By Sugandha Rawal
New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) From adding star power by roping in veteran A-list stars, hosting digital concerts with big names attached, bringing movies onto the streaming services within a few months of theatrical release to reviving cancelled shows on fan demand — the world of over-the-top or OTT platforms is expanding, and what started on the small screens of the smartphones the world over, suddenly threatens to becoming bigger than the big screen.
What is significant is that the OTT players are out setting up an all-encompassing entertainment space of their own, one which seems to aim at trying to render all other avenues of entertainment redundant.
Netflix and Amazon Prime have been producing original shows and films for a while now, which often generate more buzz than much of what is made by traditional sources as movie studios or TV production houses.
In this context, these digital players have entered the space of live entertainment, too.
Last week, Amazon Music presented Prime Day Concert in New York with 10-times Grammy Award-winning artist Taylor Swift. The concert streamed live its Taylor Swift concert in over 200 countries.
What does this mean? One doesn’t need to stand in long queues or spend big money to get a concert ticket, no fighting through the crowd to get a glimpse of your favourite artiste performing, and not struggling to find a place to park your car, find food or a drink.
With the concert being a click away, it also means that the way one consumes entertainment content is changing.
Be it Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Eros Now, Hotstar, Voot, Zee5, Viu, ALTBalaji or Sony Liv — the growing number of platforms in India is a testimony to it.
Manish Aggarwal, Business Head, ZEE5 India, mentioned that the “digital viewer is seeking fresh, edgy, relatable and engaging content every day” — which is changing the landscape of the content being produced.
“Identifying these needs have led us to come up with new concepts that revisit the basics of content,” he had told IANS.
The proliferation of over-the-top or OTT platforms has not come without objection from people associated with the filmmaking business.
Netflix’s “Roma” Oscar glory this year made way for a debate over whether movies for streaming services should be allowed to compete at big award ceremonies, traditionally meant for feature films that get full theatrical release.
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg, a member of the Motion Picture Academy’s board of governors, started a campaign to pitch for a rule change to make things more difficult for streaming platforms. Netflix was absent from Cannes Film Festival for second time this year due to the ongoing row between the streaming giant and festival organisers over priorities of persevering the theatrical experience or embracing the new age digital viewing space.
The streaming giants are hoping to find a common ground.
“(The norm is) it has to be a full release or you won’t be up for an award consideration. That however is not in the ecosystem of this evolving business. I think they have to figure out something in between,” Salke had told IANS during her visit to India back in March this year, when asked about her stance on the ongoing debate.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings feels movies must be judged on artistic merit, and not windowing strategy.
“Today, the rules are the rules that they are, and we comply fully with those rules. And I think all of you here would say that ‘Roma’ is an Oscar quality movie. We really believe films should be judged upon their artistic merit, not upon their windowing strategy,” Hastings said at the a Netflix Labs event in Los Angeles earlier this year.
The screen size should be no measure of the size of the entertainment, most OTT giants argue. They are roping in big names form Hollywood as well as Bollywood to create big wonders on the small screen.
Hollywood stars including, Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot have Netflix projects added to their resume.
“Stranger Things” producer-director Shawn Levy is happy with the cinematic quality of the content being churned out for the streaming services.
“For me, the thrilling part of season three is that it truly feels like a movie. The scope of the action and spectacle, while still keeping the emotional depth of each character, is highly cinematic,” Levy told IANS.
“Perhaps it would be fun to make a movie out of ‘Stranger Things’ one day, but we are in no rush as essentially Netflix is allowing to make mini movies with every episode,” he added.
“War Machine” director David Michod also explained the benefits of making a film for Netflix.
“I love that the success of the film won’t be judged according to its box office on the opening weekend…That in some ways becomes the great challenge as in that scenario (it is not) necessarily (about) making the best movie you can make, and (it becomes) more about what you can do to trick people into coming to the theatres. It becomes a marketing exercise rather than filmmaking exercise.
“There is something nice about feeling like all of our attention has been put into making the film as interesting as it can be and then letting the marketing take care of itself,” he told IANS a while back.
There’s an avalanche of content on the streaming services. And it’s just the beginning.
According to a report, the Indian OTT market will reach the $5 billion-mark in size by 2023. Another states that 75 per cent of content will be consumed on OTT platforms in 2021.
So, OTT platforms will continue changing rules and creating new ways of entertainment. Have you signed up yet?
(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at [email protected])