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Telugu OTT ‘aha’ is betting on originals to gain steam in the video-streaming space

With a rival, which showed eight new shows every year, shutting down, aha is planning to offer 52 original content across series, films and non-fiction shows next year. It plans to show other regional language content as well. Only Bengali video-streaming service Hoichoi has seen a significant growth in the regional language space.

November 11, 2020 / 11:36 AM IST

For makers of aha, a video-streaming platform that is offering Telugu content, getting users on board may not be an easy task.

A video-streaming service that had tried something similar failed to survive.

Ajit Thakur, CEO, aha, pointed out: “Our nearest competitor, which has shut now, offered eight new shows (content) every year.”

So, why bet on something that has failed earlier? Eight a year is not enough. Thakur notes that people need more content as their digital video consumption is increasing.

Betting on originals

This is why aha has the target of offering 52 original content across series, films and non-fiction shows next year.

For Diwali, the platform will be launching five new shows including SamJam, which will have actress Samantha Akkineni as the host and CommitMental, among others.

The platform is also focussing on the non-fiction category and have got on board producers of the Baahubali franchise for a docu (document) series. In addition, a comedy show with a mix of stand-up comedy, skit and talk show is part of the content portfolio.

But this year, the pace of content addition was restricted due to Coronavirus.

“We currently have nine originals when we should have about 30. We have 250 films, out of which 150 were launched as aha titles as digital premieres. It is a skewed  ratio because of COVID-19,” he said.

“We want to be the home of local originals. This is why our investment strategy is 70 percent on originals and 30 percent on acquiring content. The last six months were different because we were more dependent on acquisitions,” he said.

Telugus taking OTT route

Along with content, Thakur, as well as Ramu Rao Jupally, Promoter, aha, is confident about the Telugu-speaking population, which is their target audience.

“Telugu is a big enough market for the entertainment industry, especially OTTs as people there are already consuming a lot of online video content,” said Rao.

OTT (Over-The-Top) media service is a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet.

“When I travelled in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, I saw that the Telugu audience skew was high in video-content consumption. In a place called Rajahmundry, almost everyone watches around seven to eight hours of OTT content a day,” said Thakur.

He added that there are 100 million Telugu-speaking audience, out of which 50 million watch video content online and their target is to capture 10-15 percent of this market in one year.

International interest

Along with India, the US is a big market for aha. “While US subscribers form 5 percent of our subscriber base, the value we see coming from these subscribers is higher as the platform is available there for $49.99 for annual subscription, and $7.99 for monthly subscribers. And the US alone can contribute 15-20 percent of our revenue,” said Thakur.

Ana annual subscription of aha in India will cost Rs 365.

The SVoD strategy

Talking about taking the SVoD route, Thakur said that while it is a riskier strategy, they won’t be having ads on the platform. SVoD is Subscription Video on-Demand, where the platform is dependent on subscription revenues, unlike an advertising video on-demand (AVoD). An SVoD service does not play ads between content.

“As a young new OTT, to attract a significant share of the advertising pie in the next 2-3 years will be difficult. But an SVoD strategy tells what is the willingness to pay for the content we have put up,” said Thakur.

Going local

Regional markets are becoming the focus area in the OTT space. National video-streaming players are focusing on regional content. There are also platforms that are offering regional language specific content like Hoichoi, which offers only Bengali content, and Planet Marathi, which will offer only Marathi content, when it launches in December.

So far, only Hoichoi has seen a significant growth in terms of subscriber base.

Hoichoi, which was launched in 2017, has so far got on board as many as 1.3 crore subscribers. Compare this with national OTTs. Disney+Hotstar has 86.3 lakh paid subscribers, Amazon Prime Video has 44 lakh paid users and Netflix has 40 lakh subscribers in India currently.

The newly launched aha, in nine months, has registered 23 lakh active users on the platform.

While Hoichoi’s growth shows that there is a market for specific language players, it looks like makers of aha have their task cut out in terms of getting strong traction amid viewers. This is why Thakur and Rao have different plans for aha.

While aha is a language-specific OTT for now, there are plans to bring other language content on the platform as well. Hindi is not the focus, regional languages are.

Both Jupally and Thakur want aha to be a national level local-video streaming platform.
Maryam Farooqui
first published: Nov 11, 2020 09:35 am

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