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The OTT-Film Industry Nexus: Exploring Cinema in the Streaming Era

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The OTT space, once assumed to be a gamechanger for the world of cinema, has instead become a gameplayer, co-existing with the film industry, and rather than compete, the two have begun to complement each other. Here’s how.

India is in the midst of an OTT revolution. The past few years have been exciting for the India’s digital space, with several OTT platforms, national and international, battling it out for a share of the streaming pie. Now, Web Entertainment’s interaction with the TV Industry has been done to death. But there’s still an arena, which is undergoing changes due to OTT, yet remains overlooked: The Film Industry.

India’s Film Industry Craze

Indians have always been enamoured by the silver screen. From single screen theatres to multiplexes, people have continued to maintain affinity for theatrics, which did not diminish even in the face of VCRs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray. This scenario was expected to change with the rise of OTT, a new form of environment featuring dozens of players offering content worth tens of thousands of hours. But did it? Reports indicate a strong ‘No’.

Despite a tremendous boost in consumption of web entertainment, the film industry is still going strong. In fact, 2019 was groundbreaking in Indian cinema – with a diverse range of movies, especially from Bollywood, South Indian Cinema and even Hollywood (Avengers: Endgame, anyone?), delivering hits at the Box Office, placing themselves alongside the top tiers.

OTT: A Gamechanger or a Gameplayer?

OTT has definitely transformed the way people consume content by giving entertainment a ‘convenience’ factor in regards to time, place, and medium. Since we’re talking movies, the numerous streaming platforms have already acquired and produced content worth thousands of hours.

When streaming became mainstream, it was expected that OTT will live to watch other entertainment mediums die. Nothing of that sort has happened. OTT was assumed to be a gamechanger, but it has positioned itself as a gameplayer – co-existing and growing alongside other segments, like the film industry, in the entertainment ecosystem.

Film Industry: A Continued Journey of Growth

If OTT provides so many functional and monetary benefits, why is the film industry still booming? There are various reasons.

Indians are still crazy for cinema. Watching a movie in a theatre is not just seeing a story on screen, it’s an entire collective experience, one that cinema theatres try to amplify – with larger-than-life HD screens, comfort, food, in-seat service, and recently, an all-encompassing experience through 4DX – where viewers don’t just see, they feel the action. Technology has enhanced the cinema experience.

Moreover, many films made today are created for a cinematic spectacle. Surely, films like Avengers: Endgame or Baahubali can’t be experienced in the same way on a mobile or even a smart TV as it can be on an epic larger-than-life screen.

Another reason is medium penetration. OTT is yet to penetrate as deeply into the Indian society as films have. Movies have become a part of Indian culture, and despite a low screen density in the country, the film industry is too big of a mammoth to be cannibalized by the OTT space. Trends indicate that the film industry will continue its upwards growth over the years.

OTT & the Film Industry: Less Competitors, More Complementors

It was once assumed that OTT’s rise would mean a never-before-seen dip in the film industry. In fact, the rise in streaming platforms has actually proven to be a boon to the film industry in many ways. While they’re both different experiences of entertainment, they do not compete, but complement each other. Here’s how:

Digital Streaming Rights:

OTT platforms have begun to heavily invest towards acquiring digital streaming rights to films from producers. Mahesh Bhatt’s Vishesh Films and Salman Khan’s production house have signed a deal with Amazon Prime Video for exclusive digital rights to their films, while Netflix signed a similar one with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment.

This benefits both, the producers and the platform. While the platform adds a popular attractive name to its library, the producer is able to earn further revenue after the film completes its theatrical run. It’s a perfect way to co-exist and this trend is definitely going through an upswing, as both the industries continue to grow.

Direct-to-Digital Release: Benefitting Small Filmmakers

Direct-to-digital releases have also been gaining momentum, wherein producers are skipping the cinemas all together and directly hitting the web. This seems to be beneficial to small filmmakers and low-budget movies. Many small films spread through word-of-mouth, since their budgets do not allow for mass advertising. On the other hand, some films are not really meant for cinema halls. In any case, OTT seems to provide a suitable destination for such films. Through this, filmmakers can recover cost plus gain premium by selling streaming rights, which is tough to do at the already overcrowded box office. Release dates in theatres can become an issue as one – but not so much on the interwebs.

However, it is not just small films taking the ‘straight-to-digital’ route, the big-wigs are interested too. Karan Johar’s Dharmatic Entertainment has signed a deal with Netflix to produce original content exclusively for the platform.

Wider Reach and Longer Shelf Life:

OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc. are taking Indian films to a global stage through international releases. The streaming world also provides a wider reach to lower-budget and localised films. South Indian Cinema once enjoyed within boundaries of a few states, but now has expanded beyond the region and is watched across the country, thanks to online streaming.

Movies have also achieved a longer shelf life with OTT. No matter when the film was released, you can still watch it at your convenience – years or even a decade later. It also works to hype up the film industry – if a new much-awaited movie is releasing and you had missed out on its precursors or want to freshen up the storyline in your head, you can watch the films online before you hit the theatres for the new release.

Another unique business model that can be witnessed is the deal between the movie streaming platform ‘Mubi’ and PVR Cinemas, wherein ‘Mubi Go’ subscribers will get to avail a free movie ticket every week at PVR cinemas anywhere in the country. That’s quite interesting!

The Future of OTT and Films:

The Film Industry is projected to grow at a stable pace over the next few years. The OTT segment, on the other hand, will spread at an unprecedented rate – targeting its next few hundred million consumers by making inroads deeper into the country.

The two industries, however, will continue co-existing in a nexus that is mutually beneficial, with digital rights and direct-to-digital releases growing monumentally – providing filmmakers with more creative space, experimental liberty, and reach online.

Also Read: Non-Streaming Apps Look Towards Entertainment: A Marketing Analysis

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