NEW DELHI: With the disruption in production owing to social distancing during covid-19, Indian video streaming companies have been innovating over the last two months of lockdown to keep the content pipeline going as people stay indoors.
While American companies such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have the advantage of tapping into their global libraries, local platforms have acquired content, shot shows remotely and finished post-production on projects that had already been shot.
ZEE5, the OTT platform owned by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd managed to launch 11 new original shows and movies amid the lockdown that were shot prior to it, and is ready with new offerings such as Bhalla Calling Bhalla, Never Kiss Your Best Friend (Lockdown Special) and Kaalchakra shot entirely at actors’ homes.
Eros Now acquired A Viral Wedding, an eight-episode mini-series front-led by actor Shreya Dhanwanthary, shot by actors themselves on their phones and GoPro cameras, and also came out with a quarantine edition of its old original Metro Park.
Flipkart Video introduced two originals during the lockdown, Entertainer No – 1, a stay-at-home entertainment reality show, hosted by Varun Dhawan with an advertising campaign shot by him at home and Kya Bolti Public, an interactive poll-based game show hosted by Maniesh Paul. Keeping in line with Fridays being the day where movies release in theatres, Lionsgate Play partnered with Facebook to stream new Hollywood titles on the social network every week.
“OTT platforms already have a bank of content that was created prior to the lockdown, ensuring that we are able to offer fresh content to users. Our strategy of planning in advance has helped us ensure that our content pipeline for the year is ready," said Siddhartha Roy, chief operating officer, Hungama Digital Media that released two seasons of Comedycha Raada, a Marathi stand-up comedy special over April and May and is out with Bhootatlela, a horror comedy in Marathi and Hindi, this week, followed by Ratri ke Yatri, a Hindi anthology towards the end of the month. A non-scripted original show, Hungama Music Bus is also ready.
While the industry is already working out mechanisms to start shoots while following all necessary social distancing and safety norms, streaming players say the lockdown has also been an opportunity to innovate with remote working methods and finish post-production on shows that had been shot earlier. Punit Goenka, managing director and CEO, ZEE said it is time for the industry to define a new normal, to ensure that consumers remain well-informed and entertained.
“Additionally, OTT services have extensive libraries which hadn’t been explored by users earlier. The situation is giving them a chance to discover content which may not be recent, but is still new for them," Roy added.
The need to innovate and retain audiences becomes even bigger for streaming platforms given the expanded universe they now cater to. With the fierce need for social distancing and the absence of other entertainment avenues, people staying at home have turned to video-on-demand devices. A report by BARC and Nielsen estimates a 96% increase in their user base and a 7% rise in time spent. Rohit Jain, managing director, Lionsgate South Asia said the service has seen streams increase by 80% in May as compared to March.
“During this unfortunate lockdown, India has become more digital-savvy with many people coming on to the Internet. What we need to do is concentrate on consumer segmentation, understand how to retain customers better and work on onboarding the new segment that has just been acquainted with the Internet," said Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji and group COO, Balaji Telefilms.