With gripping stories, stellar performances and a demand for fresh content and on-the-go entertainment, online streaming platforms are the future of home entertainment in India.
Four unapologetically flawed women live, love, blunder and discover what really makes them tick in millennial Mumbai in Four More Shots Please, a series that aired on Amazon Prime recently. Leaving the audience surprised and impressed with its bold content, Four More… is the latest among many such films and shows the online streaming platforms are offering today. With gripping stories, fresh content, stellar performances and easy on-the-go viewing options, online streaming platforms, or over the top (OTT) platforms as they are popularly called, are trending in the world of Indian home entertainment. The biggest global brands in the business, from Amazon to Netflix, are now vying for a share of the Indian audience with local channels like Hotstar, ALTBalaji, and Zee5 streaming the latest blockbuster films and creating the highest quality of original content to woo the viewer, especially millennials.
The number game
A recent survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group suggested that the online streaming industry in India is worth INR 3,500 crore and in the next five years, it is expected to grow ten-fold to a staggering INR 35,000 crore. The survey also says that the number of online content and video streaming platforms in India has jumped from nine in 2012 to 32 in 2018. The number of users of OTT services is estimated to reach 500 million by 2020, according to the findings of another study by Ernst & Young. If this come true, India would become the second biggest market for such services after the US. The sudden rise experienced by the online entertainment industry can be attributed to evolving technology, dipping data charges, and an increase in smartphone usage. (Data consumption in the country is expected to grow as mobile connections reach 850 million by 2022, according to a recent report).
Talent to the fore
This phenomenal rise is attracting bigger stars and big-shot film directors and producers to this genre. Who would have imagined that one will get to watch superstars like Saif Ali Khan and R Madhavan in a web series? While Khan was roped in by director Anurag Kashyap for the Netflix original Sacred Games, Madhavan was seen in Amazon Prime’s Breathe, the second season of which, will star Abhishek Bachchan. That acclaimed film makers in India like Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Zoya Akhtar and Tigmanshu Dhulia have had a successful run at OTT platforms with shows like Sacred Games (Netflix), Made in Heaven (Amazon Prime) and Criminal Justice (Hotstar) is a reason enough to believe that these platforms have created a niche for themselves. What works in favour of these platforms is compelling storytelling. The kind of stories that are being offered, are not only varied and fresh, but also exciting and well crafted. The ideas are original, faces new and characters, more relatable. From regional content, documentaries and short films to international movies and shows, online streaming services have enabled audiences to explore new cultures through diverse content. “As the Indian audience becomes more diverse, storytellers and actors on digital platforms are getting a chance to explore ideas that find a resonance at local level yet can be appreciated internationally,” says digital content startup FilterCopy’s founder Anirudh Pandita. Some have even developed signature content like Hotstar, which is dominating the market for sports fans by broadcasting premier cricket and football leagues around the world.
Neeraj Roy, founder and CEO of Hungama Digital Media, says this genre has thrown open the door to new kind of content as well. “Indian content creators now have access to a platform that gives them greater flexibility and allows them to work on narratives that they otherwise can’t on conventional platforms,” says Roy, citing the example of betselling novels being turned into shows. After the amazing response received by Sacred Games, which was based on author Vikram Chandra’s masterpiece of the same name, others too have joined the bandwagon. While Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Prayaag Akbar’s novel Leila will soon stream on Netlfix, director Sudhir Mishra has roped in Nawazuddin Siddiqui for an adaptation of Manu Joseph’s Serious Men.
Opportunities for all
Not just actors and filmmakers, the OTT industry is also creating jobs for technicians, writers, camera persons, musicians, sound engineers, editors and a host of other professionals involved with the entertainment industry. “With new shows being released on multiple platforms every month, there is no dearth of work for talented people. Shows that are made for the OTT platforms take less time to be produced in comparison to full-length feature films, which means more work for everyone,” adds Roy.
People with great story ideas, engaging content and the required resources can launch their own mobile app as a full-fledged OTT platform as well. The success story of The Viral Fever (TVF) is a perfect case in point. From a widely-watched YouTube channel to an independent streaming platform, this online entertainment company has come a long way. “There were a lot of writers who did not want to write for TV or movies, which they felt were not doing justice to new India’s emerging citizens. We gave them a platform,” says TVF’s chief content officer Sameer Saxena.
TVF has had three releases this year with Immature, Tripling season 2 and Kota Factory. “The response has been phenomenal. With Kota Factory, a web series based on Kota in Rajasthan known for educational coaching centres, we made the first-ever black and white digital show of India. It was a deliberate attempt to portray the monotony of a student’s life in Kota,” Saxena says. Like most digital platforms TVF too is targeting a new wave of viewers. He adds, “Our idea is to create relatable content that goes beyond age and class. While we have youth-oriented shows, we have a production like Yeh Meri Family as well.”
Online streaming platforms have truly emerged as the new mirror and voice of the Indian society by bringing to life stories that had no takers in the conventional entertainment space. As Indians evolve and experiment, the OTT platforms makes sure they capture the change. As actor Huma Qureshi, who featured in Leila in the digital space, said, “This genre has made entertainment truly democratic.” Anyone from anywhere can tell a story and become a star! Digital entertainment may have shrunk the viewing screen but is on a stupendous expansion spree!