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OTTs go local; after Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, ZEE5 boosts presence in regional market

Regional video-streaming market is becoming mainstream with national over-the-top (OTT) platforms focusing on many local markets to drive subscriber growth.

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Amazon Prime Video has been one of the early players that has been strengthening its local content portfolio for quite some time now, followed by platforms like Netflix, Disney+Hotstar, among others.

Joining this race is media company Zee Entertainment’s video OTT, ZEE5, which will now be offering content, especially for the Punjabi-speaking audience.

The platform is doing this because, both in terms of internet penetration and purchasing power, this audience has a strong potential, says Manish Kalra, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 India.

“There are 3 crore people who speak Punjabi. Punjab is one of the most penetrated states with 84 percent penetration of 4G users. It has one of the highest GDP, per capita. So, good purchasing power. And the market is under-served,” said Kalra.

The platform, which has 80.2 million global monthly active users (MAUs) and 7.1 million daily active users (DAUs), as of June 2021, and around 4-5 million subscribers, will start launching content catering to the Punjabi-speaking audience from September onwards.

Starting with movies and leveraging the content of its film studio, Zee Studios, the OTT will start with theatrical release, Puaada, which stood strong at the box office.

“There’s Kismat 2, which we will bring around Diwali. Then there’s Fufad Ji. We have 5-6 movies lined up on ZEE5, along with theatricals. And we will start working on originals in parallel. Every three months, we will bring new content,” said Kalra.

Love for local content
While ZEE5 is tapping the Punjabi-speaking audience, other OTTs have looked at the south, Bengali and Marathi markets.

A report by Media Partners Asia (MPA), an independent provider of research, advisory and consulting services, notes that Amazon Prime Video’s strategy is to push regional content to increase its subscriber base from 18 million in June 2021 to 21.8 million by the end of December this year.

The platform also recently announced the release of Telugu venture Tuck Jagadish.

Another OTT platform, Disney+Hotstar, offers over 50,000 hours of content in eight languages. Last year, regional language content on the platform contributed to more than 40 percent video consumption with Tamil, Telugu and Bengali topping the viewing patterns.

Netflix last year had shared that Allu Arjun’s Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo, a Telugu venture, was one of the top 10 films with most views on the streaming platform.

For national OTTs, regional content addition is important because the share of regional language consumption on OTT platforms will cross 50 percent by 2025 versus 30 percent in 2019, according to a FICCI-EY recent report.

Also, if we look at ZEE5, the top 20 cities dominate with 70-75 percent subscription. To foray into the next 50 cities, regional content will be key.

Over-the-top regional players
In addition, many language-specific OTT platforms have mushroomed in the last few years that are seeing significant growth in subscriber numbers.

If we look at Bengali OTT Hoichoi, the platform, which, last year, had clocked 13 million subscribers, saw 50 percent increase in subscriptions in May this year.

Telugu OTT Aha, which was launched in February last year, has, so far, got on board 1.5 million subscribers.

According to industry estimates, players in the regional OTT space contribute around 40-45 percent to the overall video-streaming consumption. And viewers are going to these OTTs because of their content offering, which the national players are unable to provide.

Hoichoi, which has 80 original shows in its content portfolio, plans to offer 40 originals this year.

Aha, which has over 20 original content, recently forayed into the kids’ space and has plans to offer eight originals and 100 hours of other content in the kids genre over the next 12 months.

Regional vs national OTTs
ZEE5’s Kalra admits that regional OTTs are competition. “They might have good understanding of the users and slightly better penetration by virtue of starting before.”

However, he added: “Our strength is the power of network. If Zee Bangla team starts producing content for OTT content, it will be as good or better than Hoichoi. If Zee Telugu starts producing OTT content, we will start competing with Aha. These regional players are competition but they are no threat,” said Kalra.

Zee Entertainment’s regional channels like Zee Bangla and Zee Kannada dominate the Assam/North East and Karnataka, respectively.

This is why Kalra said, “We see Andhra Pradesh/Telangana as big markets as the intent to spend on entertainment is much higher versus other parts of the country. While the market is not underserved, appetite for content is high. Also, Tamil Nadu is a good market and has good availability of content. We think there’s good purchasing power, followed by Bangla. So, Q3 is Punjab, Q4 will be south and Q1 next year will be Bangla.” Money Control

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