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Bengali OTT players prioritise market growth over competition

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MUMBAI: Demand for regional content has received a boost like never before thanks to the smartphone and internet explosion in tier II and III cities. Not only are international and national over-the-top (OTT) players delving into regional content, but also local players.

One such upcoming regional OTT market is the Bengali one. Though Hoichoi is climbing the ranks to the top, Addatimes is also chasing not far behind. For now, the two players believe in healthy co-existence rather than competition.

Addatimes and Hoichoi, both were launched in the same year, i.e. 2017. For obvious reasons, Hoichoi could come up with more content and better market strategy because of its parent company SVF’s huge capital. Now, Surinder Films, another leading production house in Bengali industry has started investing in Addatimes for a 33 per cent stake which could give a major boost to the platform.

Addatimes managing director and founder Rajiv Mehra had a 14 years stint in the Bengali television industry. Speaking to Indiantelevision.com, Mehra said that he felt there was no creativity left in daily soaps and channels had the ultimate power in hand. Then came the inflection point when he decided to start a digital venture. Despite knowing the fact that it would take a long time to break even, he trusted the digital medium.

All content was free for the first five months and then a subscription model was added at Rs 100 for three months and Rs 300 for a year. The Addatimes spokesperson claims to have 30,000 subscribers currently and 39 lakh unique viewers.

Since its launch, it has emphasised on original content but there are some movies also. From mid-August the films produced by Surinder Films will be available on Addatimes. Till July, the platform will see the launch of one web series and one movie a month and from August onwards, there will be two of each.

Mehra expects the business to break even in 2021. Due to limited funds, it is strategically avoiding cash-burning mode so that the platform can sustain in the market for the next three to four years.

Hoichoi isn’t too concerned about competition in the market. “We don’t think about competition because it’s not critically important today. It’s about getting more and more people in online ecosystem to grow. Having more players is better because that helps to grow the ecosystem, grows awareness and creates a habit among consumers,” said Hoichoi co-founder Vishnu Mohta. He also sees opportunity in the market for more players dedicated to Bengali content. Other than West Bengal, Bangladesh is also a potential market for both the platforms.

Mehra also reflected the same tone. “It’s not about what we have, they don’t have. Everyone is going forward with their own strategies for the business. But since they (Hoichoi) have more capital, they might reach the desired target one year before us. Eventually, we will also reach the target,” he commented on the competition with Hoichoi.

These apart, deep-pocketed players at the national and international level will also be able to get into people’s phones faster than the regional ones. If the regional players fail to make a mark soon, they will face difficulty in grabbing a larger market share.

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