The COVID-19 pandemic has paved for a new way of life - indoors. As people are still restricted in the vicinity of their homes, they are consuming more than ever online media content and have turned towards OTT platforms for entertainment.

There is no denying that the global OTT market has been witnessing significant growth. A Digital TV Research report stated that the global OTT revenue reached $83B in 2019. That number is up from $67B in 2018 and $50B in 2017. Of the $16Bn increase in revenue, SVOD services accounted for $12B. Overall, SVOD(subscription video on demand) made up 58% of total revenue ( $48B ).

As the OTT market grows globally, so has the demand for content localization and access services like dubbing, subtitling, translation and audio descriptions. With the world becoming increasingly interconnected, the language services market is also growing rapidly. The global localisation industry has grown up to 40% in the last 3 years and is expected to surpass USD $2.5B by 2021 and OTT content localisation will be the defining factor for such growth.

In 2017, Netflix hit a record of 111M subscribers, 53M of them were in the US. For the first time, international subscriber numbers surpassed their domestic subscriber count. This success didn’t happen overnight but as a result of a strong localization strategy and promoting regional content in the focus markets. This led to a trend of video localization in the OTT industry and many video streaming providers adopted it. There are numerous examples of shows on OTT platforms that did amazingly well and caught huge audience attention globally; prominent examples being Narcos, Dark, Money Heist etc. and localization played a big role in enabling them.

OTT players are increasingly becoming aware of the viewer’s preferences. International OTT players in India are facing competition from new regional content players like Hoichoi and Simply South. This has forced international OTT players to localize more and more content as per the preferences in regional languages to achieve the depth of the market too, as opposed to only the breadth with content. According to a survey report by YouGov, South India has the greatest preference for subtitled content among all regions with 82%, while the Northern and the Eastern states were twice more likely than the South to prefer dubbed versions. 71% of respondents prefer to have foreign or regional content translated into English, followed by Hindi at 23%. 7% of the respondents preferred translation to their native language; of this Malayalam was 14% followed by Tamil at 12%. This underlines the point that content localization is the niche competitive advantage OTT players are focusing on.

In the pandemic, OTT players have found ways to use the existing content to expand the target audience with the help of content Localisation. Since the production of any new content was put to a halt and people were busy binge-watching their way through the Covid crisis. OTT players started running library shows due to the unavailability of fresh content; they expanded to more online platforms, added more genres and fueled the demand for Localization to make their content accessible across countries. This also created new content pipelines for them. Moreover, there were certain pieces of content that were in the pipeline to be released on a conventional theatrical window run but had to be released over OTT platforms, just to provide the viewers with some fresh content and remain competitive.

While disruption in the media industry from the COVID-19 outbreak will take longer to resolve and OTT platforms will find it harder to create new content at the same pace as in pre-covid era. Localization of existing content can be really helpful for OTT platforms to gain more viewers and remain relevant and competitive. Localization is here to stay and will only gain momentum in the longer run. It is up to broadcasters, content studios and OTT platforms to evaluate who wants a bigger chunk of the pie.

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