Bengali OTT service ventures into the Middle East

The platform is taking a direct carrier billing (DCB) approach here because a majority of the Bengali-speaking audiences are migrant workers and consequently don’t have access to digital payments


Joydeep Sengupta

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Published: Thu 16 Dec 2021, 1:13 PM

Last updated: Mon 4 Apr 2022, 12:53 PM

Indian subscription video on-demand player hoichoi looks to target the region by March 31, 2022 in a bid to tap into the viewership of the sixth-most spoken language in the world

Bengali over-the-top streaming (OTT) service and an Indian subscription video on-demand player hoichoi is looking to woo viewers in Bangladesh and the Middle East as it looks to line up 20 new shows next year.

Hoichoi, which is owned by Shree Venkatesh Films (SVF) Entertainment Pvt Ltd, a Bengali entertainment production company, and is headquartered in the eastern Indian City of Kolkata, was launched on September 20, 2017.

Hoichoi has gone into tie-ups with local telecom players in a bid to further tap into the over 250 million-strong viewership for the Bengali language across the globe amid intense competition in the OTT space in India.

In the Middle East, hoichoi is taking a direct carrier billing (DCB) approach because a majority of the Bengali-speaking audiences are migrant workers and consequently don’t have access to digital payments. Plans are afoot to offer sachet pricing of weekly subscription plans that can be paid through mobile phone top-ups.

wknd. spoke to hoichoi co-founder Vishnu Mohta.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

How is hoichoi expanding its global footprint?

Hoichoi is marking a prominent presence in international space because it has subscribers from over 150 countries. Collaborations with the biggest creators and partners have played a key role in creating content and distributing the platform among a diverse audience base.

Currently, hoichoi has a strong presence in countries like the United Kingdom (UK), United States of America (USA), Australia, Canada, which contribute 30 per cent of our overall direct subscription revenue.

Hoichoi plans to expand its local footprint in the Middle East by March 31 — when the Indian financial year comes to a close — by offering local payments through direct carrier billing (DCB) and partnering with top telecom operators in the region.

How are you focusing on the Bangladesh market, where your monthly subscription has doubled since last year?

Hoichoi has been committed towards entertaining people in their local language and to also make its content widely accessible to people in every corner of the country. Bangladesh is a key focus market and the love that hoichoi has received from the audience because of its diverse local content from talented creators,. Hoichoi has been able to double its subscriber base in Bangladesh.

In the Bangladesh market, we have partnered with leading telecom and ISP operators, like Grameenphone and Link3, where users who enjoy the benefits of Link3 as an Internet service producer (ISP), and Grameenphone as their telecom operator, also receives a subscription of hoichoi bundled with their services as per the data plan they purchase. Hoichoi has also undertaken multiple strategic offline partnerships through which it offers local payments.

Hoichoi is being touted as an Indian OTT platform. Who is helming your content in Bangladesh and how are you looking to emerge as the content differentiator?

Hoichoi’s aim is to cater to over 250 million Bengalis all around the world. Hoichoi has its local office in Dhaka along with having its local team who looks after all business and content operations and offers local payment options to its users. Hoichoi's objective is to work with talented local creators, technicians and actors in the Bangladesh market and take Bangladesh content worldwide.

What are the new shows and web series on offer for the Bangladeshi audience and its diaspora?

On the eve of our fifth Season, we announced a fresh slate of five news contents such as Boli, Kaiser, Bodh, Sabrina, and Karagarh from an outstanding set of creators from the country like Sankhya Dasgupta, Tanim Noor, Amitabh Reza Chowdhury, Ashfaque Nipun, and Syed Ahmed Shawki

There will also be 12 new shows along with multiple new World Premiers will also be available for its users.

How competitive is the Bangladesh market as far as content is concerned?

Although there are multiple OTT platforms that are existing in the Bangladesh market, we feel that different platforms present a unique genre of content that provides a distinct identity to all the platforms. In that light, even if there is a competition, it can be deemed to be a very healthy one.

What kind of competition are you facing in that market from your rivals such as Chorki and Binge?

OTT is one of the most growing sectors and the platforms are being widely accepted as one of the preferred mediums of content viewing all across the world. In the present time, there have been multiple platforms that have emerged in the market, and we believe the more players are in the market, the better it will be for creating habits and growing the OTT industry.

What is the size of the Bengali OTT content market across the globe?

Bengali is one of the most spoken native languages across the globe, and there are over 250 million Bengali speakers. No wonder, this makes the Bengali OTT content market a considerably large one.

In the regional space, is Bengali more lucrative than other Indian regional languages? If so, why?

Apart from its rich culture and literature, Bengali is also the sixth-most-spoken native language in the world and in comparison, there exists a greater share of Bengali speaking people than any other regional language. This gives the Bengali content a greater share of audience to cater to.

Will SVF concentrate more on OTT than producing feature films in the coming days?

SVF has been a platform that has consistently created impactful Bengali content in multiple formats for the audience for over 25 years now and aims to keep doing so.

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