NEW DELHI :
Unlike Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and several other local streaming services that offer content in multiple languages, a clutch of new video-on-demand platforms are choosing to focus on specific regional languages to target a niche but loyal audience base.
Although Hoichoi, the Bengali streaming platform owned by SVF Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, took the lead when it launched close to two years ago, a couple of them have just joined in.
A new movie streaming app called Simply South has been launched to cater to expats in the Indian diaspora looking for films in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Besides, Matrubharti, a self-publishing e-book platform has also diversified into video content and offers shows in Hindi, Gujarati and Marathi.
To be sure, though, it is small at the moment, online streaming companies say there is a big enough market for content in even one specific language.
“The language focus helps in achieving depth as opposed to breadth of content," said Vishnu Mohta, co-founder, Hoichoi, adding that there is often a huge body of work created in a specific language, and many times people don’t know about it. Hoichoi, currently has 500 movies and does two original shows every month.
“Search and discoverability on the Internet are major challenges anyway. India might be one country but every region has got its own nuances and culture. If it was that simple then we could have everything in one language and there would be no need for content in multiple languages in movies or on television. But that doesn’t happen and the same applies to OTT (over-the-top) platforms too," Mohta added.
Anish Wadhwa, founder of Simply South said the app was cashing in on the void left open by bigger, more mainstream players. “Today, if you want to watch a south Indian film, there are hardly any avenues. You can either watch in theatres or whatever little is available on Amazon or Netflix that are providing content in every language and are well marketed. Basically there is no platform dedicated to providing only south Indian content so we thought we might cash in on our strength," Wadhwa said.
Simply South currently has 650 movies across three languages and it is unlikely that any other player has such a vast library. Some of these films go back to the 1950s and 60s and will be impossible to find, except on pirated sites, Wadhwa added.
Sudish Balan, chief business officer at digital media marketing and advertising agency Tonic Worldwide, called language targeting a kind of marketing strategy for niche audiences. The fact that Dangal TV and Sun TV, Hindi and Tamil language channels respectively, top BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) ratings is proof that Indian audiences want content in their native language.
According to the Ficci-EY media and entertainment industry report 2019, overall consumption continued to increase on video OTT platforms in 2018, with regional consumers driving growth.
Google claims that 97% of content on its YouTube platform is now consumed in local languages, and a similar trend was seen across most of the OTT platforms in India, all of whom claimed that over 90% of content consumption on their platforms was in regional languages.
Driven by the faster growing rural Internet-using population, as well as increased time spent by rural audiences on their phones on entertainment as compared to urban audiences, this trend will continue to be relevant in 2019 and beyond, and is expected to lead to more money being allocated to regional language content and marketing, the report said.
“Though many people in India are multilingual, they want to consume content in their own native language. There is a realization that maybe 10 languages in India together have a population of about 50-100 billion people. And each of them presents a big enough case of people to convert to a (language-focused) platform and hopefully create a club in that ecosystem," Mohta said.