“No matter how humble, there’s no place like home.”
This mantra is driving the success of regional OTT platforms in a space traditionally dominated by global OTT giants. Regional OTT platforms are finding success beyond local news or sports, with viewers hungry for content that resonates with their roots and culture.
Working with hundreds of OTT players over the years, I have been fortunate to have had a front-row view into the growth of the regional content phenomena, with many of these regional players being our customers.
Hoichoi, for example, was launched to address the global Bengali market. Its founders capitalized on two themes – the inability of international OTT channels to provide enough and truly resonating Bengali content and Hoichoi’s unique ability to source authentic Bengali content creators and storytellers. According to hoichoi Co-Founder Vishnu Mohta, “India speaks various languages. Among those are ten languages, which 50-100 million people speak globally. Each of them can support an OTT platform… We should consider how to entertain households from different languages because they are underserved today”.
Based on this strategy, hoichoi is now among India’s top 5 OTT platforms, serving not just Indian Bengalis but the global Bengali diaspora. Most of its revenue comes from outside Bengal, and 40% of its viewership is outside India.
AHA, the brainchild of Telugu movie icon Allu Aravind who was enamored by the growth of digital entertainment is now a major OTT player in the Telugu market. Interestingly, AHA’s launch in 2020 came after global players like Netflix and Disney-Hotstar had already established their presence in India. Yet, AHA capitalized on its advantages over the global OTT giants – unique locally-sourced content and access to celebrities – to rack up one million paid subscribers within a year of its launch. Today, according to AHA CEO Ajit Thakur, the platform has over 50 million users, about 10 million monthly users, and 2 million paid subscribers. Thakur says, “We are overwhelmed with the response and love we have received for AHA in India and the Indian diaspora spread across the world. The platform now seeks to replicate its success with Telugu content in the enormous Tamil market. The content resonates with Telugu audiences across about 100 countries in the world. We are increasing in the US and have a significant presence in Canada.”
Yet another example of winning hyperlocal content is the LNP. Of course, most of us instantly connect basketball with the NBA. But the Italian domestic league, Lega Nazionale Pallacanestro (LNP), has a wide following too. But, because of its regional flavor, it was neglected by the major sports channels. This prompted LNP to launch its platform, LNP Pass, to improve the league’s visibility. Today, LNP Pass streams 1,300 games per year, covering different divisions, more than twice as many as their closest European competitors. Eager to see their local heroes in action, fans in Italy and the global Italian diaspora eagerly consume LNP content.
Broadcast TV and radio may seem an antiquated concept, but broadcast major Tegna has managed to buck the trend. It has acquired multiple local news stations and focused on hyperlocal reporting. While individual station revenues may seem small, they have collectively made Tegna a force to reckon with in the public broadcast space.
Regional Content: Another David Vs. Goliath?
All these examples expect viewers to care about local content, no matter how far they travel from their roots in the pursuit of life and work. Regional content isn’t just consumed in the region and by expatriates keen on maintaining ties with their hometowns. These audiences have been underserved because of simple economics – global OTT platforms can’t muster many local storytellers, producers, and talent across multiple geographies and languages. Regional OTT creators, on the other hand, intuitively understand what keeps their audiences engrossed and can better cater to their needs.
Regional OTT platforms have already seized this opportunity. In India alone, regional languages in overall OTT content will double from 27% in 2020 to 54% in 2024, according to a recent Ficci EY report. In 2021, 47% of OTT originals and 69% of films released on platforms were not in Hindi, the predominant Indian language, but in the many regional Indian languages. The very nature of OTT platforms has contributed to this phenomenon. As smartphone penetration increases, the demand for personalized content in viewers’ native languages has shot up. Given that just 27% of Indians are on OTT platforms (compared to a staggering 80.4% penetration in a western market like Canada), there is significant untapped potential for hyperlocal, regional content.
It is also important to note that individual regional OTT platforms’ revenues may seem small, but they are collectively a significant chunk of the market. Additionally, viewers spend more time on local content, as people tend to care more about what’s happening on their doorsteps and in their homes.
Upping Your OTT Game: How to Succeed in Local Markets
Success in the regional content OTT ecosystem depends on three critical success factors.
Get your content right: Keeping a keen ear to the ground is the priority for a successful regional OTT strategy. Focusing on stories, topics, news, and sports makes a platform different and locally relevant. Building a network of local talent is essential since these content creators intuitively know what works in a particular market. Often, global OTT giants ignore these cultural nuances and bridge the gap.
Take time on commercial and content strategies: Besides audience preferences, hyper-localization depends on how well you read peculiarities in particular markets. Regional movie channels have ample scope for a subscription, but a regional news channel may find an advertising model works better. Pricing can make or break a service. Getting on the ground and researching consumer preferences may take time, but it will help you establish a good content and revenue strategy that resonates with your audience.
Find the right tech partner: Regional audiences are uncompromising on quality, as they have already been exposed to global standards with global OTT players like Netflix and Prime Video. So, partnering with the right people and businesses will give you not just the technology you need but sound advice on business models and content quality based on their years of experience in this space.
With audiences demanding hyper-local content like never before, there is a better time for regional OTT platforms. You can carve your niche in this space by being sensitive to your audience’s preferences and costs. Choosing the right partner will complement your growth aspirations and content partnerships with a delightful viewing experience.
Manik Bambha is a Co-founder & President at ViewLift