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NEW DELHI : With the rise in demand and appetite for regional language content, Bengali video streaming service Hoichoi said it has seen its watch-time and monthly streaming users double while viewership has jumped four times over the past year.

The SVF (Shree Venkatesh Films)-owned OTT platform, currently in the fifth year of launch, has seen 60 minutes of average daily watch-time among subscribers, with each user, on an average, visiting the platform thrice every day. The latest line-up announced on Friday includes titles like Srikanto, a modern retelling of a classic tale by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Byomkesh 7 featuring Arjun Chakrabarty, Ushasi Ray and Chandan Sen, the fifth instalment of Eken Babu, Troilokkyo based on a female serial killer, detective show Gora, family drama Indu, among others.

“Our focus will be split equally between original shows and acquired films since theatrical releases should also resume Durga Puja onwards," Vishnu Mohta, co-founder, Hoichoi said adding that the service is looking at releasing around 30 originals annually. Apart from adaptations of classic literature, the attempt is to bring marquee filmmakers on board and push the boundaries on the stories being told, Mohta said.

Apart from Indian shows, Hoichoi is also looking at producing Bangladeshi originals. Boli, the story of a father and son, Karagar, a story set in prison, Sabrinaon the oppression of women, Kaiser, about a homicide detective addicted to video games and Bodh, about a judge and the awakening of his conscience after retirement, are titles being planned in the neighbouring country.

To be sure, the aggressive push by regional players like Hoichoi comes at a time when foreign services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar are fast making inroads into vernacular content. All three have been tapping south Indian content seriously, including commissioning originals and acquiring films for direct-to-digital release. A report by Recogn, the market research division of digital marketing agency WATConsult released last July, said 70% of Indians would access the Internet in their native languages by the end of 2020. It had added that programmes around food, entertainment and education are always deemed better in local languages. An EY survey said that 21% of the respondents in non-metros said they would spend more on entertainment as compared to 5% in the metros.

"Most OTT platforms realise today that volume will come from regional content. This (entry of new players and initiatives by existing ones to bolster vernacular language libraries) means not just potential to get more users on board but give an opportunity to big, small and medium-budget companies and creators who pay close attention to quality content," Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO at SoCheers, an independent digital agency had said in a recent interview to Mint.

In Bangladesh, Hoichoi has partnered with ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and telecom operators like Link3 and Grameenphone for reach. It has planned expansion in Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East, where people belonging to the subcontinent, often working as labourers, may not have access to digital currency but can benefit from telco packages, Mohta said. 40% of Hoichoi’s direct subscription revenue is contributed by international markets.

“Earlier, we had to explain our offering to distribution partners. Now with the market having expanded, it’s the other way around, said Mohta whose platform plans to dub its content in other languages like Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, after already having dabbled with Hindi."

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