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Hindi dominates OTT viewership despite regional push

The push for regional language content by video streaming platforms in order to penetrate deeper into the country has not taken away viewership from Hindi which remains dominant as of now, say platform executives and industry experts. Hindi still commands 50% of all viewership including that of acquired films, web originals and catch-up television, followed by 35% by other Indian languages and 15% by international content.

The contribution by other languages goes down further when only web originals are concerned since most platforms are in early stages of experimenting with regional content. As the market expands, volume growth will continue to come from the dominant language spoken in the country, executives said.

“Hindi has been the dominant language of content consumption and continues to be. As the overall market expands, a lot of category development will happen in regional languages but the volume will be led by what is the dominant language simply because of the size of the market it caters to,” said Ferzad Palia, head, Voot Select, Voot Kids and international business, Viacom18. A lot of content originally in Hindi is also watched in other languages, because of subtitling and dubbing initiatives by platforms, Palia pointed out. While ratios differ across services, for some, Hindi can make up as much as 60-65% of consumption, he said.

As far as all content, including theatrical films and catch-up TV, the breakup of viewership will be approximately 50% Hindi, 35% other Indian languages together and 15% international, a lot of which is watched in dubbed versions in Indian languages, said Shailesh Kapoor, CEO and founder of media consulting firm Ormax who believes dubbing has unlocked cross-language content consumption, and will continue to hold more significance in the years to come, as audience, especially SVoD (subscription video-on-demand), now have become fully comfortable with the idea of dubbed content.

But as far as original content–made for OTT–goes, the contribution of south and other languages to overall viewership goes down, as there have been fewer web-series in other Indian languages compared to Hindi. Even as far as southern films go, while some titles like RRR and KGF: Chapter 2 have been big hits, a lot of films haven’t worked, proving that not all is lost for Hindi language content, said Vibhu Agarwal, chief executive officer and founder of video streaming app Ullu.

Nikhil Gandhi, chief operating officer, MX Media, said Hindi still dominates as far as viewership and watch time on its video streaming service MX Player are concerned, along with the fact that there has been an upsurge in regional content dubbed in Hindi too. “Having said that, in the last five years, we are seeing an upsurge in regional content consumption. This is not just in south India but also in markets like West Bengal and Maharashtra besides upcoming areas like Bhojpuri, Punjabi as well as Gujarati. So, the overall content ecosystem spilt in terms of watch time or viewership is also subject to the amount of the supply of content from these regional markets,” Gandhi said.

Manish Kalra, chief business officer, ZEE5 India, said OTT platforms have democratised access to a wide variety of content for audiences across languages and genres, enabling them to explore extensively. “Now the audiences get a higher value proposition for their money. This has led to increased viewership from the tier-two and tier-three markets, and in order to satiate this demand for regional content, platforms have been aggressively investing in acquiring and creating content in collaboration with local talents and studios,” Kalra added.

Hindi content is and will continue its dominance with some key OTTs being able to leverage their broadcast network strengths, agreed Sidharth Parashar, president, investments and pricing at media agency GroupM India. “However, the notable emergence of localised and regional OTT platforms, with focused content strategy and increasing investments in dubbing plus certain legal regulations for subtitling, the regionals too would become more dominant in times to come,” Parashar said. Live Mint

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