The Rise of OTT: Why 2020 was a game-changer for streaming aces like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video

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Written by Shaikh Ayaz
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Updated: December 15, 2020 11:27:58 am





In 2020, OTT platforms obtained the last word shot within the arm: a disoriented however nonetheless, hungry and captive viewers.

The misery yr of Covid has seen economies endure, markets crash and whole industries worn out. Its aftershock has rattled India Inc, which continues to be searching for a restoration route. But for one enterprise 2020 was a banner yr. It can be onerous to magnify the diploma to which OTT (over-the-top platforms akin to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, ZEE5, ALTBalaji, SonyLIV and many others) have made hay whereas a lockdown-weary inhabitants hustled for a ray of sunshine. On-demand video had already made streaming Starbucksy attractive (millennials are mentioned to devour extra on-line content material than front-benchers as soon as did stale samosas), and in a yr of unprecedented confinement, OTT’s revenues and turnouts ramped up drastically. As all actions remained shut, most notably theatres, OTT platforms obtained the last word shot within the arm: a disoriented however nonetheless, hungry and captive viewers.

In 2018, the Indian OTT trade was pegged at ₹ 21.5 billion. It is a unfastened change in comparison with Netflix, whose market cap alone stands at an intimidating $217.08 billion or so, reworking this as soon as underdog enterprise into a international monetary behemoth. The streaming prime canine presently has 193 million paid subscribers in over 190 nations. Blessed with pockets deeper than any Hollywood studio, it has given tinseltown veterans sleepless nights over the previous few years. Last yr, it backed the unbackable — Martin Scorsese’s languid mob epic The Irishman. And extra lately, helped David Fincher realise his dream of making Mank, a luxurious love letter to 30s’ Hollywood, on the strains of earlier ardour initiatives like Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma. All these famend films can be found in India, a golden goose more and more seen because the world’s quickest rising OTT market. But Netflix’s focus is to solid a gimlet eye on slick native content material for which it’s vying with homegrown producers like ZEE5, Eros Now, Voot, SonyLIV and JioCinema. A promising forecast means that the streaming big will shut the yr with a 4.6 million haul having notched up greater than two million subscribers within the final quarter alone, partly fuelled by the countrywide lockdown and social restrictions.

Netflix India started the yr on a combined word with the true-crime thriller Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega. Though the present, set in Jharkhand’s phishing underbelly, was critically well-received, one wouldn’t precisely name it a game-changer. For business buzz and some social media noise, the streamer needed to wait till Sima aunty and her appropriate boys would take the web by storm. Indian Matchmaking explored our nation’s cultural obsession with organized marriage, a controversial topic that made protagonist Sima Taparia one of the extra uncommon Netflix stars. For {couples} desperately seeking to discover ‘love’, the real-life matchmaker’s look was at least Christ’s second coming as she aligned stars, received faces learn and arrange alliances made in heaven (Sima Taparia: 1, Zoya Akhtar: 0). Taparia is an avowed marriage advocate, the standard annoying aunty in an overbearing Indian household who will sniff out an eligible bachelor from a mile off and spend the remainder of her day pestering that fortunately single teenager to make the leap. As the present progressed, we realized that Taparia’s marriage was mounted by her household. When she first met her personal fiancé, she barely received 20 minutes to spare with him. (Yes, the all-important ‘do you cook’ query got here up and fortunately, Sima aunty was fond of cooking. Why are we not shocked?) Yet, in a single episode, she has no qualms in making this curious admission: “In India, nowadays, marriages are breaking like biscuits.” From shaadi ke laddoo to shaadi ke biscuits, the eight-part Netflix unique with its regressive content material, in an ironic approach, additionally turned a parable for the younger India on the market combating its approach out of conventional handicaps. The present’s inherent racism and casteism have been flagged on Twitter, incomes it a full 15 minutes of disgrace. But who cares, Netflix had discovered its match.

Netflix Has Just Added a Film You Might Like

Loads occurred by the point we got here to the unique Suitable Boy. After airing on BBC, Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy arrived on Netflix with a bang. Vikram Seth’s kaleidoscopic interval drama set in newly impartial India concerning the almond-eyed Lata Mehra and her romantic exploits was one of the stellar titles it took a gamble on. But barely a month had handed earlier than the present confronted backlash. In an absurdity that’s changing into extra and extra widespread in India as of late, Lata Mehra’s youthful PDA was focused by the love-jihad brigade for exhibiting a kissing scene between the Hindu Lata and her Muslim lover in a temple. However, it didn’t take lengthy for the controversy to get eclipsed by some much-needed cheer. In a main clinch, the streaming web site’s 2019 Delhi Crime bagged the perfect drama collection on the 48th International Emmy Awards. Based on the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case that shook India and the world, Delhi Crime’s Emmy glory holds constructive indicators for the model’s future.

If Netflix has Emmy laurels, then Amazon Prime Video, its essential Indian rival, has not lagged far behind. It is more likely to get a increase with Mollywood whiz Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu lately being chosen as India’s official entry to the Oscar 2020. This is hardly shocking as a result of Prime Video’s regional catalogue has at all times been superior to Netflix’s, together with line-ups from Malayalam, Tamil and Bengali New Wave. In 2019, it had produced The Family Man, a riveting thriller that tossed a completely unassuming Manoj Bajpayee into an intriguing and twisty spy life. Earlier this yr, its two Hindi originals Mirzapur II and Paatal Lok — gritty take a look at the large dangerous world of crime, cops, weapons and gangwar — have raked in excessive scores with the latter topping 2020’s critics’ picks. The Anushka Sharma-produced collection is in some methods Amazon Prime Video’s reply to Netflix’s Sacred Games offering additional proof that hard-hitting internet choices on crime and gangster sugared with sardonic wit are far more on fleek than a pack of glamorous housewives and their rich-people issues.

God of OTT

sacred games 2 controversy Sacred Games is streaming on Netflix.

The widespread view is that Sacred Games was the Indian OTT’s tipping level. Released in 2018, it set the playbook for the fledgling platform. Vikram Chandra’s taut story, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s pulpy pizzazz, Saif Ali Khan’s against-type casting and some savvy advertising have been sufficient to lure younger audiences and flip them into binge-watching bots. For makers Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Neeraj Ghaywan, the splashy caper was a continuation of mob themes explored earlier than in Bombay Velvet and Gangs of Wasseypur franchise, which at coronary heart have been fanboy hand-kisses to Papa Scorsese’s Casa Nostra. As for Netflix, the collection was its first foray into Indian waters — a carpe diem second that made the American streamer hopeful about discovering an Indian blueprint of Narcos or House of Cards, two of their earliest flagship bestsellers. Sacred Games: Season 2 adopted swimsuit and its shiny success reserved a entrance seat for Netflix within the streaming race. Since then, it has guess on Anurag Kashyap and Karan Johar as showrunners to produce it with that elusive Indian OTT-buster. Indian OTT’s star machine at present consists of the likes of Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Pankaj Tripathi, Manoj Bajpayee, Neeraj Kabi and Shefali Shah. Its huge digital skies have provided new wings to actors with fading cinematic clout. For occasion, Abhishek Bachchan, Sushmita Sen and Karisma Kapoor who made well timed comebacks on OTT. Even Shah Rukh Khan, arguably Indian TV’s largest present to Hindi cinema, has embraced the brand new change, showing on Netflix’s My Next Guest With David Letterman and most lately, a cameo on The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives. It’s onerous to say what’s going to work within the unpredictable world of OTT however thus far, ‘the edgier the better’ is the phrase. Put in another way, welcome to this digital dungeon the place Nawaz is sizzling whereas SRK just isn’t — to rephrase the previous’s Sacred Games chant, “Nawaz hi OTT ka Bhagwan hai.”

Bollywood’s most well-known struggler, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s success parallels home OTT’s. In an age when digital has turned the tables and democratised the system, actors and administrators beforehand within the doldrums are having luck shine on them another time. Director Hansal Mehta, whose internet collection Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story on SonyLIV received rave evaluations for an genuine recreation of the well-known securities fraud that made Harshad Mehta the unique dangerous boy billionaire, put it greatest when he instructed Open journal in an interview final month, “Now the meaning and the power of online platforms have changed and for a filmmaker like me, who would prefer an audience that judged the film beyond that single Friday, it’s a big win.” In The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives, a Desperate Housewives-meets-The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cringe-binge, actress Raveena Tandon tells Neelam Kothari that at present “there is work for everybody.” Just moments earlier than, Neelam and Tandon are proven poking good-natured enjoyable at their Parampara co-star Saif Ali Khan and how they couldn’t hold a straight face each time he mentioned the road, “Pratap has landed.” The largest irony is that along with his highly effective efficiency because the jaded cop Sartaj Singh in Sacred Games, rumbling by means of a noirish Mumbai to reveal God-like Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), Saif Ali Khan had lastly landed on the scene. And it was OTT that made the flight doable for this previously underrated actor.

Future of Theatres

With nothing to show, some would argue that Saif Ali Khan can afford to be experimental (an Omkara right here and a Chef there) and take dangers as a result of he has nothing to lose — versus somebody like Shah Rukh Khan who has all the pieces to lose. Unlike Saif, many are nonetheless unsure of the longer term of leisure. There is chatter that Ranveer Singh-Deepika Padukone’s highly-anticipated 83, a sporty replug of India’s cricket world cup successful days, will maintain out for theatres to reopen. Is OTT not sufficiently big for the star couple? Certainly, it wasn’t sufficiently big for Christopher Nolan. The Hollywood showman resisted OTT’s digital attraction and as a substitute, welcomed Indian audiences to ring in his new movie Tenet in theatre on December 4. Long celebrated for his high-concept, time-twisting thrillers, the Interstellar maker has famously locked horns with Netflix, calling out the streaming titan’s “bizarre aversion to supporting theatrical films.” Talking to IndieWire, he aired his grouse, “They have this mindless policy of everything having to be simultaneously streamed and released, which is obviously an untenable model for theatrical presentation. So they’re not even getting in the game, and I think they’re missing a huge opportunity.”

Yet, not each filmmaker is Nolan and not each movie an immersive expertise greatest loved on 70 mm or IMAX. In the movie-crazy India at the very least the large display’s closure all by means of 2020 has meant that filmmakers and stars would, sooner or later, need to face the altering actuality. ‘Coming to a theatre near you’ is out, ‘Streaming now’ is fashionably in. That destiny struck much-hyped star automobiles like Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl that includes Janhvi Kapoor, Sudhir Mishra’s Serious Man, Sanjay Dutt starrer Torbaaz and Anurag Basu’s Ludo. Of these, Disney + Hotstar’s alliance with Akshay Kumar’s Laxmii Bomb was hailed by many as one other instance of the rising clout of streaming behemoths who are actually changing even stars and studios. But to its horror, Hotstar could have burnt its fingers with the horror comedy whose rights it reportedly purchased for a whopping Rs 125 crore in what was clearly one of the most expensive digital offers. Following a controversy, the movie underwent a title change, with out a lot luck. Akshay Kumar is often a secure guess, however Laxmii bombed. According to commerce stories, Amazon Prime Video has snapped up David Dhawan’s Coolie No 1 for half that value: Rs 65 crore. Slated for a world premiere on December 25, Prime Video is predicted to go all out to seize the Christmas audiences — a vacation season that has seen higher days because of Aamir Khan. Box-office’s Perfectionist Santa Claus is now reportedly in talks for his personal streaming debut. More are following. Fresh off the success of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, Dimple Kapadia will seem in her maiden internet collection titled Dilli for Prime Video alongside her Being Cyrus co-star Saif Ali Khan.

Even although digital’s newfound heft has causes to unnerve and problem the authority of prime studios and dyed-in-the-wool Bollywood bigwigs, many filmmakers refuse to jot down off the large display. One of them being Zoya Akhtar. She’s a curious combine: an OTT evangelist whereas remaining stubbornly dedicated to the thought of selling huge display business films and their communal joys. Her Made in Heaven was rolled out on Amazon Prime Video and stays an OTT pioneer together with Sacred Games whereas her anthology Ghost Stories was launched on Netflix this yr. Streaming could have killed TV, however Akhtar seems to imagine within the endurance of theatres. Speaking lately to The Wire, the Gully Boy maker mentioned, “Nothing is going to replace the theatre. When TV came out they were like this is the end of cinema. Then, videos, LEDs and surround sound came out, they were like why go to the theatre now. But since the OTT platforms came to India the footfalls to cinemas have just increased.” The web has lengthy killed Indian cable TV. And whose fault is it? Failing to see the writing on the wall, TV refused to cater to the smartphone-wielding audiences even because it continued to topic hundreds of thousands of Indians to the previous chestnut of Bigg Boss, dance actuality exhibits and saas-bahu wrestling matches. Around the identical interval, American cable networks reinvented TV with classics like The Wire, Mad Men, Homeland, Two and Half Men, Big Bang Theory and Breaking Bad.

Party Over?

Meanwhile, as soon as off the radar, OTT’s nonconformism is now elevating rational considerations over censorship. What is extra alarming is that often its creative selections are marked by scandalous topics which are likely to make conservatives (significantly staid politicians) uneasy. After the Information and Broadcasting ministry introduced in November that on-line content material would fall beneath their purview, some filmmakers attacked the transfer, describing it as “moral policing” and the Indian political mandarins’ obvious concern of free speech. Talks about bringing OTT into regulation are nothing new. Union I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar had earlier expressed considerations concerning the free leash that OTT appeared to get pleasure from. Recently, Monika Shergill, VP content material, Netflix shared her views on the difficulty, telling journalist Rajeev Masand in a tête-à-tête that they’re working with the federal government “to eventually make sure that the consumer has the freedom to choose.” Despite their ‘viewers know best’ diktat, the streaming websites observe a self-regulation code to some extent, having measures like maturity scores and parental management in place. But some concern the brand new guidelines would possibly curtail artistic freedom and put filmmakers by means of the mill with respect to getting their merchandise previous the Censor.

For content material creators, the occasion at OTT is decidedly over — however let’s be clear, the completely happy hours have solely simply begun.

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