Harnessing the diverse regional OTT juggernaut
India’s digital entertainment landscape has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, with the rise of Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms. These platforms, once limited to international content, have now embraced regional languages and cultures. From compelling Tamil dramas to hilarious Marathi comedies, regional OTT services have democratized content consumption while preserving indigenous languages and cultures. This shift highlights the immense potential of India’s regional OTT content, revolutionizing entertainment consumption in the country.
Adgully spoke to some industry experts to gauge the growth of regional content on OTT platforms as well as regional OTT platforms and the key factors fuelling this growth.
Soumya Mukherjee, COO, hoichoi, pointed out, “Language barriers have been removed in recent times in the theatrical space and the same effect has been observed in the streaming space as well. Users do not classify content as “Regional” and “Hindi” anymore. If they want to watch the content, they will watch it no matter what the language is. The subject of the show, storytelling, cast and word of mouth are all important factors. Moreover, the stories are mostly culturally rooted when it comes to the ‘language’ OTT and could be a reason for its mass popularity.”
Kavitha Jaubin, Vice President – Content & Strategy, aha, noted the massive emergence of South Indian content and how it is reaching pan India. She stated, “In recent years, regional cinema, exemplified by films like "Pushpa," "RRR," "Ponniyan Selvan," and "Kantara," has garnered significant recognition and acclaim both nationally and internationally. This recognition has not only bolstered the credibility and appeal of regional content, but has also resulted in a notable uptick in regional content consumption on OTT platforms worldwide.”
Jaubin further added, “Localization of content emerges as another significant factor. OTT platforms have introduced audiences to subtitles, regional language interfaces, and dubbing, making it more accessible for viewers to enjoy content in their preferred language. The diverse storytelling and wide variety of content also contribute substantially to the ongoing surge in regional content's popularity.”
Importance of storytelling for regional content on OTT platforms
Jaubin further said, “From a broader perspective, storytelling has evolved significantly, paralleling advancements in filmmaking globally. This transformation has opened a new avenue for regional creators to authentically depict the essence of their culture, forging deeper emotional connections with the audience. Rather than relying on extravagant budgets or star-studded casts, it strongly emphasises the depth of character development and intricate plotlines. This approach resonates particularly well with viewers seeking relatable content. An example is our recent series, "PettaKalli," which uses the backdrop of the famous sport Jallikattu to craft a gripping love story. It achieved global recognition due to its robust characters and rooted narrative.”
Additionally, OTT platforms have provided a platform for daring storytelling and narratives that genuinely represent unique cultures and traditions, giving rise to fresh voices and narratives. These narratives often showcase unseen settings, landscapes, and locations, offering a novel experience to a global audience which mainstream productions may overlook. The success of any regional story lies in the quality of storytelling, serving as the cornerstone to craft a distinct visual and narrative journey.
Strategies and challenges to reach Tier 2 and 3 cities in India
According to Soumya Mukherjee from hoi choi, “At the core of it, the content choices of the Indian audience is diverse because of the diversity of culture and language we possess. The audience preferences of Tier 2 and Tier 3 are not significantly different from others. The matter of fact is that there needs to be multiple distribution networks and channels for them to access the content easier and faster. It can be through cable, or ISP, or broadband, or telecom partners or through syndication with other OTTs.”
On the other hand, Kavitha Jaubin noted, “OTT penetration in India remains primarily an urban phenomenon. Given India's vast population of 1.5 billion, extending OTT reach to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities is imperative for broader market access. When developing intellectual properties (IPs), a conscious effort should be made to craft content that resonates with the entire market. This relatability enhances audience engagement as viewers can connect with the characters and their experiences, elevating the content's popularity. At aha, we prioritize creating characters that exude relevance and authenticity. Our recent launch, the daily series "Vera Maari Office," centres around a start-up company and office dynamics while offering a diverse representation of characters hailing from various regions in Tamil Nadu. We have incorporated multiple dialects to cater to Tier 2 and Tier 3 audiences, fostering a personalized approach that cultivates a more intimate and engaged fan base.”