I was meeting a friend for dinner last evening but she was stuck in traffic for almost an hour. I tried to watch something on Netflix but the network was just not keeping up. I put down my phone and looked around. That’s when my attention was grabbed by this interesting conversation at the adjacent table. They were a group of post-production people who created content only for OTT platforms. I spent an entire hour listening to the quirks and perks associated with the field. That’s what led me to write this article.
There has been a massive growth in India’s appetite for content. Do you remember the time when Netflix and chill wasn’t a thing? People used to wait all week for the next episode of their favorite show. In the last 6 years, India has seen a tremendous boom in video streaming platforms. They have grown from 9 in 2012 to 32 in 2018. According to a study by BCG, India’s video streaming platform is said to have a market potential of $5Billion. This has led to an increase in opportunities for global as well as local content creators.
The primary factor contributing to this surge is the growing mobile phone industry as well as improved connectivity. Jio has been the most important contributor to this development by making content accessible in the most remote parts of the country. The Indian youth have also expressed an annoyance towards the conventional saas- bahu content and the lack of variety. They used to watch global content on international channels or went to torrent sites to binge watch pirated movies or shows.
OTT (Over The Top) platforms have entered India at the most conducive time. People are thriving to watch good quality content. Strong scripts, aesthetic cinematography, gripping characters, personalized content and the finite nature of content have attracted more and more consumers towards these platforms.
The world knows that you are a brand to reckon with when you become a habit. All the global studios across the world have accepted that Netflix is a threat to them. Netflix knows what you’re watching and what you are interested in. To understand the content that wins big, Netflix created 76,897 micro-genres. They have started creating personalized genres for all of their viewers. Netflix originals have become audience favorites even in India. Right from House of Cards, Narcos, Sacred Games, Lucifer, Daredevil, 13 Reasons Why, Stranger Things etc. Netflix has broken ground with its interactive video content through its original, Black Mirror, Bandersnatch. The viewer has the power to choose alternate endings. This has created a unique opportunity for brand engagement as well. The content being produced by Netflix is unmatched in quality and quantity. The jewel on its crown was when its original, Roma, won multiple Oscars for Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography.
Hotstar, Star’s video on demand service has been surviving because of its films, catch up content and live streaming of sports. However, it has been feeling the heat from its rival, Netflix and is investing heavily in original content. Much like Netflix originals, Hotstar is coming up with ‘Hotstar Specials’ to offer original content to its viewers. Star understands its users well and thus has an advantage with its content being dubbed across seven regional languages.
Alt Balaji has been booming since its launch in 2017. It currently has over 22 shows and a subscriber base of over 8.9 million across 96 countries. Alt Balaji has a history of a large bank of successful shows on TV but has been sure not to be repetitive online. More than 80% of videos watched on YouTube are in Hindi. This states that local content is still the way forward. Alt Balaji has also been able to bridge the gap between or rather create unique content for the highbrow shows that are watched on Netflix as well as the lowbrow shows that are watched on the local television. The biggest differentiator for this platform is the price. It charges ₹ 300/year and ₹100/3 months. This number is significantly lower to its counterpart like Netflix that charges ₹ 500/month.
TVF started off as a YouTube channel that created content for the young audiences. TVF Play was noticed as it came up with refreshing content in the form of shows such as Pitchers, Permanent Roommates, Tripling etc. With its recent critically acclaimed show ImMature for MX player, TVF will be creating content for other OTT platforms as well. This step is a unique opportunity for content creators to share/license content across platforms.
Short format shows truly have potential. Low budget productions have created their own stars as well as their own fanbase. Crime thrillers have always been loved but the path breaking genre has been comedy. Most of the OTT platforms today have originals that feature stand-up comedians like Zakir Khan, Kenny Sebastian, Abish Matthew, Hasan Minhaj, Kanan Gill etc. Digital content has the ability to choose its own audience and that’s what has helped to go with non-formula content. The new format of digital content varies in structure, duration as well as storytelling. Creators have stuck and have also subverted to classic film making on this platform.
The onset of this boom in OTT platforms has given a voice to several untold stories. Scripts that would not have been able to see the light of day as films are being created as web series and are making it really big. The race for eyeballs continues to peak in the entertainment business. The combination of connectivity and rise in the OTT platforms has contributed towards democratization of entertainment thus increasing the potential of this space. The future of these platforms lies in creating more regional content to meet the growing online users in the tier 2 and 3 cities as well as towns and villages of India. Competitive and affordable pricing is also going to be a key differentiator in determining whether the consumer chooses to stay with a given platform or move on to other free video streaming services.
I’d like to leave you with an interesting quote,” If you make meaning, you’ll make money.” - Guy Kawasaki