OTT players push for vernacular, fresh content to expand reach in India

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Representational image for Netflix. Photo: iStock.

Online streaming services, which are growing at a rapid pace in India, are now in a race to produce content in regional languages so that they can widen their reach, industry experts said at the South India Media Summit 2019 on Friday (August 9).

In the fast-growing over-the-top (OTT) segment, nearly 90 per cent of the consumers watch video content in regional languages. Only seven per cent of the total time spent on OTT platforms is spent on viewing English language content, according to an EY-FICCI report.

The OTT segment refers to content providers that stream media as a standalone product directly to viewers over the Internet. India has around 34 online streaming services, and the OTT market is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.82 per cent to reach Rs 11,977 crore by 2023, according to a June 2019 report by global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Over the past couple of years, content on OTT platforms in regional languages have grown as major OTT players such as Sony LIV, Voot and Amazon Prime seem to have identified the huge scope in the growth of Indian language content. Focusing on regional content would help the players grab a bigger share of the OTT platform in the future.

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“When we started ShareChat in 2015, people were just starting to watch regional content. Back then, people were scared that they would be judged for not using English but with time, things have changed. Right now, around 40 per cent of our users come from Tamil while Hindi users are sizeable,” Sunil Kamath, Chief Business Officer of ShareChat said.

While the company started pushing short video content as an experiment, Kamath said that ShareChat now has enough room for a partner.

The success story of ShareChat represents the potential of regional content. And it has also pushed other players to up their game in terms of producing fresh content in regional languages.

Stating that the industry has seen various trends from televisions to online streaming platforms, Rahul Mishra, Head of Marketing and Communications, Shemaroo Entertainment said that it is important to look at regional language content as around 200 million people come to OTT platforms to watch videos.

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“We have launched SonyLIV in Tamil a month ago and we are focusing on creating a screen that will provide customised content,” said Amogh Dusad, Head of Content Partnerships at Sony LIV.

Experts believe that the demand for regional content has pushed players to look for fresh talents, writers and directors so that they can work with them closely to produce original content.

The rising demand for OTT content also indicates a shift in the consumer experience. “Watching television is a shared experience whereas a mobile-screen gives a private experience. Thus, it opens ways to provide a wide range of content and use different ways of story-telling,” Mishra said.

To enhance the content viewing experience, Mishra said that Shemaroo Entertainment is working on devices with specialized speakers that can be used to just watch content. “We believe that mobile screen is a cluttered space and a specialized device to watch content would enhance consumers’ viewing experience,” Mathew said.