How the demand for local language content increased in the last 5 years

✍️By Special Correspondent

Do you remember the time when we used to wait for a specific show or movie to air on tv, and the entire family used to sit together and enjoy it? But over the years, the preference for entertainment has changed rapidly. The audience wants it to be quick and available at their convenience. Especially since the pandemic, when everyone was stuck inside their homes, entertainment was the only option that was helping in keeping everyone sane.

Technology has been disrupting the show business at large. It has changed the way viewers consume entertainment, bringing innovation to different aspects of the industry, be it content or viewing quality. It has also contributed to the easy availability of any kind of content, irrespective of any location barriers.

The OTT revolution:

With the technological advancements, any geographical barrier is a myth now. You can easily enjoy a good Telugu movie on your smartphone while sitting at your home in Delhi. With the OTT space growing at a faster pace, the entertainment is home delivered to the audience basis their preference, keeping in mind the monetary aspects.

Over the years there have been many advancements in the delivery of entertainment media. Each of these advances has a serious impact on how entertainment is enjoyed around the world today. Consumers’ behavior also changed over time, compelling them to stream content to their mobile devices, at any time.  This was also beneficial for content providers as it allowed them to travel further to consumers. Even Pay-Tv is on the decline. Now monetization efforts are focused on subscriptions models, ads, premium video-on-demand, the release of theatre movies, thanks to the increased adoption of OTT platforms.  

OTT entertainment platforms first appeared in India in 2008. However, the true boom occurred when the bulk of the population was trapped indoors due to the pandemic forced lockdown. During this period, entertainment options were limited to indoor activities. Before the pandemic, access to OTT platforms was considered a luxury, reserved mostly by urbanites. But gradually with the reduction in subscription and data charges, it became a household commodity. 

Smartphones have further transformed the way people spend their quality time, by providing internet access on the go. OTT applications with a diversified content pool fit in nicely with changing user habits. It is obvious that urban residents are more likely to utilize OTT platforms, but as the availability of high-speed internet and regional language content becomes widely available, this urban-rural split will begin to contract. People are fully capable of purchasing high-quality content, and revenue data from the leading OTT platforms indicates that finding the proper package for large audiences is the key.

Evolution of regional content:

With the prevalence of the major OTT platforms concentrating primarily on the Hindi dialect, an unexplored cluster of OTT services catering to regional attractions and primacy is emerging. Unlike the prominent players, which are aiming for an expansive and diversified audience, localized OTT operators have carved a niche for themselves, catering to the native audience with the content of their dialect. In recent years, we have witnessed such regional OTT platforms gaining prominence, and the growth of platforms such as Hoichoi (Bengali), Nammaflix (Kannada), ManoramaMax (Malayalam), DivoTV (Tamil) and City Short TV (Gujarati) is a testimony to it.

Today’s audiences are discerning and receptive to new experiences. They are prepared to leave their comfort zones in search of good tales with compelling, nuanced plots. According to a FICCI-EY analysis of the M&E business, regional language usage on OTT platforms would surpass Hindi at 45 percent by 2025, up from 30 percent in 2019. This shows how vast the industry is changing, both in terms of content and consumption pattern, with the overall OTT business experiencing rapid development.

As per industry analysts, regional OTT already holds nearly 40-45% share of the general OTT pie in terms of consumption. This is primarily due to the content offerings, which mainstream OTT platforms are unable to supply.

Disrupting the OTT landscape with Airtel Xstream Premium:

To disrupt the growing OTT market, Airtel recently launched its Xstream Premium plan, which will feature content from 15 Indian and global video OTT’s. Customers will get access to one of the largest catalogue of  over 10,500 films, web-shows plus LIVE TV from SonyLiv, ErosNow, Lionsgate Play, Hoichoi, Manorama Max, Shemaroo, Ultra, Hungama Play, EPICon, Docubay, DivoTV, Klikk, Nammaflix, Dollywood and ShortsTV on a single platform with a single login only at Rs 149/month. Airtel Xstream has unlocked the exciting world of video streaming entertainment, for India’s growing tribe of digitally connected customers.

The way forward:

In the coming years, we’ll see exclusive regional content performing the best across the OTT segment, simply because people connect more with their mother tongue. Additionally, the OTT market is expected to reach $2 billion by 2025, offering a vast opportunity for the key players to expand their reach and subscription base. Hence, going ahead, it will be interesting to see which direction the sector will move, and who will sail the boat – Frontline content or regional ones. Price of subscription models will also be crucial, as they will set the course of increasing subscription base, especially in the in 5G era.

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