Presently, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil are the four most promising languages in the vernacular pool. What are people who speak these languages watching online these days?
The new wave of Indians consuming online video prefer stories in local languages. How do consumer tastes differ across Indian states? Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, contributing editor, Business Standard, spoke to a few experts about this, at vdonxt asia 2019.
Watch the video embedded in this article for details. Here are something interesting highlights from the discussion.
Datta Dave, co-founder, Tulsea, a media and content management company that represents writers, directors, actors and producers, said, "... regional OTTs are clearly very aware of what has worked on the film side in their markets - literature and classics in Bengali and the South, action in Punjabi, comedy in Hindi in the North... we're seeing a lot of that get translated into the episodic space..." about prevailing trends.
Girish Dwibhashyam, head - content, Spuul, an Indian video entertainment platform, said, "When we started out, it was more about Telugu and Tamil. Over time, we saw a lot of action on the Punjabi front... nowadays, we're seeing a lot of consumption of Bengali (content)..."
Today, almost 80-85 per cent of video consumption is on YouTube and Facebook. The other 10-15 per cent is on OTT platforms; India has more than 35 OTT apps, of which 10-15 have huge numbers.
Dwibhashyam brought up an interesting point in the context of languages and streaming platforms: As opposed to OTT platforms that have a clearly defined TG in terms of the language the audience speaks and consumes content in (example, Hoichoi targets people who speak Bengali), aggregator platforms or even broadcaster-owned OTT platforms typically cater to a linguistically heterogeneous audience comprising seven to eight separate language pools. "What gives them a bang for their buck? That needs to be decided," he said, about the latter kind, regardless of whether they are advertiser or subscription driven platforms.
"The next 300 million users are going to be from tier II and III cities; they're not going to pay for content.. If you put high quality regional language content behind a paywall, will you get the volumes? That's another deep question we should ask ourselves," he said, "... in the regional space, the percentage of growth is going to be much higher on AVOD, than on SVOD."
The Marathi space has seen a lot of growth in the recent past, he added later on during the discussion.
Kedar Gavane, vice president, sales and partners, comScore, a cross-platform measurement company, told the audience that vernacular content has a more "loyal" user base, compared to short form English videos that have a more "flimsy audience". He also spoke about the trend of offline videos - "they are, inherently, hard to track, and a lot of them are in vernacular languages".
Presently, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil are the four "monster" languages in the vernacular pool.
Gavane pointed out that because the "first level" of content on most OTT platforms is aggregated cinema and TV content, or shows that are pretty much "digital replications" of TV programmes, the "gradation" of vernacular content isn't as layered as it is for English content.
Gradation, to him, will increase when one actually goes closer to the lifestyles and cultures of the regional audiences one is looking to target and creates shows that reflect the nuances therein.
For example, food and cooking related online shows are likely to do well in South-East Asian markets like Thailand and Vietnam given their interest, as a people, in this area. "Niches of sub-genres like these can be leveraged. That's where the opportunity for creating exclusive shows lies..." he said.
Vishnu Mohta, co-founder, Hoichoi, Bengali SVOD OTT platform, pointed out that speakers of Bengali, Malayalam and Marathi tend to be "more diverse in their content choices". By that he means, these audiences are more willing than others to experiment with different genres.