Smaller towns driving demand for regional content, OTT viewership growth

The next wave of growth for over-the-top (OTT) platforms in India is coming from smaller towns and cities as adoption picks up, boosted by more people watching videos online.

The demographic shift is particularly true of the network-backed OTT platforms which show network content. However, this growth in Tier II and III cities is coming from the advertising-video-on-demand (AVoD) versions and not from the subscription-video-on-demand (SVoD) versions. 

AVoD is the free-for-consumer platform, where revenue for the OTT comes from advertising and SVoD is the subscription-driven platform. Most network-backed OTTs follow a free-and-premium mix model, where some content is restricted for subscribers.

For example, Zee5 said that in the last month alone, the views contribution from Tier II and III cities for AVoD had increased from 44 per cent to 
49 per cent. For SVoD, this has increased from 55 per cent to 61 per cent in Tier I cities. 

A Zee5 spokesperson explained that AVoD grew in Tier II and III towns and that its growth was primarily on the back of Zee5 being present across the  Reliance Jio feature phones that run on the KaiOS, while SVoD continued to grow in Tier I towns.


For Hotstar, non-metros roughly accounted for 63 per cent of its online entertainment consumption in 2019, compared to 54 per cent the previous year. According to the India Watch Report 2019 released by Hotstar, cities like Lucknow, Pune, and Patna surpassed Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Kolkata in video consumption. 

Per capita data consumption in West Bengal and Bihar is higher than that of Maharashtra and Karnataka.

The share of regional content has predictably grown: 40 per cent of Hotstar’s overall video content consumption comes from regional languages. Tamil, Telugu, and Bengali are the top regional languages. Interestingly, 35 per cent of Bengali consumption comes from outside the state.

Another network-backed OTT, Voot (from the Viacom18 stable), said that regional content was driving close to quadruple growth in contribution to views. 

Akash Banerji, business head, Voot AVoD, recently told Business Standard that regional content was contributing close to 25 per cent of Voot’s total consumption and that around 23 per cent of the platform’s monetisation is coming from regional. 

‘Regional’ denotes the non-Hindi-speaking markets.

More than 60 per cent of Voot’s audience comes from Tier II and III cities.
This trend is obviously shaping the way the OTTs plan their content strategy. Voot, for example, launched Voot Telugu ahead of Viacom18 launching Colors Telugu. 

Zee5, too, comes out with at least one original web series on average in five different languages every month:  Marathi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, besides Hindi. 

Demographically, India has thrown up some interesting trends. For example, 36 per cent of the views for Zee5 from Karnataka are from non-Kannada language users and 43 per cent of the views from West Bengal are for Hindi.

With an average monthly per capita consumption of 9.8 gigabyte per month, online video consumption is now 
a mass phenomenon. 

Star and Disney India Chairman Uday Shankar had noted at the time of the India Watch Report 2019 release that online video consumption was no longer an upscale phenomenon. He noted that the content, technology, and product had to be designed for India. Mainstream drama, sports and news, he felt, will drive content consumption.

However, multinational OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which are both SVoD platforms, see most of their demand coming from the metros and big cities.

Amazon Prime Video did not respond to emails.

According to Counterpoint Research’s India OTT Video Content Market Consumer Survey last year, both these platforms were popular in the metros; the top five metros accounted for more than 65 per cent of the users on these platforms.

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