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Streaming services splurge on promoting South Indian titles

With films and series in south Indian languages breaking out across geographies, video streaming services are upping the marketing game to aid the quick discovery of these web originals. To promote its Malayalam superhero film Minnal Murali, Netflix had Twitter launch a special emoji, released an audio-visual montage at Ain Dubai — the tallest observation wheel on Bluewaters Island, near Dubali Marina, and collaborated with brands like Muthoot FinCorp and social media influencers.

People familiar with platform strategies said, streaming services willingly spend ₹10 crore and above to market big-ticket Southern language films. Platforms like Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar and SonyLIV have also gone all out for titles like Jai Bhim, Sarpatta Parambarai, Thaen and others, advertising and promoting them in print, on television and outdoor besides digital media.

Netflix premiered Minnal Murali at the Mumbai Film Festival a week before it started streaming. In hard-hitting publicity, it collaborated with cricketer Yuvraj Singh and wrestler Khali for promotional videos. Comic strips based on the film featuring lead actor Tovino Thomas appeared in regional publications like Malayala Manorama. Earlier in August, a snippet from the trailer of Netflix’s Tamil original Navarasa was projected on the Burj Khalifa (Dubai) while visuals of Dhanush’s Jagame Thandhiram were screened at New York’s Time Square.

Shahir Muneer, founder and director at south Indian music and media company Divo said traditionally a lot of southern producers and actors have been averse to aggressive marketing campaigns but when the onus to take a film to wider audiences is on an OTT, they bring in huge budgets and teams and look at strategies beyond regular media buying and getting impressions.

“Minnal Murali was a great example of a creative marketing campaign using the lead hero who also agreed (to participate extensively) and the result is global appeal and as much talk in multiple markets for a regional film as an international show like Money Heist,” Muneer said.

“Our members engage with our stories, storytellers and stars in fun, interactive and meaningful ways through the Netflix India social (media) channels. As we expanded our film slate to have original and licensed films from south India, we heard from many of our members and fans that they would like to engage with us more on these films,” a Netflix spokesperson said, explaining that the Netflix India South handle is a new dedicated space to facilitate such interactions.

Aman Srivastava, senior vice-president and head of marketing at SonyLIV, the OTT service owned by Sony Pictures Networks India, said the platform’s acquisitions of films like Maanaadu and Kaanekkaane are laying the ground for its own originals in the coming months. On promotions, he said “People in the southern states place great emphasis on the written word so reviews and print ads are critical and while digital and social media are important, television still has the highest reach.”

Marketing trajectories for Hindi and southern cinema are quite similar, said Shrenik Gandhi, chief executive and co-founder at digital agency White Rivers Media though one thing which is bigger in the south is fan-led activation.

“Fandom exists in Bollywood too but south fans provide a larger potential for activations. The potential of word-of-mouth and marketing one can achieve by utilising fan-led communication in the south is immense,” Gandhi said. He added that southern audience is quite evolved to new things digital and the company has had a lot of south-based film producers asking for voice, grammar and other new channels or technologies of digital marketing which is a great first.

This week Disney+ Hotstar will premiere Malayalam feature film Bro Daddy with seasons of Big Boss Ultimate in Tamil hosted by Kamal Haasan and Bigg Boss Live in Telugu as well.

“We have received a phenomenal response towards our regional titles, as well as dubbed international titles from audiences across India. With language no longer being a barrier to access compelling content, we aim to create various avenues for content discovery across Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam to keep our audiences engaged at all times,” said Gaurav Banerjee, head, content, Disney+ Hotstar and HSM (Hindi speaking market) entertainment network, Disney Star India. Live Mint

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