Digital Connectivity Push To Boost Regional Content Consumption

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday proposed linking 100,000 gram panchayats with fibre-to-home internet connectivity in 2020-21 through telecom infrastructure provider BharatNet.

The finance minister in her budget speech, proposed to allocate Rs. 6,000 crore for the expansion of BharatNet, a move that according to industry experts will boost regional language content streaming, audio and video, in India’s small towns.

Nachiket Pantvaidya, chief executive officer at ALTBalaji and Group COO, Balaji Telefilms said the move will place rural India on the digital map.

Vishnu Mohta, co-founder of Bengali language entertainment video streaming platform Hoichoi, said “We rely heavily on Internet connectivity (as a business) and penetration is an important aspect of our growth. A large base of our audience comes from tier-two and three towns where people are not ordinarily English or Hindi language speakers and this is a welcome move that would enable us to go much deeper, beyond the metros.”

To be sure, a whole generation of young millennials is proudly watching content in native languages. According to the Ficci-EY media and entertainment industry report 2019, overall consumption continued to increase on video OTT platforms in 2018, with regional consumers driving growth.

Google claims that 97% of content on its YouTube platform is now consumed in local languages, and a similar trend was seen across most of the OTT platforms in India. These platforms claimed that over 90% of their content consumption was in regional languages.

Girish Dwibhashyam, vice-president, strategy at documentary streaming service DocuBay, said the growth of BharatNet will have a direct impact on expediting cord cutting beyond the metros. Cord-cutting refers to cancelling or forgoing a pay TV subscription in favour of an alternative Internet-based service.

“The move will also help video consumption for long-form content,” Dwibhashyam said. “If you see the series and films working on OTT (over-the-top) platforms, they are not like the short videos you’d on YouTube or TikTok and good bandwidth is the last mile to cross the bridge,” he added.

Apart from platforms like Hoichoi that streams content specifically in one regional language, all video-on-demand platforms, including American players like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, as well as local entities like Hotstar, ZEE5, ALTBalaji and others, are investing in ramping up their regional content libraries.―Livemint

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