When the pandemic altered our lives, it also changed the way we entertained ourselves. While OTT platforms were already on the scene, with theatres forced to close their doors during the lockdown, the audience soon turned to these streaming apps for their regular dose of entertainment. The surge recorded in paid subscribers in 2020 was an indication of what was to come. As soon as it was evident that theatres wouldn’t be able to function like before, producers too jumped at the opportunity OTT platforms offered for movie releases, especially small budget and independent films. It didn’t come as a surprise that even after the lockdown was lifted and theatres reopened with limited capacity, the safety concern among viewers remained paramount. Many still preferred to stick to the indoors at least for entertainment, and it reflected in the report by the RBSA Advisors, which pegs India’s current video OTT market at $ 1.5 billion, and expects it to leap to $12.5 billion by the end of the decade.
Regional Content is a Huge Draw
But the pandemic alone couldn’t have sustained this shift for long had the content on offer been below par. Unlike theatres that are limited to new releases, OTT platforms have revolutionized viewers’ experience in ways that are becoming irresistible for the audience. For instance consumers have never before been so spoilt for choice with dozens of OTT players offering original content in variety of genres to caters to a wide range of interests in films and webseries, including an array of global content, dubbed or with options of subtitles.
But for a country with a strong regional diversity, the access to content in their own native language is proving to be a huge draw with regional audiences in India. Hotstar’s India Watch Report 2019 suggested that video consumption of regional language content is as huge as 40 percent, especially Telugu, Tamil and Bengali being very popular among the audience, with consumers from non-metros amounting for 63 percent of entertainment consumption. In fact, with a boost in digital connectivity, smartphones and affordable internet services, the RBSA Advisors report predicts an expansion of the OTT landscape to tier II, III and IV cities. And with regional OTT players expanding their reach through linkups with telecoms, there is no reason to believe this is going to change much in future.
Versatile and Affordable
The versatility OTT platforms provide is another reason they are so popular especially among the young audience that amount to 89 percent of the users according to Counterpoint Research’s survey report that accessed India’s OTT video content consumers. Given the fast-paced lifestyles everybody is leading and the need for speed in all departments, the availability of entertainment 24/7 at one’s fingertips whenever one feels the urge to tune in, is helping OTT platforms to become the prime entertainment provider relegating theatres to the backseat.
Streaming services also have an option to download and watch later, useful for people with limited internet packs, those on vacation or constantly on the go and looking to catch a new release, their favourite web series, or simply re-watch old, comfort classics. It has allowed people to carry their entertainment with them in their pocket and caters to binge-watchers who enjoy watching episodes of a web/TV series without the interruption of intermission. Most services also have a playback speed option which enable one to watch anything at a faster or slower speed, and speed through boring and unimportant scenes easily, just the way millennials like it.
The Cinematic Experience
And lastly, one of the main reasons people patronized theatres was for the complete entertainment experience it provided. From being a family outing, to watching a new movie with friends, not to forget the huge attraction of watching a 70mm film in 3D – there were no parallels. Even if that meant waiting for a long time for big releases, it was always worth it. But that changed after India’s OTT industry arrived on the scene. Streaming services can be used on a variety of devices ranging from smartphones, laptops to television screens, and it isn’t limited to that. To enhance the experience of viewing at home, projectors have become the latest fad, especially the wireless variants that are easy to set up in any space. The excitement of big size image, comfortable on the eye, with adjustable ambient light levels and brightness that optimize the image quality has further narrowed the divide between home entertainment and the cinematic experience audience enjoyed at the theatre.
There is no doubt that OTT platforms have everything going for them and by the current trends, are predicted to dominate viewership in the future. But only time will tell whether this is a temporary blip or a permanent shift of viewership from theatre to home entertainment. However, one thing is for sure, theatres have never faced such stiff competition before.