The inclusion of regional content has paved the way for mass-market adoption as opposed to the initial niche offering
Regional content has carved a niche for itself in the Indian entertainment industry. And it's doing the same on video platforms. As over-the-top (OTT) platforms in India have reached scale the need for local content has increased too.
According to a 2018 report by Ernst and Young (EY), data availability at a low cost is accelerating growth in tier II and III cities for OTT players. It estimates 75 percent of new internet users to be from rural India and 75 percent of these new internet users to consume data in local languages.
Talking to Moneycontrol, Bimal Unnikrishnan, Content Head at Viu, said, “With the number of viewers in metros who like to consume content in Hindi or English being visibly high, there is a majority of audiences who enjoy watching regional shows and movies as well.”
To target this market, OTT players are moving toward regional content. Major online video platforms have also realised the potential of regional content. International players like Netflix and Amazon Prime are offering localised content by partnering with Indian content providers.
“Regional content definitely gives you better uptake in terms of engagement and we have noticed that consumers always prefer to consume content in their preferred language. Good regional content will be an important play in the OTT space and I am sure this will definitely get more and more platforms to invest heavily in regional web shows,” Unnikrishnan added.
According to a Frost & Sullivan report titled ‘Over-the-top (OTT) Video Services Market, India, 2017–2022’, the OTT video market in India is gradually becoming a mainstream entertainment destination in the midst of growing Internet users. With the rapid commoditisation of data and the ongoing price wars, online video streaming is a more feasible option today than ever before.
The report further said the focus has shifted from the urban youth to the mass market, regional audiences across multilingual backgrounds. The inclusion of regional content has paved the way for mass-market adoption as opposed to the initial niche offering. Hence, the focus on Hindi and English programs has gradually shifted toward regional content, thus catering to a larger audience.
According to Siddhartha Roy, COO, Hungama Digital Media, “Regional content will be contributing as high as 40-45 percent of consumption (in the coming years).”
Platforms like Viu, Hungama, Hoichoi, Alt Balaji, among others are offering exclusive regional content. Viu, for example, offers content is around six languages-- Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Marathi apart from English and Hindi.
Shows like Social, Pelli Gola (Season I and II), a game show called Tollywood Squares, No. 1 Yaari, Tamil Originals like Kalyanamum Kadhandhu Pogum, Madras Mansion can be watched on Viu. Short films like Masha Allah… Ganesha, The Wind are available on the platform too.
“The users and engagement that we are witnessing on our regional languages are very strong. Regional content users are adopting the unique storylines and high-quality content that we are offering them. So, it won’t be wrong to say that our user base is growing phenomenally,” said Unnikrishnan.
Alt Digital is planning to launch shows in regional languages such as Tamil, Telugu, Bengali and Punjabi.
Focusing only on Bengali content, Hoichoi announced bigger plans this year. The company is aiming for 30 new shows, 12 original films, and an acquisition of 200 Bengali movie titles. This is along with doubling overall content library to approximately 2,800 hours in the next one year.
Search giant Google, too, is betting big on regional content. It had estimated that by 2020 there would be as many as 500 million regional users looking for content in their native language. Concurring with this is Roy who said, “Very clearly there is a consumer base out there that is consuming regional content because that’s the language choice for them to consume their entertainment.”
He added. “We are extremely aware that regional will be a big driver of growth.”In addition, Kotak Institutional Equities analysts estimate that digital video advertising will swell to $2.2 billion in five years or by 2023.