OTT players diversify content libraries as regional movies, shows score big

The importance of the moment is not lost on the digital entertainers and many have intensified the pitch for viewers
Gujarati comedy, Telugu love stories, Bengali crime thrillers and of course, grisly horror tales in all languages—as people stay glued to the screen, the streaming platforms find that the maximum eyeballs are being garnered by language shows (non-Hindi and non-English). And as experts point out, content, more than the cost of data and digitisation, could power the next big leap of the subscription-based video-on-demand entities such as Amazon Prime, Zee5, Hotstar and Netflix in the country.

The importance of the moment is not lost on the digital entertainers and many have intensified the pitch for viewers. The advertising duration (volume) on television by OTT platforms in India grew by 31 per cent in the first quarter of the calendar, year on year. Advertisers are paying them more attention too; the number of active OTT advertisers grew 45 per cent from 24 in Q1 2019 to 35 in Q1 2020, according to AdEx data by TAM.

“Advertisement insertions on OTT platforms has seen an exponential rise in April 2020,” TAM noted. This is despite the fact that the number of categories advertising on the platform and brands have dropped during the Covid-19 period of April 2020, as compared to pre-Covid-19 period of March 2020. 

Language entertainment has drawn local advertisers into the fold, given that this expands the reach of such platforms manifold. The advertisements of regional companies on platforms with a large cache of local language content increased by 4 times during the period compared to pre-Covid-19 period. Advertisements by national brands too grew rapidly, but the story being played out in the local and hyperlocal brand universe points to a big shift say the platforms.

While Hindustan Unilever was the biggest advertiser on OTT among the national brands, Symbiosis Society topped the list of regional players (April 2020). Interestingly, among the national players, the advertisements from food and beverages sector contributed more than 40 per cent of the ads, while among regional players, the education sector contributed to more than 95 per cent of the volume. Apart from Symbiosis Society, Sri Vileparle Kelavani Mandal, Sathyabama University, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Academy of Fashion and Design were the top advertisers among local brands.

Vinita Shah, senior vice president, TAM Axis, said that ad insertions on OTT platforms doubled in April 2020 as against the previous month (March) and tripled since February 2020. This exponential rise is attributed to a spike in advertising for essential supplies. The Top 10 list of categories in April 2020 were mainly related to day to day essentials during lockdown period and had nearly 70 per cent share of ad insertions on OTT platforms. 

A further boost to viewership and therefore, advertiser interest, has come about on account of the release of regional films and increased original content on these platforms. Robibaar (Bengali) among others have all found their release on streaming platforms. 

A KPMG study showed that nearly 30 per cent of Indians consume content on OTT in their preferred language, which is other than English and Hindi. Aparna Acharekar, programming head, ZEE5 India says they have seen a tectonic shift in consumer behaviour and the way content is being consumed. The result in this positive surge can be attributed to the lockdown as well as company's multiple initiatives to ensure seamless and continuous entertainment, she said. 

Zee5 saw growth coming in from tier-1 cities including metros, which grew about 50 per cent (Bengaluru: 146 per cent, Mumbai: 48 per cent, Chennai: 55 per cent and Hyderabad: 47 per cent), tier-2 cities grew in the range of 30 per cent. The OTT platform also reported rise in paid viewers in the period.

“We have seen a 20 per cent jump in our daily active users in the past two months, a clear upswing in terms of the number of brands advertising with us. Our fill rates, a reflection of demand, is exceeding 95 per cent. We have not reduced our ad rates and the ad volume has still increased. In the process ad revenues have shot up,”Acharekar said.

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