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Airtel Xtream creating the diferrentating factor

What are the boxes an OTT aggregator must tick to create a space for itself in a diverse country like India? Bharti Airtel’s Airtel Xtream, which offers 23 platforms bundled into a single subscription unified by a single sign-in search, says what truly sets it apart is its strategy to cater to diverse linguistic preferences with a bouquet of regional-language content.

When the market is saturated with OTT platforms — at least 60 of them as per last count — that’s how Airtel hopes to stand apart. When viewers are weary of juggling multiple subscriptions and wading through a vast ocean of content, that’s a no-brainer.

The company, which offers subscriptions at Rs 149 a month or Rs 1,499 a year and has a user base of over 5 million, recently partnered with Sun NXT, a video streaming platform owned and operated by Sun TV Network that claims to be south India’s largest OTT provider. With that, Airtel Xtream added 50,000-plus hours of content including movies, series, TV shows, live TV, and children’s content in a host of languages — from Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, to Bangla and Marathi — to its platform. “Regional collaborations have played a pivotal role in the growth of Airtel Xstream. Today, approximately 35-40% of our content consumption stems from regional language offerings,” says Abhishek Biswal, head, digital products & services, Bharti Airtel.

Right from the outset Airtel Xstream has gone out of its way to woo regional content players. Since then, it has partnerships with more than 10 OTT platforms spanning various regional languages. It hosts popular platforms such as SonyLiv, Lionsgate and Eros Now. Says Biswal, “Our data strongly suggests that audiences in tier-2 and 3 cities are hungry for quality digital entertainment in their preferred language. We recognise the immense opportunities for expansion and engagement these markets offer.”

The company is leveraging Airtel’s distribution strength in these markets and leveraging technologies such as AI to personalise content recommendations and enhance user experiences.

Room for growth
Experts say the strategy provides room for exponential growth. “Regional content is the future of OTT in India,” says Sumon K Chakrabarti, CEO & co-founder, Buffalo Soldiers. “There is no real estate in India that is more powerful than the smartphone. This has created a level-playing field for everyone —whether they are from deep rural areas to fancy urban homes. Everyone is willing to pay a couple of hundred rupees a month to get entertainment in any language and not just in English.”

Adds Chandrasekhar Mantha, partner, media and entertainment leader, Deloitte India, “For an OTT player to establish presence in India, it is essential to develop a library that includes a diverse range of regional content. In fact, the prevalent share of regional to other languages could be between 20 to 30% for any OTT platform, and this contribution is expected to rise further.”

The issue is, every other OTT aggregator is treading the same path. With over 60 different OTT platforms in the country forming an industry of over $3 billion, the opportunity to bundle regional offerings is immense. Also, since none offer exclusivity to a single aggregator, duplication is a challenge. Jio TV+, Tata Play Binge, OTTPlay and Amazon Prime Video Channels are definitely not going to give Airtel a walkover.

In fact, Jio is set to take up the lion’s share of the aggregator system if the RIL-Disney deal goes through, points out Karan Taurani, senior VP at Elara Capital. “Nevertheless, there is still potential for other players to come in as the industry is quite large,” he says. Eventually, he predicts that four to five big aggregators will survive.

In such a scenario, the best strategy is to leverage one’s telecom network — your loyal subscriber base is your captive audience, say experts.

Nisha Sampath, managing partner, Bright Angles Consulting, points out that to stand out, aggregators must brush up their customer experience and service. The expectations of customers should be clearly set and fulfilled as well. “I expect a buffet of ‘all I can eat’ content from an aggregator. I should not be asked to pay to unlock certain channels at a later date. That can create a lack of trust that spills over to the entire category,” she says.

Sampath foresees a boom in regional content creation, and segmented over time to cater to different audiences. Not only entertainment but even educational, science and technology-driven content and hyperlocal news have great potential at a regional level. “This will create new opportunities for advertisers to reach specific audiences,” she concludes. Financial Express

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