OTTs win over multiplexes in lockdown as Amazon Prime Video sets off ‘direct-to-digital’ in India

OTTs win over multiplexes in lockdown as Amazon Prime Video sets off ‘direct-to-digital’ in India

Last week, Amazon Prime Video sent ruffles through India& apos; s entertainment industry by announcing the premiere of Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo( starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana) on its platform on June 12.

The film was originally slated to secrete on April 17, but the national lockdown propagandized it towards uncertainty. As theatres and multiplexes shut down, liberations were halted, and films already running were also plucked out.

As a outcome, producers and content studios have been increasingly pinched for fund. Freeings bring in incomes, which in turn, assistance clear production costs. Every day of defer makes additional costs incurred by the film studios.

This has motivated makes to look towards OTT platforms for direct-to-digital releases. As chorus around OTT premiers flourished, the Multiplex Association of India( MAI) pushed producers and studio marriages to honour the” exclusive theatrical space” of a movie — a 60 -day gap between theatrical and OTT releases.

” We counsel all studios, makes, artistes and other material developers, to kindly respect the exclusive theatrical window, which has been a time-tested industry practice, was accepted by all stakeholders , not only in India, but even globally, for several decades ,” MAI said.

Amazon premiers

Photo: Amazon Prime Video

However, things panned out differently.

Within a week of MAI’s letter, Amazon Prime Video went on to not only announce the premiere of Gulabo Sitabo, but also revealed that it has acquired six other Indian cinemas for its’ direct-to-digital’ slate. These include the much-awaited Shakuntala Devi biopic stellar Vidya Balan, and five regional word movies that will premier alone on Prime Video in the next 3 month across 200+ countries.

Vijay Subramaniam, Director and Head, Content, Amazon Prime Video India, says,” We believe in listening to what our consumers want and use downwards from there. This impression is the genesis of our latest offering. It is the first step in our endeavour to bring superior cinematic ordeals to our customer’s doorstep .”

Following Amazon Prime Video, Netflix announced on Tuesday that it would be premiering Anurag Kashyap& apos; s directorial Choked: Paisa Bolta Hai on June 5.

Even though a direct-to-digital release isn’t unheard of globally — in 2019, Martin Scorsese bypassed a theatrical freeing and’ dropped’ The Irishman straight onto Netflix — in India, it was always about maintaining status quo. Hence, Amazon’s decision has opened a can of worms that stands to affect all stakeholders in showbiz — OTTs, movie exhibitors, multiplexes, producers, studios, and even witness.

Some positively, some otherwise.” This is a very sticky topic ,” a media consultant told YourStory,” We’ll have to wait and watch before commenting on it .”


Photo: Netflix India

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Until now, OTT platforms had been dubbed the poorer cousin of theaters when it came to movies. The manufacture always romanticised big-ticket, event-led freeings and proposed the glee of watching cinema on the 70 mm screen.

Oftentimes, OTTs would end up being the dumping ground for inferior excellence content( that does pulled out of theatres fast ), and even unreleased designations. But by signing up Bollywood -Alisters like Bachchan, Khurrana, and Balan, Amazon Prime Video may have turned the tide in one descended lunge. In fact, head Sircar called it” the sunup of a brand-new period for Indian entertainment “.

A direct OTT release takes Indian cinemas global instant to every busines that Amazon Prime Video operates in. It entails more eyeballs, more public demand, and eventually, more investments in the domestic film industry.

Gaurav Gandhi, Director and Country General Manager, Amazon Prime Video India, says,” Prime Video with its late invasion in India, with viewership across over 4,000 towns and cities, and its worldwide reach in more than 200 subjects, will give a large world-wide handout footprint to these movies .”


Photo: YS Design

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Not simply this, but OTT releases also cater to the pent-up demand in publics that have been deprived of brand-new cinema releases for two months and counting. At the same time, it allows witness to enjoy fresh content from the safety of their homes and fulfils all social distancing standards that are in place now.

Interestingly , not just Prime Video and Netflix, but even ZEE5 India is premiere Nawazuddin Siddiqui-Anurag Kashyap starrer Ghoomketu on May 22. The cinema is slated for an Eid release on Friday, roughly reflecting a theatrical trend.

In fact, ZEE5 has lined up 15 direct-to-digital releases for FY21. The homegrown OTT operator is positive that consumer habit formation and behaviour berth the pandemic will influence current trends in a major direction.

Aparna Acharekar, Programming Head, ZEE5 India, tells YourStory,

” This is a consumer-centric industry where the public drives the trends as well as raise. The OTT sector in India is a steadily growing market and is one segment in the entertainment industry which has done enormously well in the present situation. Given the situation, OTT provides the relief and great reaching that filmmakers and creators need to keep the show operating .”


Photo: ZEE5 India

ZEE5 claims to have recorded an 80 percentage emergence in due and a 92 percent upsurge in movie streaming within the first month of the lockdown.” The breaths have changed” in the favour of a digital life for amusement, according to the company.” The multitudes show the immense potential and reach of this segment ,” says Aparna.

She adds,” Digital exhausts are convenient to schedule and are promoted as extensively as a theatrical liberation. Economically extremely, digital rights are something which product houses can benefit further from and for stages, these convert into brand-new customers and streaming hours .”

Direct-to-digital liberations can not only grow app downloads, but also proselytized non-paid customers to fee ones, and even bring in new distinct users to the OTT platforms. Additionally, more fresh cinemas will expand their content libraries, meet them most diverse, and opening to the outside world brand-new streets for a film’s monetisation.

It could even fetch top-tier advertisers and brands to OTT programmes in the long run.

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Almost all stakeholders in showbiz is of the view that digital cinema premieres will pave the way for newer business frameworks and material strategies.

One of the things OTT hustlers are deliberating right now is the pay-per-view( PPV) modeling, which hasn’t seen much success in India so far. PPV, where customers pay for only one title at a time , not only democratises content access, but likewise renders a steady stream of revenue and audience interest for the OTTs.

However, prohibiting Google Play Movies and YouTube , no video streaming pulpit in India currently offers PPV. Apple TV allows users to watch non-Apple content on a single-title basis, but only if they already have an Apple TV subscription.

Hence, PPV exists only in a limited form. That could change going ahead.

” Movies are a great source of patron acquisition as well as retention. We do expect newer receipt patterns to emerge in the near future, one among which could definitely be PPV, ” says Aparna.


However, PPV introduces in its own set of challenges.

Mahendra Soni, Co-Founder and Director of SVF( eastern India’s biggest film studio ), tells YourStory,” We tried secreting films through PPV. But the single biggest threat to PPV is infringement. Otherwise, I think that’s the best model .”

SVF too controls Hoichoi, one of the most important regional word OTT platforms, accessible in India and Bangladesh. Despite the availability of its own OTT service, SVF has held back two big-ticket freeings since the lockdown.

This is because there is a lurking fear among makes that regional language movies will not fetch the premium rates that Bollywood deeds do.

Programming managers say a direct-to-digital release that was already slotted for a theatrical release will be valued differently and higher. This symbolizes when OTTs shell out more fund for the purpose of obtaining brand-new movies, it can impact their content budgets for other projects, including their own original presents. The grape suggests that both Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are reducing budgets and re-negotiating treats that were closed pre-lockdown.


Photo: Hoichoi

OTT execs be suggested that in the long run, the mode of a film’s release will depend on its assign, content, and production plan.

SVF’s Soni asks,” If I have a big cast, popular songs, and a well-mounted film, I is undoubtedly like to market it to maximum parties, have as many brand associations as is practicable, do dozens of TV integrations, and develop that Friday buzz to get an opening. On the contrary, if I have a non-star cast film with strong material, I might end up instantly on OTT as I would get the desired onlookers over a reporting period with strong word of mouth .”

” We are not going to release straight on OTT exactly because it’s current trends. If we have a good business case, then why not ?” he adds.

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India is estimated to have 9,600 screens, including 3,000 -odd multiplex ones. Theatricals( also known as box office) still account for the largest share( 50 -5 5 percent) of a film’s overall revenues, according to a FICCI-KPMG study.

But, the sluggish expansion of physical screens and a parallel rise in OTT consumption is slowly yet surely changing the remaining balance towards digital. In 2019, cinemas’ digital incomes be increased by roughly 30 percentage, while theatricals were up less than 15 percent.

With the pandemic were planning to set brakes on the launching of new screens because of stringent sanitisation and social distancing guidelines, multiplexes and movie exhibitors have their undertaking cut off.

In a recent interaction with YourStory, PVR Founder and Chairman Ajay Bijli said,” Our business operates in detained openings. So, we were the first ones to be told to close down and will probably be the last ones to open( along with food courts and malls ). As a businessman, you can forecast volatility, but you can never predicted a zero-revenue situation. We have slammed all our theatres since March 11, and there is no cash flow .”


Photo: PVR

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Even though he is hopeful that a line-up of” brand new films” will bring publics back to the theaters, PVR isn’t too happy about OTT premieres.

In a recent media statement, Kamal Gianchandani, CEO, PVR Pictures, said,

” We are disillusioned with creators deciding to go straight to streaming platforms. We were hoping that they would be given access to our request to hold back their film’s release till cinemas reopen. That said, this is not the first time films are being premiered on streaming platforms. Cinema exhibition has regularly faced competition from new emerging spread pulpits over the last many years, and it has continued to enjoy cine-goers’ patronage and attraction .”

Meanwhile, PVR& apos; s peer INOX has acted more strongly against direct-to-digital releases, announcing it” fright and embarrassing “. It has even reminded producers and studios of retributive measurings.

Surely, this polarisation won’t die back soon , not until the pandemic is over. But when it does, it may have interrupted numerous long-existing business patterns.

ZEE5′ s Aparna positions it competently,” With the probability of restrictions on outdoor activities and amass continuing for some time, direct-to-digital releases is the best option for creators. This tend is essential given the current circumstances. But in future, we hope to nurture a healthy relationship between OTT programmes and theaters by providing good material to everyone .”

( Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)

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