Gulf Today

OTT platforms are getting hyperactiv­e in India


MUMBAI: The OTT plaforms are geting hyperactiv­e: Jio and Disney+hotstar have become a single entity, Neflix has announced 22 new projects, all with top filmmakers and Amazon Prime has set March 19 as the date for launching what it calls The Next Chapter of the India Story! The OTT plaforms arrived in the country in 2016 but the awareness about them took some time to build up. People were happy with their films and television serials. The OTT plaforms did not come for free. Their subscripti­on rates were much higher than the local cable or satellite Set Top Box (STB) rates. Besides, all these plaforms initially offered mainly internatio­nal content to our viewers, who had been fed on Hindi content, be it films or TV. The audience for Hollywood films in India was limited mainly to a few metros. And all those who watched Hollywood films were familiar with the stars and had their favourites.

Even some who did not follow English, did follow certain Hollywood genres such as war, western or action films just for the fun of seeing the visuals. The language did not mater. Cinemas screening foreign films, however, were few. There was that kind of audience segregatio­n and cinemas catered to different tastes differentl­y.

Following the arrival of OTT plaforms, and sensing the shortcomin­gs in their Indian content, Indian television channels such as Sony India and Zee, and much later, content creators like Shemaroo, which held the copyright to a lot of film content, decided to enter the OTT business.

Initially, the OTT plaforms had litle to offer to viewers except for films, though a lot of them were telecast on TV or cable networks and, on this count, Indian plaforms enjoyed an edge because they held the rights to films and filmbased programmes.

The last time when I wrote about OTT plaforms, we had 40 of them catering to Indian subscriber­s. Today, the count is estimated at around 60. And these don’t include fly-by-night entreprene­urs.

OTT plaforms such as Don Cinema, Talkies, Primeshots and Gemplex are some that are untraceabl­e. Neflix and Amazon were among the ones to bring OTT to India. But a few people, if at all, talked about the medium. And to think about it, as of today, they are considered to be the premier sources of entertainm­ent content for people who have some kind of internet access, whether it is via a desktop, laptop, TV set or mobile. This is the medium that can be accessed at any time, whether one is travelling, commuting, in the office, or relaxing at home.

The struggling OTT plaforms came to their own when the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world. Stuck at home because of lockdowns, and with cinemas shut down, restless Indians started looking for entertainm­ent delivered at home. TV channels had very litle to offer as shoots had stopped. OTT plaforms filled in this entertainm­ent gap. Producers whose films were awaiting release but did not know how long the pandemic-induced lockdown would last, opted for the premieres of their films on OTT plaforms. For Indians, there is no bigger lure than watching a new feature film. Especially so when people were starved of their traditiona­l entertainm­ent.

Films have always been a big draw and even before the days of OTT, there were video libraries, Pay TV, and, of course, movie channels. Besides commission­ing web series, the OTT plaforms started buying rights to films, and that put paid to the future of satellite rights. A movie was available within weeks of its theatrical release on OTT.

Even when the Jio and Disney+hotstar deal was in the works, Neflix plunged head-on into Hindi content, having signed up top-rung filmmakers. Sanjay Leela Bhansali will make a streaming serial, “Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar.”

The list goes on: Ravi Kishan starring in “Maamla Legal Hai,” “The Great Indian Kapil Show,” the musical biopic “Yo Yo Honey Singh: Famous,” “The Greatest Rivalry: India vs. Pakistan,” “Mismatched Season 3,” “Khakee: The Bengal Chapter,” “Yeh Kaali Kaali Ankhein Season 2,” “Fabulous Lives vs. Bollywood Wives,” “To Kill a Tiger” and “Kota Factory Season 3.”

 ?? File/agence France-presse ?? Manisha Koirala (left), Aditi Rao Hydari, Sharmin Segal and Sanjeeda Sheikh at thenetflix event for the series ‘Heeramandi’ in Mumbai.
File/agence France-presse Manisha Koirala (left), Aditi Rao Hydari, Sharmin Segal and Sanjeeda Sheikh at thenetflix event for the series ‘Heeramandi’ in Mumbai.

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