In the last decade, the advent of smart phones combined with ultra-cheap data plans has brought about a sea-change in viewing habits of millennials — with online streaming taking the cream and a large part of the cake, away from Cable TV and (in some part) the cinema halls. The media and entertainment industry in India is likely to take a further leap to around Rs 3.07 lakh crore by the financial year 2024, according to a KPMG report. The report also states that the media and entertainment industry posted a solid growth of 13 per cent during the financial year 2019 and digital is expected to be a dominant force, the second-largest segment after TV. With an addition of 500 million new users, digital content is now becoming more and more suited to the viewing tastes of a younger, far more adaptable audience.
The increasing drift towards the consumption of content from over-the-top or OTT video streaming platforms has become plainly visible in India with every second person in this populous country watching some show or other through his/her mobile phone in between work and family time. Binge-watching has become the new buzzword and weekends are increasingly becoming date nights with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, MX player and others of its ilk for company.
According to Vidooly (Online Video Analytics and Marketing software) documentaries capture the highest interest of the audience between 24 and 45 years while romance begins to pall for an audience that crosses 34 years of age. The 45+ age group is more fixated with action and adventure. An online survey pegs Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hotstar as the most preferred OTT platforms. While the audience from metro cities show an inclination towards TV shows, non-metro residents are more likely to watch movies. News on OTT is also preferred more by users in non-metro cities.
Netflix, the biggest OTT video streaming company with its huge cinema library, has been putting out more and more region specific content in the past few years. In addition to pursuing recent Bollywood titles, notable indie films, memorable classic Bollywood titles and the best of regional cinema (Tamil, Gujarati, Punjabi, and Marathi), Netflix has also hooked the Indian viewer with its original web series content.
The season two of Netflix original, Sacred Games released later this year and, though considered not as good as its predecessor, managed to consolidate viewership gains from season one. The Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte and Kalki Koechlin starring (based on a novel) continuing saga, managed to thrill despite an overdeveloped plot.
Netflix’s Delhi Crime was the other series that had viewers enthralled. Based on one of the shocking and heart-wrenching rape incidents in New Delhi, the seven-part series developed and directed by Richie Mehta, that chronicles the Nirbhaya rape case, takes viewers behind the scenes of the investigation conducted by the Delhi Police. It navigates through the bureaucratic pressures, political influences and lack of resources faced by the Delhi Police during the investigation period and is eye-opening, gripping and invigorating even if a little one-sided.
Leila is yet another Netflix Original that has the viewer hooked. Considered as the first dystopian Indian original series with jarring similarities to Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, this series based on a novel written by Prayaag Akbar and directed by Deepa Mehta follows the journey of a woman Shalini (Huma Qureshi), who is snatched away from the comfort of her family life, into the shackles of a totalitarian regime called Aryavarta. The socio-political ramifications of the fascist totalitarian doctrine enshrined here hits quite close to home and therein lies the reason for its popularity.
Ghoul, Netflix’s three part series with Radhika Apte as one of the key characters, deals with supernatural horror, military activism and Arabic folklore. Apte as a military officer who has to interrogate a terrorist possessed by the Ghoul,
is riveting enough to garner an audience for
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video launched in India around the same time as Netflix. According to data released by the platform, India is growing fastest among the 16 countries that the platform is present on. Amazon not only provides English centric content but also focuses on Hindi content as well as regional content. Its video content portfolio is led by Bollywood movies whose popularity is a surefire given and Amazon’s commitment of a $300 million pie for original Indian content is currently giving Netflix a run for its money.
The shows that spearhead that momentum include Made In Heaven a nine part, fictional Indian original created by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, in collaboration with screenwriter Alankrita Shrivastava, about big, fat Indian weddings and the people who work tirelessly to put up these events. A cleverly put together social commentary on the many layers within Indian society, this show showcases typically rich Delhi families in all their finery and fragility while focusing on the competitiveness of two wedding planners, Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala) and Karan (Arjun Mathur), as they score major accounts for their wedding planning agency.
Breathe, Mirzapur and Inside Edge 2 are the other Prime originals that are helping Amazon Prime catch up to the leader. Breathe, the story of a father who goes to the point of murdering people, to save his son may be similar to the Denzel Washington starrer John Q but with R Madhavan in the title role, has a desi connect that is charismatic and disarming. It’s also fast-paced and eventful. Mirzapur, a crime thriller revolving around real life mafia rivalry in Mirzapur, UP, has an A list cast comprising Pankaj Tripathi, Ali Fazal, Vikrant Massey, Divyendu Sharma, Shweta Tripathi, Shriya Pilgoankar, Rasika Duggal, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and many others and is sharply telling thanks to Karan Anshuman, Gurmmeet Singh and Puneet Krishna’s combined efforts.
The recently released Inside Edge 2 may not have the edge of season one. Season two of Amazon Prime Video’s first Indian original series, premiered late this year and has since been notching up the consumption for the OTT platform. The show expands on its exploration of the grime beneath the glamour of PPL, a T20 cricketing tournament replete with cheerleaders, Bollywood celebrities, spot fixing and big money. And Richa Chadha, Vivek Oberoi and Aamir Bashir do a good enough job to keep you fixated.
The Star Network product, Hotstar is the only platform with content partnerships with HBO, FOX and Disney where the best TV shows from around the world, movie premieres and live sports and events, are available on a single platform.
Chernobyl, shot in Ukraine and Lithuania, reckoned to be amongst the best shows ever, with a 9.5 rating on IMDb, dramatises the story of the explosion of the nuclear plant in Ukraine. It holds a mirror to the lies, incompetence and corruption that led to such an earth-shaking tragedy. Game of Thrones (GOT), the compulsively addictive drama series that revolves around seven kingdoms and one ruler, with 9 seasons in all continues to draw in the crowd for repeat viewings. And the numbers continue to be huge. Season two of Barry featuring Bull Hader as a hitman who while travelling to Los Angles for his new mission gets roped into an acting class, is a multiple Emmy award winning show that has great character development and intriguing story telling. Flash, the TV series produced by DC comics, keeps the DC franchise in flourishing mode. The show which has been presented in a unique perspective has garnered a strong response from the audience at large.
Voot, BigFlix, Zee5, AltBalaji, SonyLIV, Eros Now, Viu, MX player are other OTT players trying to create a space for themselves in this overcrowded market that is seeing newer entrants every other month. It’s only a matter of time for the other players to up their game and produce content that will lure in larger sections of the audience for a larger market share in this ever increasing internet based pie!