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Neestream bets big on Malayali diaspora

The streaming service to launch current affairs-heavy platforms in future

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MUMBAI: Neestream, a streaming platform targeted at the Malayalam-speaking population across the globe, was launched earlier this month. The premium service is limited to the US and Canada, with a basic version available in Kerala. But it will soon be available across the world. The OTT platform seeks to reach the Malayali diaspora across the world. It hopes to accomplish that by the end of 2021, says Neestream Chairman Dr Javad K Hassan during an interaction with Indiantelevision.com.

Neestream, owned by Virginia-based conglomerate JKH Holding Co, bets big on the Malayalam-speaking diaspora spread all over the world. According to the chairman, as much as 20 per cent of the Malayali population lives outside of Kerala, which is a captive market that can be tapped. “Apart from an occasional movie based on an NRI in the United States or Gulf, there is not enough content on this important demography. We want to address that,” he says.

Going forward, it plans to launch more regional OTT platforms. Asked when the full version will be made available, Javad said, “We hope to make that call in the near future. Right now, because of Covid-19, our expansion plans are on hold. Our basic package is available in Kerala and other parts of the world.”

In a market flooded with OTT platforms of various kinds, what prompted it to launch a Malayalam streaming service? “A lot of factors were instrumental in us focusing on Malayalam,” he says. “The Indian OTT market is very crowded, with the presence of major international players such as Netflix and Amazon, and Indian heavyweights such as Hotstar. Many of these companies already have presence in the Malayalam market, but only in a limited way. While all these streaming services have solid Malayalam content, their primary focus is elsewhere.”

“Kerala has a huge diaspora, which, our studies have shown, consumes a lot of Malayalam news and entertainment content on a regular basis. It’s also a market very familiar to us, with most of our leadership having close ties to Kerala. In fact, our technology base is in Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala,” he adds.

The company has ambitious future plans in the streaming segment. They include plans to launch similar streaming services in other regional languages.

“We do have long-term plans to enter other regional languages, but not at this point. Right now, our focus is to grow Neestream in the North American market and then globally,” he informed.

The future plans include platforms focused on current affairs. In the second half of the year, it will be launching a companion current affairs platform in English, targeting the Indian diaspora in North America. Another platform for the global Indian diaspora is also in the pipeline. Both will be more current affairs-heavy than news and entertainment.

With regard to the sourcing of content, Neestream has a multipronged approach for sourcing content. “We have acquired a lot of third-party content and are still doing it. We have also launched a modest production setup, which we plan to grow gradually. In the long run, we will also focus on unearthing talent and creators in Kerala and from within the global Malayalee diaspora.”

Neestream has a number of shows in the pipeline, including a lot of content on and from the diaspora.

Neestream follows a mixed content strategy, comprising a mixed bag of original and the old evergreen content. “It is a mix of originals and existing content. The experiences of all OTT players show that while originals are the key to the kingdom, evergreen content from the past is also very popular among viewers. We will be acquiring a fair deal of existing content. At the moment, we are in talks with a number of producers and content creators in Malayalam,” he explains.

The streaming platform has adopted a robust marketing plan, combining both offline and online campaigns. “We are also planning a number of events, including concerts and entertainment events, as part of our marketing campaign. At the moment, most of the offline campaigns are halted as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown. But we are continuing online campaigns, which are delivering great results,” he says.

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