Viewers' Traditions & Native Languages Crucial To Understand: Zubin Dabash, Shemaroo

With a diverse and growing collection of over 3700+ titles, Shemaroo is making inroads through its ‘digital first’ vision

Video is by far the largest Digital service consumed in India with over 350m monthly active users. Talking of the belle of the ball, the OTT sector, there are over 50 OTT players today, with 13 regional OTTs sprouting in the last 18 months. This number is expected to grow to 100+ by 2025 with a lion share of regional OTTs, expect experts. The OTT consumers too have evolved from sampling the service in 2018 to getting habituated during the pandemic in 2020, to being addicted and making it a necessity in 2021.

Enjoying a sweet spot in this space is Shemaroo whose consumption and engagement grew between 70-80% during the lockdown months. With the brand in existence for over five decades, Shemaroo continues to redefine itself to respond to the disrupting consumer environment, by delivering content across age groups in genres such as movies, comedy, devotional and kids, through premium content and services in more than 30 countries

In an exclusive chat with us, Zubin Jimmy Dubash, COO Digital, Shemaroo Entertainment explains consumers’ riding interest towards these platforms and how the future for this ecosystem is expected to unfold.

On Consumer’s Growing Interest

Even before the pandemic, the number of consumers watching video on online streaming platforms was growing every day due to the digital boom and democratisation of 4G data. The pandemic hastened this trend due to the ‘watch from home’ phenomena. OTT is already riding the wave of increased data consumption and internet penetration in small towns and rural India. One trend that is expected to take centre stage and remain irreversible is the demand for highly localised and regional content. Any OTT player not thinking of regional will eventually be left out. Hyper-localised content is the next big thing with the versatility of demand coming in from all regions of the country.

On Investment Plans

It has been of utmost importance to understand the deep-rooted connection our viewers have with their traditions and native languages. It is one of the major reasons we strive to create a vast library of multi-genre and multi-regional content. 

ShemarooMe caters to specialised content trays for regional languages such as Gujarati, Marathi, and Punjabi languages. Here, we are redefining the way Gujarati audiences have been entertained across the globe through our robust Gujarati content line-up. Staying true to our promise of offering new content every week, we have lined up a plethora of exciting content that comprises an entertaining mix of original web series, nataks, blockbuster movies, etc. This, in addition to 500+ Gujarati titles, and popular shows that were already available on ShemarooMe.

On Perks & Problems

With the digital infrastructure penetrating deeper in the country, and the additional perk of finding content in regional languages, the demand, and usage of digital content consumption via OTT platforms has seen a huge uptake. It has also led to an increase in adoption across demographic segments including women and older generations. 

Opportunities come with their own set of challenges. Some of the challenges include, ways to stand out or to break the clutter due to the growing competition, to think long run beyond views and to build sustainable strategies that drive growth and monetisation, to be future-ready for the 5G wave, leverage technology, and build a robust infrastructure to deliver quality service to the customers. Along with this, piracy remains the single largest competition to an SVOD play.

On Trends To Look For

Some of the disruptive trends emerging in the OTT space that can be seen over the next few years are as follows:

1. Diversification of content:

With a 47% growth in rural internet penetration, the writing is pretty much on the wall – we will see a disruption in regional content. Diversification of content and upping the game in regional content will be critical in staying relevant and building affinity while also offering the type of differentiated entertainment increasingly demanded by consumers. 

2. Smart TV and OTT: A synergetic relationship

Smart TVs will simply replace the regular TVs in a household. With over 95% growth in Smart TV penetration in the country, OTT consumption will be further augmented, and we shall start to see the famous phrase “cord-cutting” a reality in some younger segments. Many consumers have gotten accustomed to accessing their favourite content on mediums other than their smartphones. While all top OTT platforms are already available to stream on Smart TVs, Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecom companies across the country have also started to bundle OTT video platforms as part of their offerings to attract and engage their users. The seamless integration to make it more consumer-friendly is a space we can expect to see some great innovations.

3. Adoption of Technology

Technologies like Voice searches, voice navigation, and AI/Big Data for content discovery are very critical to the success of a platform. Post-production technologies, like AI-ML-based dubbing and subtitling, and smart transcoding technologies that further bring down CDN costs. This will lead to better content discovery and enhance the overall user experience. Voice-assisted searches will further help bridge the urban-rural divide.

4. App Aggregation

As SVOD revenues are set to rise, app aggregation will play an important role in expanding the market. It brings significant value to the consumer in terms of affordability, useability (single sign-on, single-window content discovery, etc.), and compatibility with his/her device (1 app instead of 6 to 7).