Rohit Majumdar, an aspirant of UPSC, admitted that he is now devoting at least 3-4 hours to watch movies and web series on various over-the-top (OTT) platforms. He has recently subscribed to Zee5 as it has come up with various interesting contents.
Ahiri Chakraborty, a young professional, told BE, “I do not have to rush to the office in the morning now. I can go to bed late and this gives me the time to watch various contents on OTT platforms. Also, various new movies have been added to the online portals and interesting web series have also come out during this lockdown period.”
Rising popularity of OTT platforms
According to Statista data, it is expected that OTT media revenue will reach $158.84 billion by 2024. It is more than double the amount this segment generated in 2018 ($67.8 billion). Netflix has over 150 million paying subscribers worldwide making it the biggest OTT video provider in the world. The share of this platform also rose by 7% during the lockdown period as it witnessed a huge rise in its subscribers.
According to a BARC-Nielsen report, there has been a 67% growth in the streaming share (in the second week of April) compared to the same time period last year. With cinema halls closed and television channels running old content as they cannot shoot in this period, experts feel that Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Disney Plus, Zee5, Voot and other online entertainment platforms will gain a lot of subscribers to emerge as a highly popular new form of entertainment.
A GlobalWebIndex Entertainment flagship report stated, “India's streaming market is one of the biggest and fastest-growing in the world, and at the same time, one of the most resistant to penetration from global players.” This also explains the recent growth of the Indian OTT players like Voot, AltBalaji, Zee5 and MX Player. The report further explained that the country's video market is valued at over $700 million and is expected to grow to $2.4 billion by 2023, with the OTT industry projected to be with the highest growth rate.
Why the inclination?
Experts opine that due to the rigidity of the censorship board, screenwriters, filmmakers, and production houses are favouring OTT platforms where they can exercise their full artistic potential. Big names of Bollywood like Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Zoya Akhtar, Imtiaz Ali, and many others have been associated with OTT platforms and delivered successfully. Recently, ‘Patal Lok’, a web series was released on Amazon Prime Video, which was produced by Clean Slate Films, owned by Anushka Sharma. The mainstream Bollywood actress also served as the executive producer of the show. OTT is becoming increasingly popular because of their high quality content. Apart from Sacred Games, Patal Lok, Guilty, series like ‘Asur’ directed by Oni Sen, streaming on Voot has been highly rated by audiences. The psychological thriller explores the world of forensic science in India with references to Indian mythology.
Reacting to the rise of OTT platforms in India, Soumendu Bhattacherya, Head of the Department, Department of Direction, Roop Kala Kendra, Kolkata, told BE, “There are now more challenging emotional projects available in the hands of the audience due to the OTT platforms. The sense of pseudo democracy, personal choice and personal intimate space is behind the popularity of these OTT platforms.”
Industry insiders also opine that the OTT platforms properly utilse under-rated actors of Indian cinema who get little prominence in big budget films. One can hardly forget, the role of Pankaj Tripathi as the formidable Kaleen Bhaiya in ‘Mirzapur’ or Jitendra Kumar as the lovable, dissatisfied Abhisekh Tripathi, Panchayat Secretary of Phulera in Panchayat or more recently, Jaideep Ahlawat as an idealistic and tenacious policeman in Patal Lok.
Multiplexes in danger?
The popularity of the OTT platforms has been a reason for concern for multiplex chains. This challenge has intensified, with several production houses looking to make online releases due to the lockdown. Shoojit Sircar’s latest venture which was supposed to hit the theatres in April, will be released on Amazon Prime Video on June 12, 2020. Without naming the production house, Inox issued a press release expressing “extreme displeasure and disappointment” over the decision. The release further stated, “In these troubled times, it is disturbing to see one of the partners not interested in continuing the mutually beneficial relationship (between cinemas and content creators), especially when the need of the hour is to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other.”
Several industry insiders opined that OTT platforms - in the course of time - will capture a large part of the businesses of multiplex chains. Bhattacherya is of the opinion that these platforms will run parallelly with cinema halls instead of totally replacing them.
Though many are sceptical about the growth of OTT platforms post lockdown, Vishnu Mohta, Co-founder of Hoichoi reportedly told the media that though one cannot expect the same level of growth immediately after the lockdown, the phase has accelerated the shift towards digital entertainment consumption and will help to sustain healthy growth for OTT platforms. Analysing the positives of this digital growth, Bhattacherya pointed out, “In the long run, the popularity of the OTT platforms may change the face of the Indian audience in villages, making them more sophisticated towards matured cinema and episodic series.”