Going the regional way

Amrita Prasad
Friday, 5 October 2018

Of late, a lot of OTT platforms like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hotstar, Voot, ALTBalaji and so on have introduced regional content to make entertainment more inclusive. Here’s finding more about the trend

Recently, Amazon launched its Hindi app to tap 100 million customers to reach deeper into India’s rural and small town markets. Alexa, its virtual assistant, integrated ‘Cleo’ Skills wherein it allows users to teach it more about Indian languages and culture. The big players entering into the regional space is not just happening in the fields of education, technology and customer relationship. The field of entertainment getting into regional space is in fact one of the biggest trends today. When we say ‘entertainment’, we mean live streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Voot, ALTBalaji etc which are creating shows targeted at audiences who speak languages apart from English and Hindi. We chat up spokespersons from various OTT platforms to understand the trend. 

Bimal Unnikrishnan, head of content, Viu India, feels that with the immense exposure received through the web, regional audiences are evolving at a very rapid rate. “Their expectations are changing from dubbed, catch-up television content to storylines created with their local tastes and preferences. There is a need for original regional content to adapt from their cultural nuances and to redefine the digital entertainment scape,” adds Unnikrishnan. 

With Viu having a global lineage and local expertise, it aims to bring the best of content, shot in best regions with leading artists for an exemplary viewing. It is gearing up for Tamil shows like Kalyanamum Kadanthu Pogum, Madras Mansion and Nila Nila Odivaa and as a platform, it has great original regional content in its library that comprises different genres such as comedy, rom-coms, drama and so on. “Keeping the local preferences in mind, shows such as Nila Nila Odivaa, Door No 403, Pelli Gola in the comedy space, have received positive response. Thriller series such as Pilla, Social have also been much appreciated. The focus is strongly on providing an enthralling storyline and Viu aims to create content that is relatable, appealing and engaging for our audiences,” points out Unnikrishnan.

Connecting with telecom service providers
Hoichoi, world’s largest digital content platform exclusively for Bengali content, has made a place for itself in the last couple of years. The platform has also started an initiative to reach out to the Tier II and Tier III cities where the digital transaction awareness is less. With almost 40 per cent of the audience coming from non-urban areas, they decided to emulate the successful telecom model and introduce Hoichoi Top Up cards to make it convenient for their customers to subscribe. The top up cards will be available in the grocery stores and kiosks etc.
“With many Bengalis staying outside West Bengal, Hoichoi will make the new movies available on the platform within two weeks of their release. This is an initiative to bring cinema halls to mobile — literally,” says Vishnu Mohta, cofounder Hoichoi. 
The platform is giving more focus to localised content, with local artists in the cast to engage with the local audience. It aims to entertain the audience in Bangladesh, whereas its shows in the Middle Eastern countries will be dubbed in Arabic in order to reach out to a wider population base. Since a huge number of Indians migrate to UAE, shows are also being dubbed in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu to give them a taste of home outside home.

To provide an uninterrupted service to the viewers, more and more OTT platforms are joining hands with telecom service providers who are enabling data and internet at a pocket-friendly price. Sameer Batra, CEO, Content & Apps, Bharti Airtel Ltd says that today, proliferation of smartphones and availability of affordable data have created a massive scope for consumption of regional language content on OTT platforms. “A large chunk of Airtel TV users are also heavily inclined towards regional content. That makes it imperative for us to keep collaborating with local content creators to offer a better entertainment experience to our users. On Airtel TV, we already have a diverse content catalogue covering 15 plus languages. We ensure the same content is also curated in an impeccable manner, keeping in mind the user’s consumption preferences,” he adds. 

Airtel’s partnerships include Netflix, ZEE5, Hotstar, SonyLIV, Amazon Prime, Eros Now and ALTBalaji.

Now when the spotlight is on regional content — shows and movies — the audience is spoilt for choice. Then what do they want to see? “We have seen that consumption from non-English/Hindi speaking markets has been growing. The big thrust is now on regionalisation of content. People watch movies or series with subtitles in their regional language. We definitely see a great potential here. Hence, we are now creating original content in regional languages as people are willing to consume and pay for it. We have dubbed our shows in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and also have Tamil and Bengali shows on the app. Also, we are planning to launch a Bhojpuri show in six months. We are targetting metros and Tier II, Tier III towns with regional programming as well as Indians who stay abroad and want to see shows in their mother tongue. This is a great opportunity for us and we are investing heavily to fulfil the existing gap,” says Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji.

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