The coronavirus pandemic brought with it a heavy blow to businesses and economies. Not only were there major financial losses, job layoffs and employee retrenchment but some products sadly are in their decline stage with the industries on the verge of a wipeout. According to an article by Stephen McBride in Forbes, “We’re in one of the most disruptive periods in history right now. The coronavirus has come through and absolutely annihilated some of today’s biggest industries.” One such industry looking at a complete wipeout is ‘movie theatres’.
Over the past year and a half, big banner films went for OTT releases and left their loyal companion, movie theatres hanging by a thread. OTT platforms in India were running steady before the pandemic hit us but ever since the first lockdown happened, there has been a massive growth in subscriptions for these streaming websites. Confined to their homes amidst all the chaos, the people found solace in bingeing content run by OTT platforms. In the year 2020, there was about a 55-60% rise in subscriptions for these websites as reported by the annual M&E report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In terms of valuation, the OTT industry of India is estimated to be worth a whopping 5 billion US dollars by the year 2023. India has been labelled as the world’s fastest-growing OTT market too.
Streaming giants like Netflix, Disney+Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video were already making a niche for themselves in the sector but the Covid-19 crisis acted as a catalyst as these platforms observed exponential growth. The OTT market in India has taken a huge leap as we now stand at 40 streaming platforms compared to just 2 in the year 2012.
Apart from the financial boom in the industry, there has also been a major shift in the kind of content that is being created and consumed. Before the release of OTT in India the only place where films were released were theatres. Keeping the diverse age groups in mind, filmmakers stuck with safe plots and made films that were suitable for all audiences. Now with the availability of video-on-demand (VOD), filmmakers are not afraid of taking the road less travelled. Shows and movies are made to cater to specific kinds of audiences. A target audience is kept in mind for every show that is released on OTT. Ranging from science-fiction to classic romantic comedies there is something available for each and every person.
The explosion of OTT has led to more content being created and in turn, has triggered the need for fresh faces. The showrunners now look for actors with attributes which will sit perfectly with the character descriptions. More importance is given to uniqueness and spontaneity rather than big names headlining a project. A lot of job opportunities have emerged for directors, producers, actors, cinematographers and other technicians. Several Tinseltown veterans such as Amitabh Bachchan and Saif Ali Khan have also ventured into this space, blurring the lines between big-budget silver screen movies and on-demand content created for a small audience. It is safe to say that OTT in India is at an all time high. The profits of the past year are unmatched. In the fiscal year 2020, the revenue from subscriptions for OTT in India amounted to a whopping 19 billion Indian rupees. While the whole world was grappling with an economic crisis last year, 2020 emerged as the banner year for the OTT market in India industry.
YourStory reported that Netflix India alone had more than 100 movie pitches last year with Amazon Prime Video receiving around half of that. The makers have now started releasing projects on OTT platforms as this is their only option. The trend began with Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushman Khuranna’s movie ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ which went for a direct release on Amazon Prime Video last year. Big banner films like Dil Bechara, Ludo, Sadak 2, Shakuntala Devi and Gunjan Saxena followed suit.
However, while OTT platforms in India were savouring their newfound popularity, the good old Bollywood industry was in a tussle to keep itself going. Even though producers tried to embrace the new VOD format, they were barely making ends meet. Film trade experts have predicted that the industry will suffer a loss of 3,000-4,000 crore rupees this year alone.The rise of OTT platforms in India in turn triggered a decline for Bollywood during Covid-19.
Numerous theatre-owners are looking to move to other business prospects as this one, seems dead. The first quarter of the year totalled a mere 50 crores in terms of box-office earnings. Some films such as 'Roohi' starring Janhvi Kapoor and Rajkumar Rao and ‘Radhe ' starring Salman Khan opted for a compromised release in theatres during this time and couldn't generate much revenue. Akshay Kumar’s tent pole ‘Sooryavanshi’ has pushed its release date more than twice already in pursuit of giving the audience ‘full theatre feels’ and also better box-office collections. Since more than half of the second quarter has been completely washed out by the second wave of the pandemic in India, show runners are pinning their hopes on the upcoming August holidays and weekends. When films headlined by big and expensive stars are steered in the direction of OTT, filmmakers incur huge losses and this in turn impacts the daily-wage workers and other technicians who rely on this for their daily bread.
The rise of the OTT market in India has brought with it a sense of freedom, both for the makers and the audience. While filmmakers are now venturing into untraversed genres and giving more chances to aspiring actors, the audience has also gotten more comfortable with watching a diverse variety of content. OTT media platforms have even come up with economical subscription plans to cater to every tier of society like Netflix recently introduced its Rs.199 mobile-only plan. This allows users to stream on their mobile phones or even save content for offline viewing on one device. This pack is a bargain at only Rs. 2,388 annually compared to other highly priced plans which can go upto Rs. 9,588 for a year.
While the future of movie theatres looks grim, OTT platforms in India are brimming with possibilities. Desired content is available for streaming at our fingertips and from the comfort of our homes. They are cost effective too as compared to what one has to pay for a single movie outing at the theatres. The overall package of OTT media is much more attractive than pay-per-view movies. The rise of OTT platforms in India is the beginning of a revolution for movie-goers.