Hindi dominates India's streaming scene even as regional content investment grows | Mint

Hindi dominates India's streaming scene even as regional content investment up

Growth for OTT platforms in terms of consumption and subscribers is likely to come from audiences in tier-two and tier-three cities of India, according to industry experts. (Stock Image)
Growth for OTT platforms in terms of consumption and subscribers is likely to come from audiences in tier-two and tier-three cities of India, according to industry experts. (Stock Image)

Summary

  • However, the movie market, particularly in regional languages, is experiencing soaring costs, which must be balanced with business realities

New Delhi: In 2023, India's on-demand streaming landscape has been predominantly shaped by Hindi content, accounting for nearly 40% of all views, as per industry experts. This trend persists despite growing investments in regional language content, especially in Telugu, Malayalam, and Kannada. 

As streaming services enhance their offerings in these southern languages, major acquisitions of big-scale theatrical films are expected in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu categories. It's anticipated that all content will be dubbed into major southern languages.

“There has been a healthy uptake in consumption of shows pan India across languages. However, the lion’s share of the viewership comes from Hindi speaking markets. English, Tamil which are also heavy interest markets for our genres and then followed by Telugu, Kannada, Bangla and Malayalam," said Sai Abishek, head of factual and lifestyle cluster, South Asia, Warner Bros, Discovery, that operates the discovery+ streaming platform in India. 

“This split is also function of multiple factors including historical interest in the category, consistent original programming and marketing in these markets, the size of and penetration in the said markets and the unique localization efforts taken to customize and adapt the shows to a local flavour," he said.

Abishek emphasized the company's continued investment in locally relevant content with compelling narratives and acquiring third-party factual tentpoles to complement their global content.

Industry experts have pointed out that the preference for Hindi language programming on OTT platforms is partly due to the abundance of catch-up television content available for streaming on broadcaster-based platforms like Disney+ Hotstar, ZEE5, and SonyLIV. Although regional languages hold potential for growth, English content has also seen a rise since its phase-out from linear television.

Manish Kalra, chief business officer, ZEE5 India, said regional has been a mainstay and a key focus for the company alongside Hindi, since the start and that shall continue. “In the coming year, maintaining a stronghold on content and technological advancements remains paramount, plus we will intensify efforts in exploring innovative marketing initiatives. This includes not only creating compelling content but also devising effective strategies to reach and engage with the larger audience base," Kalra said. 

Additionally, a significant emphasis will be placed on market research and consumer understanding, as these insights are crucial for tailoring content and services to meet evolving preferences, he added.

Niyati Merchant, co-founder and chief operating officer of Arré, a content company specializing in various formats, pointed out that the growth for OTT platforms in terms of consumption and subscribers is likely to come from audiences in tier-two and tier-three cities of India. 

“Therefore, content that resonates with audiences in those markets will find investment, whether it’s original shows or movies. Regional content hence becomes an important part of the content pie for platforms and studios, not just from a demand point of view, but also cost economics since regional productions are cheaper to produce as compared to mainstream Hindi and English content," Merchant said. 

Three upcoming shows from the Arré Studio slate will be in regional languages.

However, the movie market, particularly in regional languages, is experiencing soaring costs, which must be balanced with business realities. Acquisition rates for top Tamil and Telugu films are estimated to be upwards of 200 crore.

“Thus, the budget allocation on originals will increase in regional languages. As a consumer platform, we need to tell new stories and push boundaries. Hindi content creation will still be the largest chunk because there is significant headroom there as well," said Saurabh Srivastava, chief operating officer, digital business at Shemaroo Entertainment Ltd.

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