Benita Chacko

Regional OTT market is evolving and maturing; more stronger content pipeline expected in next few years

OTT players insist that they will soon start providing a robust pipeline of content. Read on for highlights of our panel discussion.

While the COVID pandemic has led to a boom of OTT platforms in the last one-and-a-half years, regional content is yet to see growth at the same pace. On television, regional language general entertainment channels (GECs) are growing faster than Hindi GECs. Yet, we don’t see the same trend on OTT.

On Day 3 of ABP News presents Languages Week, powered by Colors Bangla, Anirban Roy Choudhury, associate editor at afaqs!, spoke to Divya Dixit, senior VP - revenue and marketing at ALTBalaji; Pooja Rajadhyaksha, head of content at Eros Now; and Kranti Gada, COO, Shemaroo Entertainment, about what’s holding back regional OTT programming.

Watch the video below:

Edited excerpts:

Rajadhyaksha of Eros Now said that the regional markets are evolving and maturing. “Over the last one year, during the pandemic, there's been an exponential growth in the consumption of content and viewership across markets. Mainstream languages have been able to create critical mass audiences. With that happening, the regional markets are just going to explode in the next 2-3 years. They are huge markets, so there's huge untapped potential, for sure.”

“With 50 per cent of our viewership in regional languages, it goes without saying that every platform will make more regional language content. In another year from now, there'll be a lot more content coming in, across languages.”

Gada of Shemaroo Entertainment said that it's a matter of time before the industry matures. “Maximum OTT viewership comes from the early adopters. Most of them are well versed with Hindi and English, and many of them are even language agnostic and consume content in multiple languages. In the next few years, there will be consumers who have more affinity to watch content only in their regional language. I can see a lot of effort by national OTTs and a lot of money flowing into smaller regional OTTs that will drive these ecosystems.”

ALTBalaji's Dixit said, “In the next few years, there will be a good and strong enough pipeline of language content being serviced to India and the language diaspora across the globe. The consistency of the pipeline and the quality of the shows are critical. The first step is to enhance the quality and then maintain the consistency in delivering it and, on the back of it, ensuring that there is a plethora of content available, whether it's dubbed, or subtitled.”

Dixit added that ALTBalaji makes a conscious attempt to first cement its position in the Hindi market and then head to the regional language market. “At no point of time, should your attempt at language market shortchange the consumer by giving them one show in a year and dub the rest. It's a very short-sighted approach. We have to give them a consistent pipeline of content created in their language, with their sensibilities, actors, background and storytelling.”

“People in the language market are very sensitive about their content being dubbed, or being specifically made for, say, 'me'. There is an intention to work on the languages. But the idea is to first capture the low hanging fruits, and then move on to the next.”

Refuting the theory that OTT platforms think regional content is only consumed in the hinterland, Dixit also said, “We believe that Indian languages only add to the consumption, the business model and the revenue. None of the OTT platforms think that languages are to be condoned to the hinterlands and they are not a good enough business model. We are dying to expand our platforms and get as much consumer participation as we can.”

ShemarooMe launched a Gujarati OTT platform in April 2021. Gada said that the audience reaction to Gujarati content created with Mumbai talent is different from that for content created by people born and brought up in Gujarat. “It's not about providing two pieces of content and then dubbing the rest. You have to submerge yourself in that market and also tap into local nuances. We have to act like a local player over there.”

Speaking on the budget for regional content, Rajadhyaksha said, “From a business model perspective, we currently have a limited budget. The limitation arises from content monetisation. There's a bit of hesitation there. The local markets have been exposed to some great mainstream and international content. So, one has to have good quality content. It's a matter of a year, or two, and budgets will not be a constraint, eventually.”

The panel also fielded questions about the challenges of language content travelling across various regions in India, and abroad.

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