Benita Chacko
OTT Streaming

What role does regional content play for OTT platforms?

At the first edition of The Festival of Indian Languages (FOIL), curated by afaqs!, panellists discussed the growth of language content and its role in the platforms’ expansion strategy.

Suzhal, Bramayugam, Lampan, and now even reality shows like Masterchef India and Indian Idol - OTT platforms are increasingly creating content in languages other than English and Hindi. What is driving the growth of language content?

Recently, I moderated a panel discussion on this shift in the entertainment landscape at the first edition of The Festival of Indian Languages (FOIL), curated by afaqs!. The panellists included Anup Chandrasekharan, COO - regional content, IN10 Media Network, Divya Dixit, business strategy and growth advisor, Mahek Chhaya, director - strategy, Carat and Sathyajith Divakaran, senior general manager - digital, MMTv Limited.

According to Ormax Media's Audience Report 2023, the Indian OTT audience has only grown by 13.5% in 2023, as compared to a 20% increase in 2022. Dixit says that metros are already saturated and overcrowded, with Netflix, Prime Video, and other major platforms fiercely competing there. So for smaller platforms, it makes perfect sense to focus on local markets. 

“Local audiences deserve high-quality programming too. The question that many platforms face when creating content for hinterland audiences is whether these audiences are willing to pay as much as those in metro areas. The answer is that local audiences will pay for good OTT content. When offered engaging narratives and quality stories, they are willing to subscribe,” she said. 

However, she says some compromises are necessary—production values might be lower, and the cast may not feature major stars. “Providing a rich library of content in local languages can make audiences feel more at home. We've seen this strategy succeed with Zee5 and AltBalaji, proving that focusing on local content is a viable and profitable approach,” said Dixit, who has headed marketing at the two OTT platforms.

Quoting numbers from the recent FICCI-EY report, Chandrasekharan said in 2023, around 200,000 hours of content were created. Of this, 96% was TV content, 2% OTT, and the remaining 2% films. This 2% translates to approximately 4,000 hours, with about 3,000 hours being original content. Of this original content, 51% was regional, and this is expected to rise to 55% in the next three to four years. However, while Indian OTT platforms have mastered film production, web series are still a learning process.

“For any national player aiming for a broad reach, regional languages are essential. They need to offer content in at least six to eight languages, with each language having eight to ten pieces of content, whether films or web series. Currently, most films on OTT are from the South, where films are highly celebrated. However, the number of regional language web series is much lower. This is due to a lack of understanding of how to create high-quality web series narratives. Despite the nascent stage of this category, it will grow, and for it to do so, regional content must become national,” he shared.

Divakaran, who has earlier headed the mobile business at Disney+ Hotstar, said that when he worked with Star India’s OTT platform he approached things from a top-down perspective. Now, when he works at Manorama Max, the scene is very different. 

“With internet penetration at 85% in Kerala, a large number of people can access OTT content and engage with it daily. Surveys show that our OTT platform engages the highest number of people daily in Kerala, even compared to pan-India OTTs. This success is due to our focus on highly localised digital content. For the end user, it’s all about entertainment that feels comfortable and accessible. Content needs to be as local as possible, ensuring viewers understand and relate to it without feeling alienated. This approach is why regional content is thriving in India today,” he said.

Chhaya shed light on the language audience. In her observation the urban and metro markets are plateauing. Interestingly, a new demographic cohort, those aged 35 and above, has started embracing OTT. 

“This shift can be traced back to the COVID-19 pandemic, which had lasting ripple effects on media consumption. Traditionally TV-first, this audience turned to OTT due to the absence of fresh TV content during the pandemic. Additionally, the reverse migration from metros to non-metro areas brought digital habits back to smaller towns and rural regions,” she said.

Offering a contrary view to the belief that regional markets only respond to regional content, she said that urban markets are also eager for quality content, regardless of its source. 

“For regional OTT platforms, the key is to create good content. It's not just about relatability—viewers enjoy seeing characters and stories that reflect their own experiences—but also about offering aspirational content. Regional OTTs can introduce their audiences to international content, like Turkish or Korean dramas, dubbed in local languages. Thus, regional OTT platforms must strike a balance between relatable and aspirational content to engage their audiences effectively,” she added.

You can watch the full panel discussion below:

afaqs! FOIL 2024 Media Partner:

Community Partner:

The Advertising Club Bangalore

Networking Partner:


Associate Partners:

  • Jagran New Media

  • Manorama Online

  • TimesNow Navbharat and

  • Voxxy Media

This is the era of ‘Bharat’—an India where regional audiences have become more important than ever. Anandabazar Patrika, the leading Bengali daily in India, has always set a benchmark for how journalism should be done in a regional language. A brand that has become a habit and a matter of pride for Bengalis, Anandabazar has been a stalwart for over a hundred years. Anandabazar has always stood for innovations and disruptions. It has partnered with thought leaders in art, culture, and literature to foster the growth of the Bengali language., the digital arm of Anandabazar Patrika, carries this rich legacy of its parent. As a digital-first organization, it is revolutionizing content creation in regional language. It aims to disrupt age-old practices and embrace the new. The Festival of Indian Languages (FOIL), as an initiative aims to explore the power of local languages in mass media, which as an idea resonates with the same values and ethos that Anandabazar stands for. 'FOIL' will try to paint the linguistic patchwork that keeps together the magical concept of India. proudly partners with afaqs! in this endeavour.

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