With the rise in OTT consumption in India, the shifting content consumption patterns of the customers have forced streaming players to constantly look for new, differentiated content in languages other than English and Hindi.
According to a latest FICCI-EY report, the share of regional languages in overall OTT video content in India will double from 27 per cent in 2020 to 54 per cent in 2024.
In 2021, 47 per cent of OTT originals and 69 per cent of movies released on streaming platforms were in regional languages.
Alarmed by the success of regional content on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, domestic platforms such as Zee5, VOOT, SonyLiv etc. are now busy acquiring movies in southern languages, besides Marathi and Punjabi, according to experts.
The Malayalam film ‘Minnal Murali’, launched on Netflix on Christmas Eve last year, became a global sensation, reaching the fourth spot on the streaming platform’s ‘Global Top 10 (Non-English)’ list. According to Netflix, ‘Minnal Murali’ was streamed across the globe for over 59.9 lakh hours.
Several theatrical blockbusters, including Allu Arjun’s Telugu sensation ‘Pushpa: The Rise’ and the Prabhas starrer ‘Radhe Shyam’, have done wonders in the OTT space.
Amazon Prime Video is now set to release a fresh bouquet of Malayalam films including actor-producer Tovino Thomas’ ‘Naradan’ and Mohanlal’s ‘Aaraattu’.
Having tasted success, the biggies have doubled down on their efforts to promote local content on their platforms and gain users worldwide (including the Diaspora).
“As India’s digital economy grows, and more Indians get connected online, the composition pattern of the Indian OTT audience is increasingly becoming more heterogeneous,” Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group, CMR, told IANS.
This is why the share of regional vernacular OTT programming in India is potentially poised to surge past 50 per cent over the next three years.
“Regional OTT platforms are placing more emphasis on storytelling and quality production, and this is translating to more eyeballs for them,” Ram added.
Streaming service providers in India have experimented with different models, such as investments in local and regional content, bundled offerings, tiered pricing, and hybrid models with varying degrees of success.
In this rapidly evolving market, streaming players focus more on customer acquisition as opposed to customer churn.
Reports say that the need for dubbing, titling, formatting etc. to make the content mobile will increase with this trend, and advertising rates of regional media will rise to be at par with the growing per-capita income of regional markets.
Currently, more and more OTT platforms are streaming regional cinema to gain a pie of the growing segment.
The vernacular streaming platforms are not behind. Platforms like like Hoichoi (Bengali), Sun NXT (South Indian content), Aha (Telugu), Koode (Malayalam), Planet Marathi (Marathi), Stage (Haryanvi), CityShor TV (Gujarati), Chaupal (Punjabi, Haryanvi and Bhojpuri), Olly Plus (Odia) and ManoramaMax (Malayalam) are also gaining popularity in their respective geographies.
Jehil Thakkar, Partner, Media and Entertainment Leader, Deloitte India, told IANS, “As audiences continue to experiment with genres and languages, we have witnessed exponential growth in the number of non-Hindi language platforms catering to regional audiences.
“The share of regional language consumption on OTT platforms will cross 50-55 per cent by 2025, surpassing Hindi. This growth will spur marketeers to tap into audiences outside the English and Hindi-speaking ones. Going local is the new buzz, as regional is poised to become the largest piece of the Indian entertainment ecosystem.”
However, there lie a couple of challenges for both local OTT platforms as well as global giants.
“Pricing for streaming services will remain competitive as service providers attempt to stabilise and consolidate their customer base. Monetisation remains a challenge — both through Ad-based Video on Demand (AVOD) and Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) models. The cost of content has been rising as well as the cost of talent as content wars accelerate between platforms,” explained Thakkar.
For global OTT majors to compete effectively with the emerging 14-16 regional OTTs, there is a need to place more emphasis on a richer content mix, going beyond English and Hindi.
“OTT platforms that have experimented with bringing vernacular programming in their mix have tasted early success,” said Ram.