• Rural India is the new audience
  • OTT platforms to see a rise in local content
  • Regional content catalogues to expand

It is estimated that in 2020, the rural areas of India are going to provide about 75 percent of the new Internet users. These new users are going to opt for data in their local or regional language. With the urban market on the verge of saturation, rural India will provide a huge untapped audience which these OTT players will look for in the next round of growth. The advent of cheaper data is spiking the growth for OTT players in tier-2 and -3 cities. The OTT platforms have realized that there is a market for regional content. There is also a slew of content creators for the regional market or local cable television.

As smartphones with affordable data plans made their way into rural landscapes of India and lifted them from internet blackholes, OTTs faced a new challenge of quelling the thirst of new viewers. The acclaimed international shows on OTTs like ‘Games of Thrones’ on Hotstar, ‘Dark’ on Netflix, and so on found a willing audience in the urban cities. These shows do not resonate much with tier-2 and tier-3 cities in India.

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. Viu was one of the first players to move into regional content production. Just because an OTT platform decided to invest or create regional content does not mean that they will gain an audience. To retain users, all major platforms have invested in user experience.

One of the hurdles faced by the platforms is the well-established domestic film and TV market. The average price of pay tv in India is about Rs.270 per month while the basic Netflix subscription is Rs.499 per month. India’s successful domestic film and TV network markets poses a stiff challenge for newcomers.

During the presentation of 2020 Budget, Indian finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed linking 100,000 gram panchayats with fibre-to-home internet connectivity in 2020-21 through telecom infrastructure provider BharatNet. This move would boost regional language content streaming, audio and video, in India’s small towns. Search engine Google claims that 97% of content on its YouTube platform is now consumed in regional languages, and a similar trend is seen across most of the OTT platforms in India.

While Hoichoi streams content specifically in one regional language ie. Bengali, others like Netflix, Prime Video, as well as Hotstar, ZEE5, ALTBalaji and others, are investing in their regional content libraries.


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