Video streaming services are not perturbed by the reopening of cinema theatres and strong box office collections of films on the big screen in the recent past and are instead gearing up with more content as they seek to add subscribers in the upcoming year.
“Unlike TV, I don’t see OTTs directly competing with theatres,” said Ajit Thakur, CEO of Aha, a Telugu over the top (OTT) platform that started in February last year. “We don’t see much impact and it is not affecting viewership. Theatre-opening is not a concern for OTTs.”
Thakur added that the buzz that theatrical releases generate actually helps viewership of those films on OTT platforms.
“We had launched a film on Aha and that film had done exceedingly well in the theatre and it did very well for us too. I don’t know if it would have been the same if it would have been a direct-to-digital release,” he said.
Recently released films that are now available on streaming platforms include Akshay Kumar-starrer Sooryavanshi on Netflix and Satyameva Jayate 2 on Amazon Prime Video.
While the emergence of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has led some states to impose curfews and restrict capacities at public places including cinema halls, experts are of the view that theatres and streaming platforms in general do not compete directly with each other.
According to Shailesh Kapoor, CEO of Ormax Media, a media consulting firm, theatre-going is an outdoor activity that’s done only once or twice a month, while OTT consumption is done at a higher frequency, up to 4-5 times a week.
Growth, content plans
The video streaming segment is growing at 22-23 percent year-on-year, which is considered the fastest in the media sector. The number of OTT subscriptions is expected to grow 15 percent for the next one to two years, said Kapoor.
Betting on this growth, streaming platforms are investing more in content, including movies and original web series.
Divya Dixit, a senior vice president at ALTBalaji, a subsidiary of Balaji Telefilms
, said that in the upcoming year, it plans to launch Apharan
season 2, Red Suits You
, Code M
season 2, and Bois Locker Room
, among other shows.
“We are gearing up for a big non-fiction show on Sankranti (January 14, 2022),” said Thakur. “One of the success factors for Aha is one release every Friday. We will continue doing that in 2022. It will be a mix of theatrical releases on OTT, originals, web shows and non-fiction shows. Plus, we are gearing up for a Tamil launch during Pongal next year.”
Amazon Prime Video, which announced its entry into the live sports segment this month, will stream cricket test matches from New Zealand, starting with the series against Bangladesh in January. That will be followed by the series between the Indian and New Zealand women’s cricket teams in February and the Indian and New Zealand men’s cricket team matches scheduled for November. The platform also plans to offer double the original content it launched this year.
Bengali platform Hoichoi, which leads in the regional OTT space, plans to take its total number of original shows to 100 by the end of 2022 by launching about 32 originals next year.
Planet Marathi, which started this year, is geared up for 2022 and will offer 18 shows and six movies including content like Pondicherry, Sunny, Sahela Re, Mi Punha Yein and Badlee.
With new content, streaming platforms are looking to add paid users. India currently has about 102 million subscription video on demand (SVOD) users and this figure may touch 224 million by 2026, according to Media Partners Asia, a provider of research, advisory and consulting services to media and telecom companies.
Aha’s Thakur said the growth momentum in terms of adding subscribers will continue for the platform. The OTT, which had 1 million users in its first year, now has 1.7 million paid users and about 40 million users for its free content.
“A lot more Indian consumers are switching from TV. So, if that growth continues, we will also continue with our growth momentum in terms of subscriber base,” said Thakur.
ALTBalaji’s Dixit said it intends to double direct subscriptions to double-digit figures in the coming year. The platform sold 2.9 million subscriptions in the first half of FY22 versus 1.7 million in the first half of FY21. Direct subscription revenue stood at Rs 34 crore in H1 of FY22 compared with Rs 24 crore during the same period in FY21.
“The Hindi hinterland is the major contributor to growth in ALTBalaji’s subscriptions, and ALT’s content strategy and pipeline will address these masses for the future as well,” said Dixit.