Cinema in the age of OTT
Recently a seminar has been organized at Indian Institute of Mass Communication’s Eastern Regional Campus on ‘Cinema in the age of OTT’ in which I participated. Here is my two bits on this subject:
OTT stands for “over-the-top” and refers to the productized practice of streaming content to customers directly over the web. This precisely means, OTT services circumvent traditional media distribution channels such as telecommunications networks or cable television providers. This is what is being called ‘chord cutting’. As long as you have access to an internet connection — either locally or through a mobile network — you can access the complete service at your leisure.
Some media-pundits believe that It represents the future of entertainment — one that is already unfolding. However, OTT is not limited to entertainment alone. The term is commonly applied to video-on-demand platforms, but also refers to audio streaming, messaging services, or internet-based voice calling solutions. So Spotify, Apple or Amazon Music, even certain content in social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram also come into this arena along with familiar OTT video streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Zee5, Hotstar, Alt Balaji.
I look at OTT in today’s seminar’s context at three levels: Creative aspects of production, distribution and the business model.
There is a perception that OTT platforms are democratizing the creative space. They are, in a sense, providing a level playing field for the independent creators and producers and the industry cannot be a monopoly or oligopoly. We have seen production start ups like TVF play, their sister organisations Dice Media, Timeliners are coming up with interesting content meant for the young urban population.
When it is true that these young creators without a strong Bollywood background are coming up and reaching out to their audiences through OTT platforms, it is also true that big names in Bollywood are also tapping this opportunity to collaborate with the OTT platforms. Directors ranging from Anurag Kashyap to Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar are producing so called ‘web series’ for these platforms. The latest is Ghost Story.
OTT is definitely changing the way the stories are told. The traditional cinema and the OTT platform’s original content are quite distinct. They are more like real life stories rather than the ‘rom-com’ of the silver screens.
Now, coming to the distribution model, we can see two-fold development. One is the mainstream film producers are streaming their content which was meant for the big screen. They are releasing it on the big screen first and then instead of premiering in the traditional TV, they are streaming it through OTT platforms. I have doubt if this distribution model would be beneficial for the producers and the distributors.
In the West, the same distribution model was adapted and it failed. The producers need to create distinct content for different medium. And trust me, the big screen is not yet dead. People love to watch movie on the big screen as much as they enjoy watching OTT content at their own private space and time.
Indian film industry’s biggest challenge has been the dichotomy of under penetration of screens and low occupancy rate. With 8 screens per million population, India is by far one of the most under screened nations in the world so there is still room to grow. India has 30-35 million frequent moviegoers and another 70-75 million who watch movies occasionally.
So, both the creators need to think about producing and distributing unique content for different platforms to tap the millennial audience.
Here, comes the question of the business model. The recent KPMG study shows the Digital entertainment busines has grown at 43.4 per cent in 2019 compared to 2018. Whereas, the TV business has grown at 9.5 per cent. The revenue from advertising has grown at 37.6 per cent compared to TV’s 12.1 per cent.
Along with advertising, OTT services are typically monetized via paid subscriptions, but there are exceptions. For example, some OTT platforms might offer in-app purchases or advertising. There is a popular perception that people love to consume whatever they get free of cost. This is universally true, but as far as OTT content is concerned, this generation with disposable income is ready to pay for good content. India’s video-on-demand market will touch $5 billion by 2023 from $500 million last year.
There are certain areas which need to be looked into is these OTT platforms need to spread out in more regional languages.
Tail piece 1: Zoo Story
This guy needs a job and decides to apply at the zoo. As it happened, their star attraction, a gorilla, had passed away the night before and they had carefully preserved his hide. They tell this guy that they’ll pay him well if he would dress up in the gorillas skin and pretend to be the gorilla so people will keep coming to the zoo. Well, the guy has his doubts, but Hey! He needs the money, so he puts on the skin and goes out into the cage. The people all cheer to see him. He plays up to the audience and they just eat it up. This isn’t so bad, he thinks, and he starts really putting on a show, jumping around, beating his chest and roaring, swinging around. During one acrobatic attempt, though, he loses his balance and crashes through some safety netting, landing square in the mid dle of the lion cage! As he lies there stunned, the lion roars. He’s terrified and starts screaming, “Help, Help, Help!” The lion races over to him, places his paws on his chest and hisses, “Shut up or we’ll BOTH lose our jobs!”
Tail piece 2: Happy Home
It takes thousands of workers to build a castle. Million soldiers to protect a country. But just one woman to make a Happy Home.
(Courtesy: Social Media)
The author, a journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal.
An anthology of his weekly column Window Seat, published in 2019 is being published as a book. Should you want a copy with introductory discounted price, write to him at: [email protected]