raghav Anand, segment leader, digital media at EY, said rural internet is growing at over 20% and has crossed 250 million users. As over 70% of the content consumed on digital platforms is in Hindi and vernacular, such content will witness increased adoption. However, since vernacular OTT platforms cater to a niche audience, advertising model alone will not be enough for them to sustain. Vernacular players need to work out a SVOD model and if they can scale it up, they will be successful, Anand said. “Going ahead, we can see more such platforms that will focus on only one language or niche audience segment,” Anand added.

About 550 million consumers are estimated to take to online video viewing by FY23, according to a recent KPMG-Eros Now report. According to a recent CII-BCG report, India’s SVOD market is estimated to reach $1.5 billion by 2023 from a projected $0.5 billion in 2019, driven by diverse content and convenience of on-the-go entertainment.

Hoichoi being a community-focused platform does not think about competition, Mohta said. “Everybody has a different play — some are looking at sports, some at catch-up TV, kids content while originals and movies. We try to be all things Bengali,” Mohta said.

The firm may break even in the next one year, Mohta added.

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