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Can vernacular OTT players catch up with brands’ growing interest in targeting regional audience?

Advertisers are keen on investing in regional OTT platforms in order to tap the regional audience. Regional OTT platforms are receiving an increasing amount of advertising queries and are expecting a further rise in the days ahead

The number of vernacular language platforms catering to regional audience has increased with time owing to the growing demand from the public to see content in their own language. Regional players like Bengali OTT platform Hoichoi, OHO Gujarati, Neestream and Koode, Malayalam OTT platforms, CityShor.TV, a Gujarati OTT platform, Planet Marathi, Stage, the Haryana dialect OTT platform, and others have upped their ante to cater to the growing demand of regional content. 

According to the FICCI-EY report on the M&E industry, the share of regional language consumption on OTT platforms will cross 50% by 2025, from the 30% share it held in 2019, easing past Hindi at 45%. 

With this data in play and the growing numbers of regional content players, it becomes a must for marketers to be present on regional content platforms to tap the audience, other than Hindi and English-speaking ones. 

A leading media agency professional said that OTT will see a sharp rise in ad spends by 85% in 2022 on current base spends. According to him, out of this regional OTT space will have a considerable share in the ad spends pie. 

Rohan Chincholi

Media agencies have started evaluating the scope and viability of advertising on regional OTT platforms. Rohan Chincholi, Head - Digital Services, Havas Media Group India, said, “The demand for core regional OTT platforms has escalated over the last six months. We are seeing that D2C brands specifically have started to evaluate and consider regional-focused OTT to draw a direct correlation to sales.”

Chicholi said that they are currently at an exploration stage when it comes to choosing the right OTT platform and are looking at SunNxt, Hoichoi and AHA for a couple of brands that want to increase their awareness.

Through advertising on regional OTT platforms, brands get the benefit of engaging with the core and native audience. For example, the Telugu OTT platform AHA will be consumed more in AP/ Telangana, Stage’s audience will mostly be people from Haryana. Like this, brands will be able to target audiences’ on the basis of their native language and region. 

Chicholi added, “The top OTT platforms are blurring the lines between regional and national content. However, it’s not only about the wide range of content but also about quality and popular content, which will eventually drive reach.”

Amit Desai

Amit Desai, Co-Founder of OHO Gujarati, told BestMediaInfo that currently they have mostly worked with local brands in Gujarat but the scope of advertising for national brands on regional OTT platforms is wide and large.

He said, “Targeting audience on regional OTT platforms helps brands avoid spillage in ad spends. If a brand wants to target a certain kind of regional audience and they advertise nationally, it becomes impossible to map if they have reached the right audience, which is something they can be assured of on a regional platform. Once the targeting is confirmed, then they reach out to the specific regional OTT platform.”

It’s not that the scope of advertising on regional OTT platforms is limited to regional brands. National brands are also turning towards the vernacular language platforms.

Soumya Mukherjee

Soumya Mukherjee, VP – Revenue and Strategy at Hoichoi, said, “While we get a lot of queries from regional brands, several national brands are also showing interest to advertise on regional platforms. Though Hoichoi is a Bengali-language OTT platform, we have our presence in most parts of the country and internationally as well. We have created a different segment for branded content which will include stories around the brand yet again not shifting the storytelling we do at Hoichoi. As of now, we have worked with three brands, namely Senco Gold, PC Chandra Jewellers and Asian Paints. Each of these brands has a national presence. We created a mini-series surrounding the key message they wanted to put forward. For example, Senco Gold wanted to do something around Valentine’s Day and PC Chandra Jewellers wanted to do something around family. This was free for the audiences to watch.”

Desai is positive about the increase in rates of advertising on regional platforms in future. He said, “It depends upon the supply and demand chain. With time, the consumption of regional content is also increasing. With more subscribers, the ad rates will also go up and one will also see regional players charging a premium to brands, depending on the number of subscribers they have. It’s the beginning for regional languages content acquiring the market share and it will keep on increasing with time.” 

Many of the regional OTT platforms rely on SVOD (Subscription-based Video-On-Demand) model. Only some of them have an AVOD (Advertising-based Video on Demand) and SVOD both as they don’t want to hamper the audience’s content consumption experience. Therefore, most of them work with brands in the form of offering branded content, product placements, brand integrations and avoiding direct ads on their platforms. 

In one of the previous interviews with BestMediaInfo.com, Gujarati OTT platform CityShor.TV’s Co-Founder Pallav Parikh had said that they don’t carry ads as they do not wish to ruin the viewer’s experience. So, they also bank on branded content. “If a brand wants to push their product or service to lakhs of people through a traditional mode or even through digital, it takes a huge effort. But in a good show, it gets placed very easily because people are looking for content. It's very easy for any SME or a business to push their product service through this form of marketing.”

Radhakrishnan Ramachandran

In the same interview, Radhakrishnan Ramachandran, Founder and CEO, Studio Mojo, said branded content is a strong focus area for them. “We have launched an influencer network called Folo, as part of Koode (Malayalam OTT platform), where we have onboarded close to 80 creators/influencers. Our marketing team will bring together these creators and brands since branded content is a strong focus area for us, especially for genres such as lifestyle and fashion, automobile, and technology.

Currently, OHO Gujarati with over 60K subscribers has 30% of business coming from brands and 70% from subscriptions. 80% of its shows are sponsored by brands. Desai believes that going forward the symbiotic relationship between brands and OTT platforms is only going to get stronger. “A lot of times, in order to make content, the platforms cannot solely depend on subscription. Sometimes apps have to cut down their subscription rates to onboard more audiences. When the audience increases, the brands also get more eyeballs to tap.”

With over 10 million followers, including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, Hoichoi is looking at utilising this audience base to create 4-5 minutes films where brand integrations can happen. “We have a very highly-engaged audience. It will be a huge opportunity for brands to engage with this audience. For example, if we create a video on ‘What Bengali shoppers want’, any retail brand can come and be a part of the content. Such content has a huge viral potential. So, our second step is to use our social media platforms as a way to integrate these brands and promote them with our wide and interactive audience.” 

While audience and brands interest in regional OTT space has increased, it’s important for the players in this space to address issues related to reach, data layering and audience overlap. 

Chicholi said that the regional OTT space has challenges related to reach, continuity on OTT platforms and the impact on brand metrics from awareness to sales, as the audience is limited.

He commented, “Reach of regional OTT platforms is limited as compared to the top OTT platforms and the fact that the main players already offer regional content. We are evaluating the impact on brand metrics from awareness to sales on regional OTT platforms.” 

He further said, “As a market, in digital, we always talk about either reach or depth of targeting. For the regional OTT players, both these parameters are in the nascent stage. The top players have been working with a much wider network of digital partners to add layers of targeting like – Transaction audience, CTV audience and hyper-local signals to improve placements – which currently the core regional OTT players are still tackling.”

Shekhar Banerjee

Addressing the elephant in the room, Shekhar Banerjee, Chief Client Officer and Head – West, Wavemaker India, said that with an increasing number of national and regional OTT players, the most complex challenge for advertisers is to cut down duplication and build plans that remain efficient while maximising audience reach. “So, it is not a debate of regional vs national, it is about tech. Need is to have all OTT inventory available on a programmatic platform and not sell OTT like TV. Only then this space will grow to its fullest potential,” he said.


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