Hoichoi: in expansion mode

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New Delhi | October 15, 2018 1:03 AM

In India, as an introductory offer, subscribers get one year’s access to Hoichoi’s content for`399 whereas for users in the UK, the US and Australia, the subscription fee is $9 per month.

Hoichoi: in expansion mode

KPMG estimates 90% of incremental internet users in India in the next five years to be Indian language users — these users are estimated to have a 90% adoption rate for digital entertainment. This could explain OTT platforms such as Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others eyeing the regional language space with dubbed content. ALTBalaji and Zee5 have created original content in regional languages, while some others are commissioning it. Amidst this, perhaps, among the lone players in the regional OTT space is Kolkata-based SVoD (subscription video on demand) player Hoichoi, launched in September last year.

India and beyond

The Bangla content player claims that its app has been downloaded more than a million times thus far, streaming over 240 million minutes of content with 60 minutes of average time spent per subscriber per day. The biggest chunk of subscribers comprises 18-35 year-olds followed by 35-45 year-olds. “We have subscribers from Kolkata, Bengaluru, Dhanbad, Agartala and many other cities across India. The UK, the US and Australia along with Bangladesh and the Middle East are important markets for us,” says Vishnu Mohta, co-founder, Hoichoi.

In India, as an introductory offer, subscribers get one year’s access to Hoichoi’s content for`399 whereas for users in the UK, the US and Australia, the subscription fee is $9 per month.

While Hoichoi is the only dedicated Bangla OTT platform in the market, it is not the sole OTT player with a regional offering; Zee5 and ALTBalaji have originals in regional languages including Bangla and Tamil titles. Apart from that, OTT arms of broadcast networks offer a robust catalogue of catch-up TV content which is a miss for platforms like Hoichoi. “The more the content produced, the better it is for the market,” says Mohta, adding, “The market is at a nascent stage and I don’t see it maturing in the next 10 years; so we are not thinking about competition.”

Hoichoi has 22 originals streaming and has announced 30 more titles planned over the next year. The intention is to double the library to 2,800 hours of content. “Apart from shows, we will release 12 Hoichoi original feature films and acquire close to 200 Bangla films, of which around 12 would be premiered on Hoichoi,” shares Mohta.

Apart from India, Hoichoi is eyeing 180 million Bengalis living in Bangladesh and the Middle East. The platform has already commissioned Dhaka Metro — a show shot in Bangladesh by native talent — with plans to release more homegrown titles.

An overview

Availability of quality content has emerged as a big issue for regional video consumers streaming online.

Jehil Thakkar, partner, Deloitte India, believes that regional OTT can be a feasible business model. “Larger players will foray into regional but regional players can foster more depth. There is a market and focussed players can make a niche for themselves,” he says.

Thakkar believes some audiences prefer regional content over other languages. “They see more value in regional platforms,” he says. “They are audiences from smaller towns and rural markets, and are not interested in English, Hindi and other offerings.” Barring “some crossover”, Thakkar says regional OTT players will have an audience base completely different from the ones that Netflix, Amazon and Hotstar target.

Will this audience pay and subscribe? “While not limited to digital, subscription is a challenge across India — it is more to do with the buying behaviour of Indians. I think it needs to be an access (telco partnership) or advertising revenue model,” adds Thakkar.

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