Smaller scale helps regional OTT platforms ride bumps

Hyperlocal content and slow start have given such platforms’ time to evaluate the market and they believe catering to a specific niche has its own advantages. (Reuters)
Hyperlocal content and slow start have given such platforms’ time to evaluate the market and they believe catering to a specific niche has its own advantages. (Reuters)


  • Aha video, Planet Marathi, OM TV say they haven’t cut budgets as they started cautiously

With subscriptions hitting a plateau and large, foreign OTT platforms controlling budgets, smaller streaming services that focus on specific regional languages or a certain genre may be at an advantage thanks to their smaller scale. Platforms like aha video, Planet Marathi, OM TV and others say they haven’t had to cut budgets since they started cautiously and have benefited from catering to region-specific audiences. Their hyperlocal content and slow start have given them time to evaluate the market and they believe catering to a specific niche has its own advantages. Many are looking to scale up and seek funding.

“Being a homegrown player has distinct advantages. Our proximity to consumers enables us to have a better understanding of their expectations. Although rising content acquisition costs may pose a challenge, we leverage our flexibility to make strategic bets that enable us to make smart purchases while keeping a close eye on acquisition costs," said Rakesh C.K., head - SVoD and business strategy of aha, an OTT platform that primarily offers content in Telugu and Tamil. The company is also experimenting with content formats that help it tap newer audience categories while collaborations with hyperlocal partners are instrumental in expanding reach, C.K. added.

Akshay Bardapurkar, founder of OTT platform Planet Marathi said instead of reducing output, smaller players like them are trying to be completely sure of what they put out. “Ironically, the costliest shows are not the biggest successes. It is the small ones, more rooted in local sensibilities that work," he pointed out.

In a way, smaller players do not compete with international giants when it comes to content offerings, Rajat Agrawal, director of Ultra Media and Entertainment Group that owns Marathi OTT Ultra Jhakaas, said. “To battle rising prices and competition, they need to adopt tiered pricing models, offering different subscription plans with varying levels of content access and features. Bite-sized subscription plans work better. They may adopt a more targeted marketing strategy, focusing on digital advertising and organic growth through social media, influencer collaborations, and word-of-mouth promotion, rather than expensive traditional marketing campaigns," Agrawal said.

That said, smaller, homegrown OTT platforms face unique challenges in an environment where even foreign rivals are controlling costs, said Keerthi R Kumar, business head, south, at digital advertising agency FoxyMoron said.

“One of the key challenges is competing with the vast resources and extensive content libraries of larger players. To battle competition and rising prices, smaller players typically focus on differentiating themselves by offering niche content that cater to specific audience segments or by providing localized and regional content that resonate with their target market. Additionally, smaller players often prioritize fostering strong relationships with content creators and investing in original content that stand out from the offerings of their competitors. This can help them build a loyal following and establish a unique brand identity in the market. Collaboration with other smaller players and focus on region or language specific content is a possible outlet as well to stay ahead of the curve," Kumar said.

The approach of homegrown players has been different, said Nitin Jai Shukla, founder and managing director of OM TV, an app for spiritual content.

Because they didn’t start by operating at levels where production values or infrastructure costs were massive, they’ve always been cautious. “India is a diverse country and you can cater to several niches in terms of language or demography even if production values are not high," Shukla said adding that the company is also in talks with aggregators and a Marathi language OTT platform to collaborate on content in order to strengthen its play.

Similarly, this June, BookMyShow Stream had partnered with MUBI, a platform known for international content to bring world cinema titles to the TVoD (transaction video-on-demand) platform. While bigger players will continue getting support from their parent companies, smaller OTTs who have already bridged the gap on a vernacular level, will have to maintain their momentum of constantly evolving and producing newer content, said Shivani Kamdar, associate creative director at digital agency SoCheers. “There are two things these homegrown brands have already identified and gotten right. One, to adopt short-form videos, which adds to the advantage of hyperlocalising the content. And two, endorsing newer talent that not only drive newer audiences but also come cheap," Kamdar said.

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