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Video streaming companies are expanding their budgets and strategies for 2021 that is expected to spawn more regional content, attract small-town users, and generate new business models.

The coronavirus disruption brought millions of new users to streaming platforms. According to Media Partners Asia, a research and consulting firm, over 60 streaming services in India together spent over 5,100 crore in 2020, and is expected to see 25-30% higher spend this year.

Star India will spend more this year, said Gaurav Banerjee, president of its Hindi entertainment division. “Movie acquisitions were a direct result of what was happening and they helped plug an important need gap, but we also came up with more originals this year than before and we will continue to scale that up," Banerjee added.

“Rise in investment is natural when streaming services are looking at multiple seasons of web shows. They will have to up the game," said Neeraj Roy, founder and CEO, Hungama Digital Media, as subsequent seasons get progressively grander. Genres like thriller, comedy, crime and horror will continue to lead original content in India, along with the fledgling docu-drama category, Roy added.

SonyLIV’s Scam 1992-The Harshad Mehta Story is now the most-liked Indian web series of all time, followed by three other titles, according to media consulting firm Ormax.

Meanwhile, documentary viewing on Netflix grew more than 100% in 2020 over 2019, and Bad Boy Billionaires, The Social Dilemma and Money Heist: The Phenomenon were few of its most popular shows in India last year.

Gaurav Gandhi, director and country general manager, Amazon Prime Video India said the country is among the world’s most exciting streaming markets. India now has one of the largest Amazon original production slates among its international geographies, including 55 Amazon original series in various stages of development and 31 in various stages of production.

“The growth of subscription video streaming services in India will continue to accelerate rapidly, backed by focus on high-quality, cinematic value local original content, increasing disposable incomes and a growing base of discerning customers looking for a world-class experience, aided by the constantly evolving digital payments infrastructure in the country," he said.

Bigger budgets are already helping the emergence of new writers, actors and production houses, many of whom did not thrive in the traditional Bollywood structure. “We back passion projects and creators that are consumed by their vision. When selecting a story, the questions we ask are - why this story and why now? Much of that answer comes from the creators themselves and their belief in their project. We want to fuel, and amplify the vision of our creators which was restricted in the past by the format and the economic model of broadcast television and cinema," Gandhi of Prime Video said.

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