Aishwarya Ramesh

On regional language content and advertising in the OTT space...

Off late, the OTT space in India has been buzzing with activity. Two unlikely players, Flipkart and Zomato have entered the playing field, making this a very interesting time for content creators and consumers alike. Indian advertising-led video-on-demand platform VOOT is all set for its foray into the Telugu market with the launch of COLORS Telugu on VOOT.

In the past, we've seen Viacom 18 push for regional content in the broadcast space with the introduction of Colors Marathi, Colors Gujarati and so on. But the release of Colors Telugu is different — it will not be broadcast on television; the channel's content will directly be available for streaming on the VOOT platform. The platform’s new language play will introduce Telugu audiences from AP/Telangana and the rest of India to 1200+ hours of Telugu content. The content line-up will include VOOT Originals, popular Hindi and regional Viacom18 IPs and a library of 150+ Telugu movies for its viewers to begin with. COLORS Telugu on VOOT is set to go live starting September 23, 2019.

In a press release, Gourav Rakshit, chief operation officer of Viacom8 Digital Ventures said, “The market propensity of the Telugu market towards digital content as well the significant internet penetration in the 2 states of AP/Telangana make them a high value opportunity to be harnessed. We will curate a content slate after substantial audience mapping and market research.”

Gourav Rakshit, COO Viacom 18
Gourav Rakshit, COO Viacom 18

On the sidelines of the press conference, we had the opportunity to chat with Rakshit to understand the push for regional content in the OTT space, better. We asked him why Viacom 18 is positioning regional as the 'new national’? He attributed the positioning to the 'on-demand' philosophy of the video-on-demand (VOD) space. "Given that most of India is regionally affiliated, viewers should be able to consume stuff in their own language. And therefore, if that’s how it's going to be in India, then every person's regional language is national," he told us.

Rakshit noted that the OTT industry was seeing massive growth thanks to regional consumption and the demand for content in different languages. "It is a coming-of-age of the industry, in terms of storytelling and engaging with consumers in the language of their choice. We are also seeing the maturation of the markets — the markets have become large enough to actually afford to have regionally focused content. Ours is an extreme position — most people will leverage a network's content on digital. We've taken the extreme position of going digital first without network content backing it up..." he elaborated.

He explained further that the decision making process is based on data that they had accumulated. "Even though we didn't have Telugu language presence, in terms of our content, we had a lot of usage from Andhra and Telangana. With a little secondary research, we realised that users do speak Telugu and their tendency was to gravitate towards whatever they found interesting in Hindi," Rakshit said.

He pointed out that the success of Hindi shows like Naagin, which was dubbed in Telugu, was a way for the company to know what kind of content was working. "Another reason is because our advertisers specifically demanded for it. National advertisers want to talk to their audience in Telugu — on Telugu programs. Not on Hindi content," Rakshit said. He also added, "The call would be very different if I had to create a brand from scratch in Andhra because fundamentally that meant that they didn't like VOOT. The reality is that they do like VOOT and they are on VOOT and, we are actually under-serving them by not offering them Telugu content.”

He told us that as far as Telugu content is concerned, because the nature of the content, it is not as traditional as it used to be - it is emerging as more relatable. He mentions that the Telugu diaspora across the world is very partial to Telugu content and that that has contributed towards the maturing of the industry and its part of the big thrust – its why the Telugu industry is doing well right now.

Before joining Viacom 18, Rakshit spent over a decade as the marketing head of "I think one of the reasons I was considered for this role is largely because I used to be in the subscription space. VOOT is a completely VOD player and runs one of the few successful subscription businesses in the country. At, I gained an understanding of what it takes to charge a consumer — because everybody else is accustomed to free stuff on the internet," he shared. Rakshit acknowledged that some other lessons he’s learned include how to price and package a product, how to package a proposition, and how to retain a customer.

Since the OTT space is seeing new players from different industries, we asked Rakshit if the Indian consumer was making content marketers, in the OTT space, bend over backwards in that sense. He replied, “The video revolution has been underway for a while now. Different players are entering the OTT space because that’s where the most amount of time is being spent. The question is, how can a player like Zomato or Flipkart follow up and make a monetisation model for this?”