Popular faces, TV franchises top OTT charts as platforms hook mass audiences

The latest Kapil Sharma show on Netflix has been topping weekly viewership charts, as had Koffee With Karan on Disney+ Hotstar earlier. (X)
The latest Kapil Sharma show on Netflix has been topping weekly viewership charts, as had Koffee With Karan on Disney+ Hotstar earlier. (X)


  • Many top-performing titles on OTT platforms are mainstream shows and films, often spin-offs of established franchises with popular actors, which attract a large audience.

The roaring success of popular TV franchises and family dramas breaks the myth that explicit, dark content tends to do better on streaming platforms, given that they are a personalized medium.

Increasingly, many top-performing titles across OTT platforms tend to be mainstream shows and films, some of them spin-offs of established franchises and featuring popular faces, drawing in a large mass of viewers.

The latest Kapil Sharma Show on Netflix has been topping the weekly viewership charts, as did Koffee With Karan on Disney+ Hotstar earlier. Both are new versions of TV shows. Further, theatrical hits such as Jawan, Animal and RRR have also grabbed eyeballs. Platform executives say a spike in viewership is guaranteed with such mainstream content. Also, with awareness levels high, entertainment properties are able to break through the clutter.

Content matters

“While star-studded titles often grab attention, they don't always guarantee success. Ultimately, it's the quality of storytelling and content that matter most. While mainstream shows with familiar faces tend to draw larger crowds, it's crucial for the content to resonate with the audience to retain their interest," Gaurav Banerjee, head, content, Disney+ Hotstar and HSM (Hindi-speaking market) entertainment network, Disney Star said.

While Koffee with Karan leverages its years of TV legacy and star power - Karan Johar is a famous film director - to attract a wide audience, Banerjee said the platform has also seen success with titles like 12th Fail and Manjummel Boys, with the former becoming the most-watched film on the service in 2023.

Exclusive content is the primary differentiator for any OTT platform. Hence, bigger streaming companies will continue to experiment with, and invest into building original content, said Rajni Daswani, director, digital marketing, SoCheers, adding that investment in bigger names and talent will pull in the next set of audiences to OTT.

Read | From box office to OTT: Streaming giants ramp up marketing to woo more viewers

To be sure, media-industry experts emphasize that growth in paid OTT subscriptions will now need to come from smaller Indian towns and content that speaks to the masses will be required to help bridge the gap between rising content costs and the slowing user acquisition rate. Keerat Grewal, head, business development (streaming, TV and brands) at media consulting firm Ormax, said that based on Ormax Stream Track, which is the company’s awareness and appeal tracker for properties launching on OTT properties, seven of the top 10 properties on Buzz this year are theatrical films. 

“This highlights the ability of films and film star-led properties being able to break through the clutter. However, six of the top 10 properties on Appeal, which is the intention to watch the property on OTT, are also theatrical films. 75% of SVoD (subscription video-on-demand) audiences are also theatre goers, which explains their propensity towards theatrical content," Grewal explained.

To be sure, platforms are also exploring strategies like restricting password sharing and increasing subscription fees to ensure financial stability, Shrenik Gandhi, co-founder and CEO, White Rivers Media, a digital marketing agency, said. “Viewers may see a gradual rise in the cost of streaming services, reflecting the value of premium content. One can expect a wider range of storytelling, a focus on high production values, and the rise of interactive formats as technology advances," Gandhi said.

Popular names grab eyeballs

Popular faces do have the ability to attract eyeballs, purely because those faces come with currency and brand equity and are well etched in the viewer's mind, agreed Rajat Agrawal, director, Ultra Media & Entertainment Group that owns OTT platform Ultra Jhakaas. “Stories resonate strongly with viewers if a known face is part of the narrative, since they have seen the past work of these actors, and know they won’t be disappointed. Viewers also want OTT content to come with decent scale, especially since big-budget spectacles are hardly releasing in theatres at regular intervals," Agrawal said.

That said, all platforms recognize the need to cater to diverse audiences on OTT. Manish Kalra, chief business officer, ZEE5 India, said popular and familiar faces do catch audience attention and help amplify the content to their fan base, but are not the only reason for content success. Audiences are always looking for good stories, as evident in the success of direct-to-digital titles like Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hai, Mrs. Undercover, Lost, Haddi and Tarla on ZEE5.

“Feature films need big faces when they are theatrical releases, and OTT players also make an effort to get such content pieces to derive mileage. But content is king when it comes to original web series," said Sandeep Bansal, managing director, Chaupal OTT, a platform specializing in Punjabi, Haryanvi and Bhojpuri content.

Also read | Streaming platforms deepen focus on family dramas as smart TV penetration grows

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