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Filmmakers Eye OTT Platforms For Release, Give Theatres A Miss

Filmmakers Eye OTT Platforms For Release, Give Theatres A Miss

Rights of Gulabo Sitabo acquired by Amazon Prime Video, Laxmmi Bomb lined up for release on Disney+Hotstar

T-Series is reportedly in talks with Netflix for its entire 2020 slate

Move crucial for Bollywood, which has so far stuck to the eight-week window between the theatrical and digital release

With the Covid-19 pandemic delivering a body blow to their plans, the Indian media and entertainment industry is making do with online services.

Bollywood has decided to end its eight-week dry spell of theatrical release with OTT-launches to deal with the altered reality of the post-Covid-19 world. A Livemint report citing sources said that few filmmakers have decided to take their movies to video streaming platforms. This includes director Shoojit Sarkar’s Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Gulabo Sitabo, whose rights have been acquired by Amazon Prime Video. Also, Akshay Kumar-starrer Laxmmi Bomb has been signed up for co-producers Fox Star Studios’ own service Disney+Hotstar.

Further, discussions are rife for movies like Vidya Balan-starrer Shakuntala Devi-Human Computer, Bhumi Pednekar-starrer Durgavati, Karan Johar’s Gunjan Saxena-The Kargil Girl, two more Amitabh Bachchan films, Jhund and Chehre and Anurag Basu-directed Ludo for OTT release.

It is reported that T-Series is in talks with Netflix for its entire 2020 slate, which includes Kiara Advani-starrer Indoo Ki Jawani and black comedy Chhalaan.

In terms of numbers, it is notable that while a film such as Gulabo Sitabo would normally sell for INR 20-25 Cr to a digital platform post-theatrical release, easily recovering its INR 25 Cr budget, its producers are now in a position to command more, possibly in excess of INR 30 Cr.

Further, experts have noted that since streaming platforms come with annual allocated budgets, acquisition prices cannot shoot up astronomically. It is suggested that OTT’s reduce the number of films being acquired and pay more for coveted titles. 

However, it is to be noted that this will be a mid-to-long-term investment for the streaming services who will not be able to monetize movies instantly.

In Bollywood, no shoot has taken place since March/April considering shoots need a huge gathering of people performing different activities. While there was a pressure initially to continue shoots, the industry has sensitised to the aggravating situation. 

While the fear of halted business has gripped independent filmmakers and big production houses, the interest of industry participants precedes the thoughts of any losses incurred. Hence, the spike in viewership of OTT is a ray of hope for filmmakers. 

With high bandwidth internet, low mobile data tariffs and access to the best smartphones and upcoming technologies, the urge to consume content on-the-go has opened up an ever-rising opportunity for OTT video streaming players in India.

There are currently 35+ video OTT players in India, catering to a subscriber-based user base of 53.1 Mn (as of November 2019). In 2019 only, 11+ local and international players have marked their entry in this space. This indicates an untapped opportunity in the Indian online video content sector.

Since then, this number has only risen further. The overall OTT market in India is expected to grow at 21.8% CAGR from INR 4,464 Cr in 2018 to INR 11,976 Cr in 2023, according to PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2019–2023. A September 2019 report by KPMG predicts that India will have more than 500 Mn online video subscribers by FY2023. This would make it the second-largest market after China.