Are OTT platforms the new ‘big screen’ amid pandemic?

The streaming platforms has emerged as an ever-important source of entertainment for those stuck at home

“Cinema halls are opening up,” the breaking news read. For a minute, I was elated. But soon enough I wondered, ‘Am I really going to take the risk of sitting inside a movie theatre for almost three hours to watch a film?’ Moreover, when there’s a line-up of new releases, of both films and series, on the streaming platforms — and the best part? I don’t even need to step out!

This isn’t just me, but probably how majority of the movie buffs feels like amid the ongoing pandemic. For OTT platforms, which were already soaring high, sky is the only limit. And given the situation, it has emerged as an ever-important source of entertainment for those stuck at home.

In 2012, India only had two OTT platforms. And as of January 2020, the number is about 40. Moreover, as per a recent report by industry body Broadcast Audience Research Council, 12% more time was spent on online streaming platforms by Indian users amid lockdown (20 March to 3 April) than before (13 January to 2 February). This, in itself says a lot.

There is no doubt that OTT, with its varied and intriguing content, is here to stay. After all, the days of saas-bahu serials are gone, if not entirely. In today’s time, the viewers – especially the youth – yearns for relatable content – something that is rooted in reality, is forward and offers a fresh and bold take on life.

For instance, Amazon Prime series Made in Heaven was loved by the Indian audience because of how its characters seemed real. Be it a homosexual man being portrayed with perfection, without a tad of typecasting (rarely seen in Indian films or series) or the rawness with which each character has been essayed onscreen.

Similarly, series like Sacred Games (Netflix), Pataal Lok or Mirzapur (Amazon Prime Video) – all of these coming under the crime/thriller/gangster genre – are some of the most popular Indian series on OTT platforms. Also, series like Four More Shots Please and Masaba Masaba – which are women-centric – opens up a new, more empowering world to its viewers, both women and men. But this isn’t it — the genres are wide and varied. Also, it’s beyond Bollywood. Even regional films find prominence in these platforms. And of course, the international ones spoil us for choice.

And now, since the cinema halls were shut for almost seven months – the OTT platforms even served as ‘big screens’ amid lockdown. To make the most of this opportunity, the streaming services bought the rights to release the films primarily made for theatres, like Gulabo Sitabo, Laxmii, Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl, Dil Bechara, Shakuntala Devi, The Big Bull, Bhuj, Brahmashtra, among many others. And the makers had no other option but to ride the tide of OTT amid the crisis.

Moreover, the decision of filmmakers and producers to opt for OTT was not only because the halls were shut. But it was also made keeping in mind the footfalls even after the halls are opened – given the pandemic is at its peak, and might take years for normalcy to be restored.

Some of the dominant players in the Indian streaming arena are Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar and ZEE5. But many others like ALTBalaji, Hungama Play, Voot, SONY Liv, MX Player, to name a few, are comparatively new on the block and attempting to make their mark as well. As per reports, the subscriptions to all these platforms – especially the dominating ones – have increased since the pandemic’s inception. And this might be just the beginning of the rule of OTT.

But again, the charm of a 70mm screen is hard to compete with. The unparalleled experience that a movie viewed on theatres offer is something we crave for, and will probably do so in the times to come. So, theatres or movie halls are here to stay – no matter how tough the crisis, or the competition. Movie buffs might be satisfied with the OTT platforms and the bingeing amidst home’s comfort, but they also crave for the larger-than-life experience that only a big screen can offer.

(Cover image credit – binged.com)

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