American films, television shows and programming in Turkish, German and Korean languages — including their dubbed versions — are emerging as a big draw on over-the-top (OTT) video streaming services, making up as much as 30% of overall viewership, said senior executives at several of these platforms.
While such international content finds ready takers among young urban Indians in the metros, those in small towns benefit from their dubbed versions in both Hindi and regional languages.
Netflix’s Extraction and The Kissing Booth have been popular in Hindi and Tamil as have Amazon’s The Boys, The Tomorrow War, Wonder Woman and Parasite. Walt Disney, too, has decided to tap smaller towns by making Disney+ (including Marvel) content available even on its cheaper price plans in India to expand reach.
“It is safe to say that today’s consumer looks beyond geographical and language barriers and is prioritizing compelling stories and narratives. Localising great international content with dubs and subtitles helps take content viewership to a much wider audience,” Vijay Subramaniam, director and head of content, Amazon Prime Video India said.
“If the story connects with the viewer, it will transcend any barrier – cultural, context and even language,” he added. Global Amazon originals like Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, the second season of The Boys, Amazon original movie The Tomorrow War, the latest instalment of the Tom and Jerry movie and licensed titles like Wonder Woman, Coming to America and Parasite have all been watched in different Indian languages.
While a handful of niche, foreign language TV channels and torrent websites on the Internet had introduced Indians to international content earlier, OTT platforms have helped improve ease of access, said Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO at SoCheers, an independent digital agency.
“A lot of these shows primarily had appeal for an urban audience but are now reaching tier-2 and -3 towns in dubbed versions because of the aspirational value attached to them. As streaming services have identified a demand in the country, it makes sense to invest in it,” Gupta added.
Suman Mani, creative director at integrated marketing agency Clevertize said while metro audiences are over-saturated with the discovery of such international content on OTT, small towns have recently started acquiring a taste for what may be considered cool, and is part of social media chatter. “Covid has also ensured people are exposed to a lot more things on the phone, given that several large families do not have multiple TV sets,” Mani said.
Mansi Shrivastava, senior vice-president and head- content acquisitions and partnerships at MX Player said their platform looks at localizing Hollywood, Korean, Turkish, Ukranian and Italian titles in multiple regional languages, which find traction among men and women in a 65:35 ratio. Action, thriller, crime, fantasy and science fiction are popular genres.
“These titles give great returns because of the viewership, to the tune of 30-40 minutes per user per day,” Shrivastava said adding that while TV had laid the foundation for international programming, OTT has the luxury of talking to users individually and customizing recommendations with artificial intelligence and machine learning.
OTT video streaming in India got a tremendous push during the pandemic-induced lockdowns and is only evolving since then, agreed Megha Tata, managing director- South Asia, Discovery Inc. discovery+ that offers not just American television but also English shows from the United Kingdom and Australia dubbed in Indian languages, has seen viewership improve for franchises like Undercover Billionaire, Gold Rush, Expedition Unknown, Hell’s Kitchen, Top Gear and A Haunting.
A Netflix spokesperson said viewers of all ages and across geographies are accessing international content given the ease of discovery on OTT platforms like theirs. “Films such as Chris Hemsworth-starrer Extraction (Hindi, Tamil and Telugu dubs), To All the Boys Part 1, 2, and 3 (Hindi dubs and subs), The Kissing Booth Part 1 and 2 (Hindi, Tamil and Telugu dubs) and Manhunt: Unabomber (Hindi and Tamil subs) were widely loved by our audience,” the person said. Live Mint