An over-the-top (OTT) media service refers to a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the internet bypassing cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms that traditionally act as a distributor of such content. The emergence of OTT platforms has disrupted the entertainment sector. It is being propelled by the rise in the standard of living, evolution of smartphones, ubiquitous and affordable Internet connectivity coupled with increasing penetration in rural areas, and changing preferences of the audience. Content is now king in a real sense, and it is personalized and provides opportunity for wider focused distribution. A recent Boston Consulting Group report has predicted that the OTT segment in India is currently pegged at $0.5 billion and is poised to grow to $5 billion by 2023. Affordability and convenience are the key factors that have propelled the OTT revolution in India.
It is noteworthy that several OTT players have been producing original shows and films besides offering live entertainment, which has managed to capture eyeballs. The proliferation of OTT platforms has evoked apprehension among the filmmakers that this may be the death knell for theatrical experience. It is now not uncommon to see certain films opting for the OTT route to reach out to the appropriate target audience. Video streaming platforms have certainly made watching movies affordable, convenient, and available ‘on the go,’ especially for those who prefer binge-watching.
That said, going out of home to socialise and unwind by watching movies is still ingrained in social fabric in India. Moreover, gourmet food and an escapism experience as accompaniments to theatrical viewing make it still attractive. It is a major source of revenue for the film. The box office route is still a viable option for both content companies and theatres if the past track record are anything to go by, be it occupancy, footfalls, revenue or operating profits. It serves as a key measurement metric for the success of a motion picture. It is unlikely for big-budget movies opting for an OTT platform- only route in the near future unless there is an exclusivity of content to a particular OTT platform.
Both mediums, for now, are holding on to their exclusivity with formats and the USP attached to it. Both of them, though serve the same type of content, but the purpose and consumer variables are different. I might look for theatre experience for 3D animation or much-awaited releases, but I would fall for OTT platforms more On-The-Go with more like documentaries, interviews, podcasts, special interest content, history, or web series. It is more likely to say OTT has impacted ongoing TV viewership rather than theatrical experience.
One can foresee the co-existence of both theatres and OTT platforms in the long -run owing to their relevance to a particular format of content. Most people watch OTTs on weekdays and watch movies over the weekend. However, it cannot be denied that the technological revolution will redefine theatre for a type of content such as genre movies. The audience is likely to visit the theatre to seek an overall movie experience with a high amount of VFX and 3D, spend time with family and friends.
New age audiences are increasingly looking for fresh, relatable, and engaging content and are willing to shed an extra penny to seek a completely transformative experience. This customer experience will continue to occupy the centre stage of the entertainment industry. Hence it is grossly incorrect to exaggerate the impact of OTT platforms and equate it to the death of movie theatre viewing. But it is safe to assume that today’s customers like the plethora of options on the table.