While television is a major contributor to daily dose of entertainment, OTTs standout in terms of content, experts suggest
It is not the film industry alone that is revolutionising the viewing experience for the audience. Online video platforms have a role to play in this too.
The evolution of the Over the top (OTT) platforms and their constant effort to come up with new content strategies is making the entertainment space more exciting for the viewers.
It did not take much time for viewers to get hooked on to shows like Sacred Games, Mirzapur or Smoke. The popularity of these shows is a proof that people are ready to consume gripping and varied stories that are not limited by demography or popular names.
While television is a major contributor to daily dose of entertainment, OTTs standout in terms of content, say experts.
In conversation with Moneycontrol, Vikram Mehra, Managing Director at Saregama India said, “A variety of subjects and freedom of expression without commercial trappings are two important things that differentiate the content available on OTTs.”
“Content on OTT platforms is unafraid to traverse subjects and stories that go beyond the conventional tried and tested formula of TV and silver screen. It places importance to stories - to brave new content that will resonate with communities of viewers all over. Writers can now create stories that are not bound by commercial mass considerations and talk about subjects that demand to be told unflinchingly and the way they want,” Mehra added.
Mehra said that “there is a huge financial pressure in creating content for silver screen. The economics of marketing and distributing the film to get to its audiences is a challenging one. OTT platforms go a long way in de-risking this as well.”
In addition, Anand Pandit, Producer at Anand Pandit Motion Pictures said, “I think what makes content on OTT platforms different from that on television and silver screen is that it is far more edgy. I feel the content that is curated on OTT platforms does not really look at the specifications that ensures success at the box office or cater to a larger massy audience in the country.”
Apart from strong storylines, OTTs are also working on bringing innovative forms of content on their platforms.
Recently, Eros Now ventured into high quality short form programming with Quickies. It is planning to launch 50 Quickie programs in the next 12-18 months and has also launched 15-20 minute versions of Eros movies in the Quickie space. Eros Now boasts of being the only platform to run a curated play in the short form space.
“Eros has been in the innovation content business for the last 40 years. We have been doing theatrical films and in 2012 we forayed into digital business on Eros Now. What we understood is that there is different kind of audience in the country. India is not one. There are different kinds of India. Regional languages, different genres, different consumption patterns, all play a role in the content mix," Ali Hussein, COO, Eros Digital said.
"There is a data we took into consideration that there is decent amount of content viewing during travel time. And we realised that it is not necessarily a form conducive to 6-8 hours of binge or even film watching. What we realised that there is no single platform where curated, high quality short form content in the country. That is the need gap we identified,” he added.
“Our relationships across content pipeline is fairly exhaustive because of the film pipeline we have that is when we decided to cater to travel audience or on the go audience and we decided to come with an IP which essentially caters to such audience. These are essentially 8-10 minutes of content,” Hussein said.
In 2017, one of the top 10 emerging trends in the online video consumption space was that viewers preferred shorter and crisper content. Reports suggest that 85 percent of the internet audience prefer that are 10 minutes or under.
However, on these platforms finding the right choice of content may not be an easy task. “There are a lot of short form creators on Facebook and YouTube where they have a combination of music videos, gaming videos and also high quality short form videos. But the problem with such platforms is that discovery becomes a challenge because there are millions of content and picking and choosing becomes difficult,” Hussein explained.
He added that “the principle behind this (Quickies) is to bring a more curated platform to the audience.”
From borrowed content to originals, OTTs have come a long way in India. “Originals go a long way in establishing the brand value of OTT player and brings it a sense of uniqueness,” Mehra said.
After the success of their first original on Netflix, Brij Mohan Amar Rahe, Yoodlee Films will come up with more such originals in the coming year.
“A large number of viewers have stopped going to theatres and do want to watch something that they have not seen before. I think what has also happened with OTT platforms is that there is a lot of surround sound and a lot of buzz created around the release of each original which makes it an even more special experience for the audiences,” Pandit added.
OTTs are constantly trying new concepts to woo viewers. However, they are still at a nascent stage.
“The ability to crack the content puzzle is a continuous process and it will continue for several years in my understanding. The reason for that is the preferences of audiences are changing fast. Also, audiences are getting a taste of different kind of content and as a virtue of that, they are also trying to experiment and develop on their choices. It is not like a finality in terms of this is the only kind of content that will work. I think it is work in progress and it is a continuous process,” Pandit said.
“I think, right now, the Indian viewer is too new in understanding and accepting different kind of content. I think that now is the time when they are just relishing the kind of choices and options they have in terms of what they can view and enjoy in the name of entertainment,” he added.
In addition, Mehra feels that localization of content is very crucial. “It’s important to talk to people of this geography (India) about subjects they would find relevant in a language and ethos they would understand. At the same time, give the millennial consumer entertainment from around the world.”
Whether OTTs have to be careful while producing content to not fall in the trap of offering something edgy and controversial, Pandit said, “I do not think that OTTs need to be careful while producing content.”
“I do not understand the concept of a trap by making something that's edgy and controversial. I think what OTTs do provide is a platform where the filmmaker, the producer, the actors have a much wider leeway in terms of experimenting with different kind of content. And this should not be called a trap of trying to be edgy and controversial. The kind of content that I see on OTT platforms ranges from very slice-of-life films to thrillers to edgy content to controversial content. So the beauty of OTT platforms is that it does not restrict you to any one particular kind of content.”
According to Mehra, “Edgy does not have to be controversial necessarily. Content creators will make content they believe in. It is up to the OTT players sensibilities of where they draw the line.”
On the other hand, Hussein believes that “a lot of platforms started being edgy for the sake of being edgy.”
“The need is to tell interesting stories. It is not about being voyeuristic just because it is online video and just because there are no necessarily governing principles around it,” he added.
However, there is one thing all three industry players agree on -- this is the best time to be content creators in India.
Pandit lists three reasons: One, amount of leeway that a content maker is getting in terms of experimenting with the content that they are producing. Two, the different options and platforms they have to showcase the content that they are building. And three, the exposure that their content is getting not just in terms of a domestic audience but an international audience is phenomenal.Mehra adds that “there are so many edgy interesting stories to be told that may not fit the commercial conventional distribution model. One will see how good writing eschews everything else and thus the agency given to writers becomes much more. To have a platform which appreciates smartly produced content with interesting out-of-the-box subjects, talking to an international relevant audience, without catering to a mass sensibility is important and freeing for content makers.”