THE OTT ERA

OTT or Over-the-top, is a convenient little term which describes a new way to watch movies and TV shows whenever we want, on a variety of devices, and without the use of traditional broadcast, cable, or satellite pay-tv providers.  

So why do we consider the ongoing generation as the OTT Era?

The first OTT platform launched in India was in 2008 by Reliance Entertainment called “BigFlix”, although it is safe to say the launch of BigFlix in 2008 or the launch of the Netflix streaming services in 2007 seemed unnecessary as people preferred DVDs more than online streaming services.

The audience preferred more of the theater experience over the TV experience even though the Internet was/is the most powerful medium to exist. But a decade later, what bought about this huge change in people’s perspective? Even the film industry started to prefer OTT platforms to stream their movies or series instead of theaters!

It’s simply because the internet made life easier for everyone – from shopping for clothes & necessities to easily accessible delivery systems. This somehow started taking effect on the movie industry, in the form of OTT. Hence the cinema audience has started believing OTT is the future of movies.

It is the stress involved in selling a movie coupled with the fact there is no assurance of profits, even for big budget films, and the presence of too many middlemen, that has stacked the cards in favor of the OTT platforms. In the case of OTT releases, the process is much simpler! OTT streaming services like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Zee5, etc. often have a dedicated content approval department, for the movie and once approved, the movie is onboarded on their platform, directly serving it to the audience, thus eliminating the complications involved in theatrical releases. 

By choosing the OTT way, there are mostly two possibilities, one – the OTT streaming platform can choose to produce a movie and stream the movie on their own platform, or the OTT platform will buy a complete film, directly from the producer and then stream it. Both these ways are proven to be efficient and work out financially for a producer. The biggest advantage of an OTT platform is that even small-budget movies with good content have a better reach among the audience, and there is minimal risk in this process comparatively. It eliminates geographical restrictions and a wide range of audiences around the world can have access to a movie cutting across geographical and language barriers.

So, what are the main reasons for OTT to become an inevitable power-center in today’s movie world?  One of the main reasons may seem simple and small, but it does have a huge impact whatsoever, we can call it “The Interval Cost” – the snacks sold in theaters, especially in multiplexes are prohibitively expensive, sometimes higher than the actual movie ticket price. People were never ok with the cost of popcorn; it just seems unfair. And the second reason is something we may all know, COVID – 19 – isn’t it obvious that the world-threatening virus actually proved to be an advantage for OTT platforms? the pandemic made it impossible for theaters to be shut down for more than a year, and this lead to the exponential rise of OTT, due to a large section of the audience consuming their content, sitting at home!

Watching a movie or a web series from the comfort of your sofa just started to seem more realistic and obviously much more relaxing, with no interval without the hassles of getting out! Yet another example of the Internet taking over the world just by making things easy for us, and of course, easy for film-makers too!

However, this so-called OTT era hasn’t always been successful. The streaming platforms do suffer losses if there is inadequate content to release for the audience or if there are constant spate of failures of movies or web-series. A recent example is Netflix losing a huge number of subscribers.

Having discussed about the OTT platforms, the movie theaters aren’t disappearing any time soon – So long as the passion for cinema is alive, there will always be an audience for big-ticket films. No audience is ready to watch their favorite movie star on a TV screen, in a big-ticket film!

Cinema is no less than a culture in our country and some cultures aren’t meant to be written off!

-Ajith Kumar

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