2018: OTT’s Sacred Year?

28 Sep,2018

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Permanent Roommates, TVF’s 2014 romcom, is where it all started. There had been a few OTT originals (more popularly called ‘web-series’ in India) before it, but Permamnent Roommates initiated several members of the fledgling digital population in urban India to this new category. TVF followed it up with a classic for the ages, Pitchers. A new medium of storytelling had arrived.

 

However, the OTT original content journey since then has been a frustrating one to track from the sidelines. Year after year, we saw launches by the dozen. But quantity ruled over quality, and except TVF’s Tripling (2016) and Y! Films’ Bang Baaja Baaraat (2015), nothing really stood out in a sea of evident mediocrity. An OTT production ecosystem was up and running, but what they were delivering left a lot to be desired.

 

It’s only since the second half of 2017 that the OTT original content movement has gathered some real steam. The list below indicates that. Out of the Top 10 shows based on Advocacy (a measure, on a 0-100 scale, of audience engagement leading to recommendation to peers), four are from 2018 and another three from 2017.

 

Netflix’s Sacred Games broke the 80-point barrier this year, usurping Pitchers, which had held the distinction of being India’s most-loved OTT show for three years. Just six months ago, an Advocacy score of 56 was enough to get a show into the all-time top 10 list. Today, 21 shows stand at 56+.

 

The willingness to pay (via subscribing to an SVOD platform) is a marketing challenge most platforms are trying to address. While SVOD and AVOD platforms cannot be compared on the size of their viewer pie, when it comes to engagement, any two pieces of content (even across media) can be compared. When there was a lot of talk about the SVOD boom in 2015-16, the engagement was lacking, outside three TVF shows. What has changed then, in 2017-18?

 

The advent of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video seems to be an obvious factor. Till last year, there was an over-dependence on TVF (which still holds four of the top 10 slots in the list above, and another one on sibling brand Timeliners) to deliver quality. The new platforms have brought in more budgets, and hence been able to attract stronger talent, leading to better-produced, better-directed and better-acted content in general. Not all of it has worked, but at least the success ratios look better now.

 

But some evident opportunities still remain untapped. Most of the top 10 shows are heavily metro-skewed, getting a dominant share of their viewership from the top 8 cities. While this may be understandable for the SVOD platforms in the short run, even the AVOD shows, including those on YouTube, exhibit this trend.

 

Almost all shows outside those on TVF are dark and edgy, limiting their audience base to a specific palette. Variety in genres is evidently missing. For example, there hasn’t been a definitive love story on OTT yet in India. And music, which is core to a lot of our storytelling, hasn’t found a meaningful outlet on OTT yet.

 

But at least, there’s been a start of some kind. Quality over quantity will always rule. And 2018 has reaffirmed that for the OTT original content category in India.

 

 

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