Over the top (OTT) is a term used to refer to content providers that distribute streaming media as a standalone product directly to viewers over the internet, bypassing telecommunications, multichannel television, and broadcast television platforms that traditionally act as a controller or distributor of such content. The term is most synonymous with subscription-based video on demand services that offer access to film and television content (including existing series acquired from other producers, as well as original content produced specifically for the service), including Amazon Video, fuboTV, Hulu, Netflix, Now TV, Sling TV ,VOOT, and Sky Go as well as a wave of “skinny” television services that offer access to live streams of linear speciality channels similar to a traditional satellite or wireline television provider, but streamed over the public Internet, rather than a closed, private network with proprietary equipment such as set-top boxes.
Over the top services are typically accessed via websites on personal computers, as well as via apps on mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets), digital media players (including video game consoles), or televisions with integrated smart TV platforms. Web series such as ‘Inside Edge’, ‘Sacred Games’, ‘Selection Day’, ‘Mirzapur’, etc. are very much part of entertainment in our day to day lives. We spoke to a cross-section of the industry as to the future of the big screen cinema against these shows of streaming media. Producer-director Mehul Kumar believes, “These streaming media are good for the lower middle-class people and poor people who can’t afford the very costly multiplex tickets and can see these web series on their mobile phones and other social network media.” He feels that the real entertainment experience can only be enjoyed on the big screen but also adds, “There will be a definite dent in the business of theatre-screened films.”
Kumar maintains, “The content which is shown on some of these streaming platforms is abysmal. There is no censorship for their programmes although film producer bodies have fought many a time against them. But this brouhaha is just temporary. Ask the name of the makers of such shows or the actors of these shows, no one will remember it like the makers of feature films!”Kiran Juneja, actor, feels the mediums will both thrive alongside. “I feel both the mediums will co-exist together happily because I watch the web-series on the OTT platforms as they are interesting and well made and easily accessible but when I want a family experience with my husband and close ones, I make it a point to go to the theatre and have a big screen experience with popcorn and other food items and experience watching the big stars on the big screen. As for censorship, I feel everyone should profess self-censorship. I myself would like to act in a web series given an opportunity.”
Some makers like producer-director Satish Rajwade believe the big screen has nothing to fear from the new age invasion, but that web-series are also here to stay. “The effect of OTT platforms will be there although negligible because the audiences want the ethereal big screen experience and makers will have to make big films with good content. However, there will always be makers who want to work with Amazon or Netflix. Regarding censorship, I feel self-censorship should be there to a certain extent. As for me, I am making a web series myself to learn more about this new medium.”Anil Nagrath, actor, filmmaker and IMPAA Chief, believes the web series have an unfair advantage. “I feel Censors are killing Hindi cinema in a big way with their hard rules and sniping of words and situations. Even words like ‘kutta’ are snipped off whereas these web series on Amazon and Netflix and other streaming platforms get away with murder. The public easily access these shows on a mobile phone. I seriously feel Censors need to have a recheck on themselves or else the big screen cinema will lose out to these shows on streaming platforms. I myself watch such shows on Netflix or Amazon.”
Gajendra Ahire, producer-director feels the entrance of OTT platforms is actually a blessing in disguise. “The streaming platforms are a good competition for big screen cinema as it will help in improving the quality of cinema with good content. Since one can watch a web series on the mobiles or other devices, OTT platforms are easily accessible which will definitely affect big cinema in a small way but big screen entertainment will always remain the same. It will have to pull up its socks though to fight for an audience in competition with these streaming platforms. Today there is censorship only for big screen cinema and this affects it, to some extent. Given an opportunity, I would like to make a web series myself.”
As of now, it can be surmised that OTT has a superior viewership currently which is growing and will definitely be a competitor to big screen Hindi cinema. At the same time, it offers many new creative people a chance to get a medium to show their art and win revenue for themselves and the industry. Question is, will this web series juggernaut slow down or is it just a passing phase? Time alone will tell! In the meantime enjoy the streaming platforms, minus censorship, as well as the quality big screen Hindi film experience!