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Lionsgate Play launches second India original as OTTs look to deepen penetration

Hollywood studio Lionsgate, which launched its independent video streaming app Lionsgate Play in India last December, has announced its second local original, a college romance drama titled U-Special. The announcement comes on the heels of Lionsgate Play kicking off its slate of original and exclusive content last month with the Indian adaptation of the hit Lionsgate US series Casual, to be directed by Kunal Kohli, starring Lara Dutta and Prateik Babbar.

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Directed by Akarsh Khurana, the series will star Sumeet Vyas, Arjun Mathur, Parambrata Chatterjee, Rukshar Dhillon, Taaruk Raina, Gopal Datt and Ahsaas Channa, among others.

“This series is designed to connect and resonate with young audiences who are our largest demographic. The production starts this month, with the show streaming soon,” Rohit Jain, managing director, south Asia and networks-emerging markets Asia said in a statement about U-Special.

International OTT (over-the-top) video streaming platforms have long realized the importance of local language content to woo Indian audiences. After offering regional language content acquired from studios and producers for years, new original titles have been commissioned exclusively by several platforms over the past few months, especially during the covid-19 lockdown.

Media and entertainment industry experts say the pandemic has marked a milestone of sorts for regional language streaming as both homegrown and foreign platforms get serious about their spends on vernacular content. Netflix brought its first Tamil original Paava Kadhaigal last year while Amazon Prime Video had Putham Pudhu Kaalai, a Tamil anthology of five short films with Rajiv Menon, Suhasini Maniratnam, and Karthik Subbaraj.

The investment in original regional content is a natural progression for OTT services, given the huge opportunity to capture audiences in India with increasing access to internet and mobile handsets, media experts say.

Further, the past few months of covid-19 have seen a slew of new services being launched. Telugu filmmaker Allu Aravind started aha Video in Telugu while Marathi film producer Akshay Bardapurkar is floating a Marathi language video streaming service called Planet Marathi. A new service, STAGE, will offer original content in local dialects such as Haryanavi, Rajasthani, Bhojpuri, and Konkani, and formats such as comedy, folk, poetry, storytelling and motivational content. Mint

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