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NEW DELHI : Fresh local web originals may still be some time away from making it to home screens in India, given the late resumption of shooting, but video streaming services are not sitting idle. The Video-on-Demand (VoD) services, that have added an estimated 4-5 million new subscribers to their platforms, are swiftly looking at other content options to retain and scale their audiences.

For one, there is fresh content available from catch-up television as TV shoots were quick to restart and syndicated series (shows created by the parent brand for TV also aired on its VoD service) are back to capturing a major chunk of the time spent (71%) on OTT platforms. This is a big jump from the 50% share they commanded during April and May when there was no original programming, according to the latest report on TV viewership and smartphone behaviour by BARC and data measurement firm Nielsen.

In its latest report, media consulting firm Ormax said that an estimated 12.25 million Hindi GEC (general entertainment channel) viewers started watching streaming content for the first time during the lockdown. 61% of the overall OTT universe in India (when considering urban, Hindi-speaking markets and the 15 plus age group) does not watch OTT originals, as of now. So syndicated shows clearly have an edge.

“OTTs are looking at a constrained supply window given that there is no fresh content and shoots have only begun now so offerings will only be available in another three to six months," said Jehil Thakkar, partner at Deloitte India.

Media experts say there is only a very niche part of urban, educated India, that watches international or local language original programming on OTT services like Netflix, Amazon or Disney+ Hotstar. Others, including Hotstar, VOOT and SonyLIV capitalize on streaming GEC shows that they are strong on. In fact, 40-50% of their consumption comes from small towns where mass, Hindi language entertainment is popular.

A few OTT platforms have come up with new lockdown shows. Eros Now picked up A Viral Wedding, an eight episode series, shot entirely in actors’ homes on their phones and GoPro cameras, while VOOT came up with an original The Gone Game, which was put together with remote direction and limited equipment.

Amazon Prime Video has upped the game with Malayalam language film C U Soon directed by Mahesh Narayanan starring popular actor Fahadh Faasil. In a statement announc the film’s release, Narayanan called it a computer screen-based drama thriller, a new concept that has barely been explored in Indian cinema. “People are attempting to stay virtually connected during these unprecedented times, and we wanted to take this concept a step further by exploring a unique format of storytelling through multiple screen devices...," he had added.

“It is time for the industry to define a new normal...We will continue to create fresh, rich and engaging content for our viewers, by discovering new means and paths," Punit Goenka, managing director and chief executive officer, ZEE had said in a statement to announce a bunch of shows shot during the lockdown.

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