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#Throwback2020: The rise of hyperlocal OTT platforms

A number of new language-specific streaming services have entered the market.

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KOLKATA: A number of pure play language-specific over-the-top (OTT) platforms entered the streaming space across the country throughout the year, with deep-pocket big streamers also expanding into major regional languages. Notably, the new platforms have been launched not only in major regional markets but in long-tail ones too.

Of all the new entrants, Aha has emerged as the most eye-catching. The Telugu OTT entered the market in early 2020 but with the onset of the pandemic, it had to push back some of its plans. It is owned by Arha Media and Broadcasting Pvt Ltd, a joint venture by Geetha Arts and My Home Group, one of the largest construction groups in south India. During its official launch in November, the promoters vouched that they would pump a high amount of money into the platform.

While it is targeting 50 million Telugu speaking internet users who are already consuming online videos, the huge appetite for language content has helped it to five million downloads and 18 million unique visitors in a few months. Aha has fixed a price point of Rs 365 per year, a cheaper and more affordable price point compared to bigger players.

A dedicated Malayalam OTT platform also entered the landscape this year. Studio Mojo, the team behind India’s first OTT platform iStream.com, launched the independent OTT platform Koode in September. Koode was born with the vision to help Malayalis across the world discover content they love. Along with creating premium content, the service aims to focus on curating content from other social media platforms too.

However, unlike other niche platforms, Koode has not adopted a subscription-based business model. Based on the learnings from iStream.com, Studio Mojo has kept the content free for users. Going forward, it will have branded content and pay-per-view model as its revenue stream.

South Indian languages, Bengali, Marathi have always been at the forefront of media and entertainment revolutions. Surprisingly, few OTT platforms catered to or made a mark in long-tail markets. Hoping to buck this trend is CityShor.TV, another language-specific OTT platform that debuted in the Gujarati market.

Although the quantity of content offered by CityShor.TV is not at par with services like Aha or Hoichoi, it has promised to bring at least one original each month for its users. Initially in a bid to lure viewers, the platform is running a promotional offer of Rs 100 in December for its yearly subscription plan, to be hiked by Rs 50 each month till February.

Another OTT platform which is ready to hit the market very soon is Planet Marathi. The Marathi service, which looks to cater a target audience of 100 million globally, will offer a wide range of content including films, theatre, TV shows, and infotainment. Further, it will also stream content like karaoke songs, recipes, yoga, health, and live-fitness videos. Singapore-based Vistas Media Capital recently announced its plans to invest up to $5 million in Planet Marathi.

In addition to that, a second Marathi OTT Letsflix is all set to enter the arena.

It may seem like these new entrants have a minimal audience but the next wave of OTT growth is coming from the hinterlands of India. The annual media and entertainment report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) states that 35-40 per cent of the consumption on streaming services happens in local languages. Even the hours of original content in vernacular languages have gone up by 3X in 2020 from 2018. No doubt, this year has registered the rise of the regional OTTs, and it’s only onwards and upwards for these platforms from here on.

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