The Great Indian OTT Race’s Finish Line Is No Longer in Cities 

With 65% of video consumption coming from rural India, how are OTT platforms looking to capture new audiences?

4 min read
Hindi Female

Ek dam movie jaisa trailer h... Mast” says a comment on the trailer of an ALTBalaji show called ‘Dil Hi Toh Hai’ on YouTube. The trailer is for the show’s second season and has 1.8 million views. Featuring popular TV actor Karan Kundra, the show is one of the many web series being released on OTT platforms in India.

Rise of OTT platforms in India as viable entertainment options is old news; what’s new is the demographic of the audience. According to the Broadband India Forum, as of April 2019, “65% of video consumption (is) coming from rural India that has only 40% Internet connectivity.” When it comes to streaming, common perception places it to be concentrated in urban areas. However, thanks to cheap data and easily available smartphones, the number of people who will consume OTT is set to increase. How do OTT platforms in India plan to capture this audience?

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Mobile-Friendly Version of Apps

On 13 June 2019, Shephali Bhatt tweeted a thread about her mother. Well, about her mother discovering things to watch on Netflix. According to Bhatt, while it took some convincing for her mother to give streaming a try, she now devours Pakistani serials like ‘Zindagi Gulzar Hai’ and Bollywood films like ‘Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga’. Interestingly, changes in viewing habits have been attended with changes in conversation and mindset.

Bhatt’s mother is a first-time consumer of OTT content, and the kind of audience streaming platforms now want surfing the OTT wave. Let’s put the India’s OTT industry in context: currently, India has nearly 450 million smartphone users and more than 32 online video streaming platforms. The country is the 10th largest market for OTT globally (2018 figures). According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), India’s OTT market is set to triple by 2023 and reach Rs 11, 976 crores, reports Quartz. The challenge then, is clearly to capture first-time consumers and tier-2 and tier-3 audiences.

While OTT platforms like Hotstar broadcast IPL and World Cup matches, Netflix focuses only on content. The streaming giant occupies 1.4% share (2018 figures) of the Indian OTT market and is aiming to be entertainment option wherever there is an Internet-connected screen. With the high production quality of its shows and films, Netflix is placing its bets on content driving organic traction with the audience.


Netflix’s upcoming titles hint at its future strategy. It has announced 22 original films in India, including Marathi-language ‘15th August’ and an adaptation of Manu Joseph’s Serious Men. Its upcoming roster of shows also indicates its attempt to capture regional audiences with a prequel to ‘Baahubali’ in the pipeline. In fact, to reach more and more Internet-connected screens, Netflix is reported to be working on mobile-only plans which may cost half the monthly subscription rate.

More mobile-friendly apps are a strategy that ALTBalaji is also looking into. Over the last six months, 55% of ALTBalaji’s audience has comprised tier-2 and tier-3 towns and cities.

Speaking to The Quint, Sunil Lulla, Group CEO of Balaji Telefilms says, “Our originals like ‘Apharan’, ‘Dil Hi Toh Hain’, ‘Karrle Tu Bhi Mohabbat’ and ‘Bekaaboo’ have been widely popular even in small towns of Gujarat, Karnataka and Rajastan, with people using their digital wallets to pay for the ALTBalaji subscription. To further make it easy for our subscribers to watch our shows, we have enabled an ALTBalaji lite version where one doesn’t need an app to be downloaded.”


Regional Language Push?

Viu is seeking to capture the millennial audience with its originals, which have a regional focus. Speaking to The Quint, Vishal Maheshwari, Country Head, Viu India said, “Content has been created keeping in mind the common denominator of the millennial youth and their aspirations, which are common regardless of whether they are urban or rural. It is this understanding and content creation that has given us successes like ‘Pelli Gola’ in the Telugu speaking markets which has now gone into three successful seasons.”

Siddhartha Roy, COO, Hungama Digital Media, spoke to The Quint and emphasised that 48% of content consumption from the platform is of “languages besides Hindi, with Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati being the most prominent.”

In fact, the platform is now focusing on “building its multi-lingual library with a special focus on vernacular content.” Most streaming platforms in India are now acknowledging the demand for good content in regional-language markets.


With OTT platforms in India pushing for more content in the race to capture new audiences, the winner is certainly the consumer. Be it romantic shows, indie films, thrillers, sex comedies or expensive regional-language trilogies, there’s something for everyone in India. All you need is a screen and the Internet.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Netflix   Hotstar   Digital Streaming 

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