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OTT may not be the future, but definitely it's a part of it

OTT is the future for all forms of audio visual content, it doesn't mean that other platforms are obsolete, but just that the overlap is inevitable, says Vishnu Mohta, founder, hoichoi

Vishnu Mohta, Founder, ‘hoichoi’
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Vishnu Mohta, Founder, ‘hoichoi’

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As it steps into the sixth year of its journey, 'hoichoi', which claims to be the India's biggest vernacular OTT platform, seems well set to roll out 25 more originals (three titles from Bangladesh + 22 titles from India), A-Lister talents and creators and a plethora of never seen before business activities and initiatives. It has a single motive of entertaining its customers (250 million Bengalis across the globe) in their native language- creating and curating over 100 originals, hosting a bank of more than 650 movies comprising classics, blockbusters and recent theatrical releases. With a 50 per cent growth in direct subscriptions with a 20 per cent increase in streams, a 31 per cent rise in watch time, 40 per cent rise in monthly active users, 30 per cent rise in international subscriber base, 'hoichoi' amply explains why and how overall Indian OTT business to set to reach $7 billion by 2027. Speaking to Bizz Buzz exclusively, Vishnu Mohta, Founder, hoichoi, shares the success story of 'hoichoi' and also delves at length on the future of OTT business in India

Going by some studies, India's overall OTT business is expected to reach $7 billion by 2027. Are we on the right track to reach there?

The OTT industry is definitely on the right track, while we can't really comment on the number, as we are a singular OTT, but the ecosystem is definitely progressing. Ever since the lockdown there have been gigantic leaps in terms of rise in user base, with more and more people discovering the true potential of the platform, OTT industry is definitely on the rise. Taking our case into consideration, hoichoi really started flourishing during the lockdown, but our highest direct subscription month has been August 2022.

How are vernacular OTT platforms growing in India?

I think the term vernacular OTT or regional OTT is redundant at this point. We're all Indian OTT platforms, and as for 'hoichoi', we call ourselves a global OTT platform as there are over 250 million Bengalis across the globe, whom we provide with quality entertainment in their own language. However, having said that, languages other than Hindi and English are gaining more recognition and acceptance at present. During the lockdown, audiences were exposed to content across genres and languages, which led to a discovery that should have happened way before. But, better late than never. Good content traverses across language and geographical barriers and that I think is the primary reason behind the growth of vernacular OTT platforms.

At what rate hoichoi is growing- both in terms of subscription and in terms of revenue? How many years did you take to break even?

Over the past year, hoichoi has seen a 50 per cent growth in direct subscriptions with a 20 per cent increase in streams in the post lockdown period. There has been a 31 per cent rise in watch time, 40 per cent rise in monthly active users, 30 per cent rise in international subscriber base and hoichoi continues to have one of the highest refresh rates in India for a single language.

Besides experiencing the aforementioned growth, hoichoi, is now a PnL profitable business as of August 2022. This month has been momentous in another regard as well, as it is the highest direct subscription revenue month for the platform across all three of its user base regions, namely - India, Bangladesh and International markets, all of which contributing over 100 per cent increase in growth.

What would you attribute hoichoi's success story to?

Undoubtedly our viewers. As a platform we've always made our audiences the crux of everything. From having a very strong and effective customer service and feedback cycle in place, to incorporating the changes that were asked for. We act promptly when it comes to addressing feedback. We also ensure that our audiences have enough and more options, which is why we schedule at least one original release every alternate week and one or more acquired content each week, to keep our audiences entertained. Also bringing in top creators and artists to ensure best quality content also contributes to growing and retaining our user base and hence our success.

How many original and other shows did you produce over the last five years?

Over the past five years, hoichoi has created over 130 originals and has a bank of over 650 acquired films including classics and new films.

How many more do you propose to produce in the next two-three years?

We intend to produce a lot more in the coming years, while we do not have an exact number in mind, it will definitely be a substantial rise.

What kind of contents do viewers prefer most? What has been your experience so far in this regard?

Our viewers are spread across demographics and socio-economic backgrounds, hence the preference is varied, however family dramas and detective thrillers seem to work well on the platform.

Do you see any significant change in the pattern or viewers' preferences?

Viewers are more open to newer genres and contents, than they were before. Female forward content is surely gaining more popularity as well.

What is more important- name and fame of the directors/artists or story and presentation?

It's a combination of both, we believe in having a strong creator ecosystem on the platform. We do take pride in having top creators on the platform, as the name they have earned is well deserved and reflective of their merit. As far as talents are concerned, hoichoi has always been a platform that has given chances to newer faces as well as let the older faces flourish. So it's a combination of both, we are at the end of the day storytellers, and whoever helps us tell a quality story in the best way, we go with them.

Is there any initiative on your part to help and promote new, upcoming directors/filmmakers, artists?

Hoichoi always promotes new faces and talents across its platform. From foraying into experimental genres and formats, hoichoi doesn't shy away from giving new directors and filmmakers a chance. For instance, one of top titles at present Karagar, is by a new and super talented director - Syed Ahmed Shawki. So yes, it's a platform for talent and storytelling and endless entertainment.

OTT platforms should thrive on subscription based fees or ad revenues or both- what is your take on this?

This depends on the platform and their target audience primarily. While SVOD works for some, hybrid revenue earning works better for the other. There's no set formula that works for all OTT platforms.

Do you see any threats in the wake of large global players and large Indian corporations coming into the field?

Not really, our vision and TG is very different. We are a global OTT platform that aims to entertain audiences in their native language. hoichoi chooses to create content in Bengali only and while the titles are available in other languages as well, our primary audience is Benaglis across the globe. So, while there are other players in the market, our market is very different and we are doing our best to be the best in that space.

Do you think even in the news segment, OTT is the future?

OTT is the future for all forms of audio visual content, doesn't mean that other platforms are obsolete, but just that the overlap is inevitable and audiences these days want choices, so the more options they have, the better it is. They might want to consume news on the television, in print format, as an online article or even on OTT. Hence, OTT might not be the future, but it definitely is a part of it.

Any plans to go national, going forward?

We already are a national OTT platform. Regional is a tag that we do not associate with, as there are over 250 million Bengalis across the globe that makes us global and not just national. So yes, we've always been a national/ global OTT platform. Also, hoichoi has its bases in both India and Bangladesh making it a global OTT platform.

Ritwik Mukherjee
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