Travelling intensely these last few weeks has made me homesick; the feeling of being in my own country, the connection with the people, the language, the food, the happy clamour. Ruminating on this, I turned to television, hoping to connect with my native roots on foreign soil. My first stop was Netflix, but it did seem like I had already watched everything that was of interest to me! Or perhaps the process of searching for content that I wanted to watch was just too time-consuming. This got me thinking about whether there was a content deficiency in general or the creators were not tapping the right content that viewers like me wanted to watch. This blog was thus inspired, researched and written.
Netflix was launched in India at the beginning of 2016, and during the pandemic, it gained a strong toehold being a steadfast companion during the global lockdown. However in recent times despite some astounding international movies and shows, it has seen a marked drop in its market share, which was also reflected in the response from the stock markets.
This ofcourse led me to think why audiences were more loyal to one streaming platform over another?
Incidentally, a number of OTT players have emerged over the years and have been able to capture the attention of audiences willing to pay for custom content. I reckoned some of the Facebook groups that I was a part of were like the Illuminatis of OTT with members of these groups being serious seekers of good content. As I scrolled through their recommendation on the must-watch content, Panchayat; a home-grown show on Amazon Prime got the highest recommendations. A few episodes down, it was a beautiful story of a city boy who had moved to the countryside and showcased his hardships and subtle philosophical realisations. The show was extremely relatable and touched a nerve. Such content that is personalised and created for the masses can augment viewership in copious numbers. Most consumers are egging for personalised content that gives them the feeling of home and cultural relatability.
I suppose, in a country where the per capita income is low, the viability of an expensive subscription plan for any household is of concern and the onus is on the OTT platform to make their offers and content attractive to justify this spend. The principal conundrum on hand also is the availability of content pertinent to the common folk. Although shows like Stranger Things, Money Heist, Homeland, Chernobyl are lauded, the common vernacular populus struggles to apprehend and relate to such shows. On the same line, another significant factor was the discontinuation of some great shows leaving the audience on a cliffhanger. Shows like Made in Heaven, Sacred Games, The Test Case, and Asur on myriad platforms; however, the long gaps between separate seasons made the viewers grow impatient and lose interest.
India speaks many languages and just ten languages gain 50-100 million traction globally. Regional content like Dhononjoy (Bengali), The Great Indian Kitchen (Malayalam), Queen (Tamil), KGF series ( Kannada), RRR (Telugu), and Aarya (Hinglish) has exploded on the OTT platform primarily because almost all these shows have elements relatable and entertaining to the larger populace.
This influx of content and subscribers means that there is now more content available to an average subscriber than ever before. Personalisation of content needs to be further fortified with recommendations triggered by past viewing data, demographics, ranking of content and targeted marketing along with great retention plans and seasonal strategies eg. summer specials, Christmas packages etc. Today every OTT platform must match the content to its audience, ensure timely delivery and offer access seamlessly across all platforms and devices.
A quote that always lingers in my mind and seems apt here, “You can take an Indian out of India, but you can never take India out of an Indian.” can also be applied to any other country or region. As a person who quite enjoys kaleidoscopic content in English, Spanish, Korean, Japanese and South American, I cannot deny finding that little extra comfort and entertainment in watching something that makes me feel at home.