Netflix, Amazon ramp up regional content as language-specific OTTs gain scale

Netflix, Amazon ramp up regional content as language-specific OTTs gain scale

NEW DELHI: India’s top three video streaming players are bolstering their regional content as language-specific streaming sites such as Hoichoi and Aha Video gain scale. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have announced original films in Tamil, and also anthologies.

On Netflix, Paava Kadhaigal, will feature shorts by popular filmmakers like Gautham Vasudev Menon, Sudha Kongara and Vetrimaaran featuring Kalki Koechlin, Prakash Raj, Sai Pallavi and others. Amazon Prime Video will have a anthology of five short films with Rajiv Menon, Suhasini Mani Ratnam and Karthik Subbaraj and Disney+ Hotstar is readying to acquire its first regional language film that is skipping theatrical release due to covid-19.

Although VoD service offer regional language content acquired from studios and producers, the new titles are all originals commissioned exclusively by the platforms. Media and entertainment industry experts say the covid-19 pandemic has marked a milestone of sorts for regional language streaming as platforms get serious about their spends on them.

“This (the investment in original regional content) is a natural progression for OTT services given the huge opportunity to capture audiences in India with increasing access to Internet and mobile handsets,” Vishal Shah, managing partner at GroupM-owned media agency MediaCom said. Entry barriers to the OTT space are far lower than broadcasting and it is possible for any startup to license or create content, Shah said.

Consequently, entrenched foreign players have to constantly up their game. The past few months of covid-19 have seen a slew of new services being launched.

Telugu filmmaker Allu Aravind started Aha Video in Telugu while Marathi film producer Akshay Bardapurkar is floating a Marathi language video streaming service called Planet Marathi by December. A new service STAGE will offer original content in local dialects such as Haryanavi, Rajasthani, Bhojpuri, Konkani, among others, through formats such as comedy, folk, poetry, storytelling and motivational content.

Bengali streaming service Hoichoi had notched up 13 million subscribers by September.

“This growth during the lockdown has been a once in a lifetime opportunity. We were able to notch up two to three times the kind of viewership that we managed daily earlier,” said Vishnu Mohta, co-founder of Hoichoi adding while the average Hoichoi customer was spending 1 hour 10 minutes a day on the platform at the peak of the lockdown, the figure now stands around 50 minutes.

Nearly 40% of its revenue comes from diaspora in Bangladesh, West Asia and others.

Gaurav Gandhi, director and country general manager, Amazon Prime Video India, had earlier said that 50% of the audience for the south Indian language films they premiered has come from outside their native states.

“The efforts to penetrate tier-two, three and four towns by 2023-24 will be driven by regional content,” said Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO of independent digital agency SoCheers. And investments will continue even after theatres reopen, Gupta said, as people are unlikely to flock to cinemas in large numbers and credible names in regional movie industries, such as Suriya and Vijay Sethupathi see their films going directly to digital platforms.