Before the era of high-speed internet, and digital platforms and apps like Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Voot, Alt Balaji, YuppTV, and Viu, it was a time of dodgy dial-up internet connections and waiting for foreign shows to premiere on TV Channels like Star World, AXN, Zee Café, and FX. Now, it is a different story with consumers lapping up content streamed online.
Called over the top (OTT) platforms, earlier restricted to just catch-up destinations, viewers are now seeing them as the primary screen. Quality storytelling, large data packs and fewer ads are what attract people to OTT platforms.
Want to catch that latest movie, episode of a TV show or a live sports match? There is no need to torrent anymore. Just stream it. Period. But, is it too soon to say that TV will be relegated to just a streaming device?
“You can’t really say that TV programming has been taken over by OTT platforms. The audience for the two is not same. With TV, you are captive and forced to watch 20 minutes worth of ads before the movie comes on. As an online audience, you have the option to skip and can binge-watch a show. So, the content has to be really strong there to keep the viewer engaged,” shares Vijay Marur, communications professional.
In his work in the advertising field, the demographic they are catering to plays an important role in how they approach the ad strategy for a product. The same holds true for the content online.
Entrepreneur Varun Bandi hasn’t watched TV in quite some time, preferring to catch up on shows on Hotstar. “I shifted to digital TV since it works according to my schedule. I am not at the mercy of a TV channel to watch a show or a movie,” says Varun who never misses watching shows like Stranger Things, House of Cards and Game of Thrones. When not using his laptop, he streams it on his TV using Chromecast.
While it would be far-fetched to say that TV viewing may go the way of CDs and DVDs, it may be a long time before online platforms really take over entertainment in Indian households, the majority of which still watches programmes on the telly.
Mind over matter
In the words of Manav Sethi, CMO, ALTBalaji, who recently wrote a post online about the dying medium of TV, “There are structural changes happening with TV as a device, content made for TV and broadcast networks that feed content into TV, are going through.” Unhindered by censor boards, such platforms are not just attracting audiences, but also directors such as Kabir Khan, Shirish Kunder, Sujoy Ghosh and Anand L Rai who want to push narratives deemed too unconventional for mainstream TV.
Supported by the moolah and creative freedom being poured in by giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime, YuppTV, Viu, content has snowballed into high production costs, sleek cinematography and engaging storylines. People want new stories, latest episodes of international shows and shows in their own language instantly.
Broadening the horizon?
In a way, personalised viewing online also sort of introduces one to other content. Social worker Pradeep Karutori who is a habitual user of Netflix and Amazon Prime video stumbled on an old 1940s film called Pardesi during one of his binge-watching sessions. “I watch many classic films in Telugu and use subtitles for Hindi and Malyalayam films. The beauty is you can rewind and there are features like category wise sorting. It’s easy,” says Pradeep.
But, according to filmmaker Aparna Malladi who directed the web series Posh Poris, that may not be the case always. “I don’t think people are necessarily watching more quality content. They have a lot more choice now. They may go out of their comfort zone with one or two films, but I don’t think they will suddenly watch Fellini or Tarkovsky, if it’s available on Netflix or Prime,” elucidates Aparna.