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Viewership of international content on over-the-top (OTT) video streaming platforms in India has nearly doubled in 2022 as audiences took to original and dubbed versions of English, Turkish, Spanish and Korean shows and films.

Viewers have become increasingly language agnostic owing to dubbing and subtitling of international shows popular for high-quality storytelling and production, said streaming services firms. Many services also used social media influencers and Bollywood stars to market these shows in India over the past year.

According to media consulting firm Ormax, the most viewed international series this year include House of the Dragon (28.2 million) and Moon Knight (23.4 million) beating last year’s record of 19.3 million by Hawkeye. All three shows are on Disney+Hotstar.

“Indian viewers have high interest and appetite for great global and local content. Stories are universal and streaming with its innate ability to transcend physical boundaries has allowed audiences across the globe to experience them in a language they prefer. People are inherently culturally curious, intrigued by stories from around the world," a Netflix spokesperson said. Another important aspect of stories travelling round the world has been the acceptance of subtitles and dubs, said the person adding that the platform dubs and subtitles shows and films in up to 37 languages.

International TV shows and films that have trended on the India Top 10 row this year on Netflix include All of us are Dead, Stranger Things 4, Red Notice, Bridgerton Season 2, DAHMER: Monster- The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and Don’t Look Up.

Of the international series promoted in India, the top three are from established franchises and superhero genres, said Keerat Grewal, partner at media consulting firm Ormax. The most-viewed international web-series launched this year are Disney+Hotstar’s House of the Dragon (28.2 million) and Moon Knight (23.4 million), and The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings of Power (22 million) on Amazon Prime Video. In 2021, the highest viewership came for Hawkeye, also on Hotstar, with a viewership of 19.3 million.

“From international content, English language content dominates viewership, with 65% of SVoD (subscription-led video-on-demand) audiences watching it, with or without language support, followed by Korean language content, being viewed by 30% of the SVoD audience base. The SVoD audience in India is today watching an average of 4.6 languages versus the AVoD audience which doesn’t get enough dubbed content and is restricted to an average of 2.3 languages of consumption," Grewal added.

Sai Abishek, head of factual and lifestyle cluster, South Asia, Warner Bros. Discovery, said most of the company’s shows are localized in Hindi, Tamil, Bangla, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam for its streaming platform discovery+. “The mushrooming of platforms offering international programming and audiences subscribing to multiple services has increased their exposure to high quality compelling storytelling. Sticky localized marketing campaigns, competitive product pricing as well as internet penetration have all played a significant role in popularising international content in the country," Abishek said.

Amit Dhanuka, executive vice-president, Lionsgate said international content is making a strong pull for the consumer’s wallet, aided by the fact that shows and movies are released on the same day and date in India as foreign services and often without edits. The company that has seen hits like Tokyo Vice and Gaslit this year has received requests from social media users to dub shows into Marathi and Bhojpuri besides Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.

Consumers are increasingly becoming language agnostic and have the appetite for content across languages, said Mansi Shrivastav, senior vice-president, content acquisitions and alliances, at advertising-led OTT service MX Player.

“At the outset, we tested the ground by dubbing Turkish and English shows in Hindi. As we added content from other parts of the world like China, Korea, Spain, and Mexico, we strategically dubbed them first in Hindi and simultaneously expanded to Tamil and Telugu for the established Turkish and English categories," Shrivastav said. It also added other language versions such as Kannada, Bengali, Marathi, and Malayalam. “We have seen massive growth in the consumption of Korean shows while Mandarin, Spanish and Italian shows are also quite popular," said Shrivastav citing Daydreamer, The Promise, Dr Romantic, Heirs, Angel’s Last Mission: Love, The Untamed, Martial Universe, My Girlfriend is an Alien, The Outpost, Emerald City and Love Is In The Air as hits.

Mitesh Kothari, co-founder and chief creative officer at digital agency White Rivers Media said movies and shows that previously wouldn’t have entered the Indian borders are now being viewed and loved all over the country. “Recommendation algorithms on OTT platforms and outstanding marketing played a crucial role in making foreign language content popular," Kothari said.

The challenge for marketers is how to best ensure the emotion or sentiment (of the international show) is brought alive to a large section of the audiences by capturing local nuances and relevant mediums, said Azmat Jagmag, head of marketing, South Asia, Warner Bros Discovery. “Local cultural insights and mediums like influencers and digital help fast-track this objective. Last year we launched a local version of an international IP – ‘Say Yes To The Dress India’, and used a music video to promote the same," Jagmag added.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lata Jha

Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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