Gujarati content viewership saw a surge of 102% at the peak of lockdown last year: Zubin Dubash

Aishwarrya Chakraverty
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Gujarati content viewership saw a surge of 102% at the peak of lockdown last year: Zubin Dubash

As ShemarooMe expands its content line-up for the Gujarat market, Zubin Dubash from ShemarooMe Gujarati interacts with Social Samosa to shed light on the rise of regional content and marketing efforts by the OTT platform.

In an attempt to strengthen its presence in Gujarat, a pertinent market for ShemarooMe, the platform brings forth a new array of content pieces on the ShemarooMe Gujarati app. With OTT continuing to play a crucial role for entertainment during the pandemic, we speak with Zubin J Dubash, COO - Digital, ShemarooMe to understand the content and marketing strategy.

Edited Excerpts:

What is the idea behind expanding in the Gujarat market? Any other regional plans in the pipeline?

The Gujarat market continues to be one of the big markets for us. The brand has been an integral part of the state and has been entertaining Gujarati audiences for a very long time now. To fully understand and decode the regional content cravings of Gujarati audiences, we conducted detailed research and its findings indicated a huge content gap.

In order to bridge these gaps and respond to the ingrained connection between cinema, naataks, and the Gujarati speaking audiences, ShemarooMe expanded its content line-up for Gujarati entertainment.

With this move, we aim to bring together all Gujarati-speaking audiences on one platform catering to the entertainment needs of all age groups in the family and bring back the spotlight on Gujarati entertainment. We have also made the app more personalized and localized for the Gujarat market. Viewers can now scroll through the app in Gujarati and enjoy the varied offerings. Right now our focus is to take the Gujarati entertainment quotient a notch higher by lining up a plethora of new content that comprises an entertaining mix of originals, Nataks, Movies, and popular shows offering a daily dose of entertainment to the entire family.

What is your content strategy for ShemarooMe Gujarati in the coming months?

Our Gujarati content consumption has seen a huge surge with as high as 102%  viewership in the peak months of the lockdown last year.

We see a huge unmet demand for Gujarati content, as is evinced by our users via various social and community engagement. Having said that, today’s OTT users are content loyal, not platform loyal. They will move from one OTT app to another to watch their favorite content. With this background, our USP is a promise that we make to our users – a promise of one new content piece every week. A healthy mix of Blockbuster films, web series, and Nataks. This is the first time ever in the history of Indian OTT that any provider has offered a guaranteed content promise.

Here’s a glimpse of our content line-up. - The Malhar and Kathastarrer film, Swagatam will see a direct to digital release on ShemarooMe even before a theatrical release. Further, the platform brings 'Chashni' along with a lineup of web series. The platform will also release new plays like 'Vahu Vat No Katko', 'Bairaono Bahubali', 'Joke Samrat, amongst others exclusively on the platform capped with original web series and content.

What are some of the key changes that you have seen in the OTT industry in 2021, especially in the last few months? How will this be in for the Gujarat audience?

Regional content is turning into the biggest market to tap for Indian OTT players. It is not surprising that many viewers are emerging from the Tier 2-5 cities.

With an increased data consumption and internet penetration, many users and subscribers come from small towns and rural India. This has also led to an increase in adoption across demographic segments including women and older generations. These users have streamed regional content over popular Hindi and English content. Understanding our viewers' deep-rooted connections to their cultures and native languages has given us an upper hand as we have developed a robust regional strategy for ShemarooMe.

We have attempted to curate a content bank for regional connect that encapsulates content across genres, that is, from Bollywood to Gujarati, Kids to Devotional, and many more. Not just us but many OTT players have also witnessed growth in this segment and are hence trying to acquire as many regional content and movie releases as possible.

Our regional offerings have shown a peak of more than 100% in some regional languages. Similarly, our Kids and Devotional segments also witnessed a surge. With the treasure of new Gujarati content comprising a lineup of originals, direct-to-OTT films, and plays, the brand is all set to entertain global audiences as well as cater to the Indian Gujarati diasporas across the globe.

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Further, observing the change in the consumption patterns, ShemarooMe inked a strategic partnership with BookMyShow (for ticket sales) to launch ShemarooMe Box Office. With a pay-per-view model to premiere quality entertainment for the audiences, the idea behind this was to make movies accessible to a larger base of audience while inculcating the habit of pay-per-view viewing, at the comfort of their homes.

What are your thoughts on OTT vs Television debate? Do you think that OTT will surpass Television in terms of viewership and ad spends?

Globally, yes, OTT has led to cord-cutting in matured markets. However, in the Indian market, OTT and TV will continue to co-exist for a long time.

No doubt, the emergence of OTT platforms has proved to be a blessing in disguise for content creators and viewers. While the player’s eye for their viewer’s attention and screen time, the two platforms are not mutually exclusive as there are audiences for both. Although the popularity of OTT is quite high pan-India, there are still many regions in the country where GEC (General Entertainment Channel) dominates the entertainment market.

The GECs have already gained in viewership and reach with the availability on DD Free Dish. The benefit of higher reach is likely to translate into better ad revenues for the leading broadcasters.

In addition, their ability to bundle ad sales and offer reach to the rural audiences, particularly for categories like FMCG, is likely to hold them in good stead over standalone channels in the FTA space.

With OTT as a medium, digital does have an advantage in advertising as specific content can be targeted by advertisers. Data derived from OTT platforms has brought essential benefits to draw more advertisers through programmatic buying, real-time bidding, and KPIs (key performance indicators), outcomes, and viewer's time spent on the ad can be tracked.

Both the mediums, TV, and OTT, do come with their own geographical benefits.

However, due to the importance of TV as a medium, as well as the effective reach it entails, the medium will continue to remain highly relevant.

How has the OTT industry impacted ShemarooMe and overall OTT industry?

For content streaming, we all saw how last year was a breakthrough for the entire industry. We saw some great developments and innovations in the OTT space.

From direct-to-digital releases to increased consumption of regional content, last year was the year when OTT went mainstream. This year as well a similar trend can be witnessed.

With the second wave gripping the entire nation, it may lead to some challenges in the production of new content for few players. However, for us, we already have a content library across Bollywood, Gujarati, Marathi, Devotion, Punjabi, Comedy, and Kids categories.

What kind of content distribution strategy do you have in place for this year?

ShemarooMe has inked various strategic partnerships with brands that will help the viewers enjoy and stream the content on their own television sets. The brand is all set to entertain global audiences as well with Gujarati ShemarooMe.

Further, the platform has a strategic partnership with global telecom companies and Internet service providers. It is available across geographies in 150 countries where consumers can download and experience the promise of endless entertainment delivered at the comfort of their homes.

Top 3 OTT trends for 2021

Below are the top three disruptive trends to look out for in the OTT marketing space in 2021.

Diversification of content:

Rural India and smaller towns show an increasing propensity & affinity for the internet and therefore vernacular and local content consumption is on the rise. We will see a resurgence in regional content as the demand is all set to keep increasing. The internet revolution is touching the vast majority of the population across demography, geography, social and economic segments. With 5G coming in soon, the number of regional viewers is expected to grow even further (FICCI report). Diversification of content will be critical in staying relevant while also offering the type of differentiated entertainment increasingly demanded by consumers.

Shemaroo has consciously developed a regional strategy across all our platforms after adapting and understanding the deep-rooted connections and traditions the viewers have with their mother tongue, hence the viewers have access to a varied content tray that ranges from multi-lingual to multi-genre content.

Branded Content

With data tariffs becoming more affordable and increased mobile penetration in India, OTT platforms have become the most preferred choice for fulfilling all entertainment needs with convenience. With the lockdown restrictions and people spending more time at home, branded content has made its way to video streaming platforms. This phenomenon will be a growing trend to see more branded storytelling as it helps to create a smooth link between advertisers and viewers.  

Direct-to-OTT Release

The new releases are growing in numbers and will continue in the coming years too. Even regional films are following the same trend to leverage the vast reach of the OTT platforms. 

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