Rise Of Regional Content In OTT Space

Hoichoi is creating a lot of what its name suggests — festive energy. The Indian-origin Bangla streaming app will formally launch in Bangladesh on April 12 at Taka 500 a year. It offers a feast for Bangla audiences — there are 30 originals such as Raima Sen starrer Hello, Taranath Tantrik, or Byomkesh slated for 2019. Some of these shows are in their second and third season. There are 500 films plus the 12 more being produced, one for each month this year. “In two years time India and Bangladesh should be equal on traffic and revenues,” says Vishnu Mohta, executive director, SVF Entertainment.

The 20-year old Kolkata-based film and TV studio launched Hoichoi 18 months ago. It already has 4.5 million unique users, a bulk of them from India. The subscription-driven Hoichoi (Rs 400 a year) is relying on 97 million BangHoichoi is among the dozens of serious, focussed attempts being made to tap into the huge market beyond Hindi. There is a Malayalam OTT on its way from a mainstream media firm. Fastfilmz which focusses on South-Indian cinema has already been bought out by Shareit.

Spuul gets 40 percent of its 30 million users from people watching Punjabi, Bangla, Malayalam and Bhojpuri content. This is up from 10-20 percent over three years back. Sembaruthi, a Tamil show on Zee5 “has bigger volumes than all Hindi shows,” says Tarun Katial, chief executive officer (CEO), Zee5 had commissioned more than 200 hours of original content each in eight Indian languages soon after its launch last year. YouTube, Voot, MX Player, among others, are also commissioning scores of shows in Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Bhojpuri and other Indian languages.

The reasons are not hard to find.

The rise and rise of Indian languages

The first push came in 2016 as bandwidth increased and prices fell post Jio, thinks Girish Dwibhashyam, head of content for Spuul. Its average watch time on some languages, such as Bhojpuri, went up to 30 minutes against 20 minutes on Hindi. Much of this is the natural progression a diverse market like India — 29 states, more than 22 major languages — is bound to follow. The broadcast market illustrates this — Zee, Star, and Viacom18 get a fourth or more of their top line and a nice slice of their profits from non-Hindi languages.

The second, “The category tailwinds support language OTTs. The next 300-400 million users are coming from other languages and towns,” says Akash Banerji, business head, AVoD, Viacom18 Digital Ventures, which owns Voot.

India’s 480 million broadband users watch an average of 50 minutes of video a day. This has translated into a Rs 4,000-crore market in advertising and subscription revenues. It seems small compared to the Rs 74,000-crore TV market, but India is one of the fastest growing online video markets in the world. That explains why 35 OTT apps — from broadcasters, telcos and tech majors — are fighting it out in India.

As they look for spaces to occupy, one thing is evident, “The pace of growth in vernacular content is outstripping Hindi,” says Banerji. For example in the April-December 2108 period Voot saw watch time on non-Hindi languages grow by six times compared to three times on Hindi. Bigg Boss Kannada (a Viacom18 show) got about 100-125 million views against say 20-30 million four years back.

“When we talk of marquee content, the reference is usually to Hindi shows, now OTTs are seeing huge numbers in other languages too,” says Banerji. “The users on vernacular also tend to be more loyal,” reckons Kedar Gavane, vice president, sales and partners, comScore.

The third and big one is that monetization has improved. On average, OTT gives 4-5 times more in cost per thousand compared to TV, say broadcasters. Advertisers like Dinesh Menon, chief marketing officer of State bank of India are clear that they need them.

“OTT budget allocations have increased substantially as it is no more a ‘nice to have’, but a ‘must have’ in the digital media mix. With India becoming a video first country, it’s impossible for any brand to ignore OTT in the media plan,” he says. “And within that plan, we do language-based targeting for content and not just regional targeting.”

The big challenge that reckons Banerji is discoverability. Voot is trying its hand at multi-track audio and geo-localized trace to help search on its app. “If we add a lot of content then discoverability becomes a challenge, so it is very important to select high-quality content,” Dwibhashyam says. This problem of plenty manifests itself in content prices going up by 30-40 percent as streaming brands jostle for content.―Business Standard

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