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Beyond Television And Cinema:
Audience Evolution In The Streaming Age

Manisha Pandit

Streaming has emerged as another popular medium of information and entertainment in the country. With the growing number of Over the Top (OTT) players in India media market, the industry is witnessing technological and business expansion which is further substantiated by the report of TRAI released in 2019 stating that the broadband users proliferated to 511.90  million in November 2018 with a monthly growth of 3.8% in which 493.40 million  are mobile device users. (TRAI, 2019).

With the cost-effective internet tariff, the internet market in India is offering data at an affordable price in comparison to other south-Asian countries which leads more data consumption. India provides internet data at a price of $12.86 per month (“Asia: Prices by City of Internet’’). A report by FICCI and E&Y 2018 reveals that the time spent on video application in India has been increased by 85% in last two years (FICCI & EY, 2018). This notable jump in the viewing hours indicates that the content on these mobile data based visual platforms are resonating and clicking with the Indian audience. The report further elaborates that to keep these audiences engaged with these streaming platforms, the content providers are producing more content in tune with the taste of these audience who are more comfortable with the OTT platforms. This has further positioned India as the second largest online video content producer opening up new avenues for experimenting with the diverse contents.

Transnational OTT service providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime and others are estimated to generate market share of US $823 million. Netflix alone is estimated to generate US $32.83 million from India alone by 2020 (Statista, 2019). An upsurge of 83% in mobile data consumption in last two years has established mobile as an alternative preferred screen to television and cinema (ET, 2018).  People are using the smartphones as a pocket size screen to watch audio-visual content in conjunction with the television sets (Cesar et al., 2009).  

In an independent report by Vuclip a streaming service provider, 80% of their consumers watch videos on mobile on daily basis (Deloitte, 2015). A report titled ‘Global Entertainment and Media Outlook  2018-2011, by PwC,  states that Indian OTT market is growing at a compounded annual growth of 22.6% with accumulation of estimated revenues to INR 5595 crore. It states that the major revenue from media and entertainment sector in India in coming years will come from OTT platforms like, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Zee 5. More and more media production houses are joining the streaming business. Streaming platforms are collaborating with production houses like EROS international, Balaji films, Viacom, Phantom films, Fox India, Dharma Productions etc.  The streaming platforms are investing huge money in the production of new shows - Amazon Prime has set a budget of 20 billion, Alt Balaji 1.2 billion and Eros Now 4 billion INR for the production of original content. These streaming platforms are hiring popular commercial cinema producers and directors like Anurag Kashyap, Vikram Bhatt, Rohan Sippy etc (KPMG, 2017). With more video consumption in Hindi and other regional languages in India, these streaming platforms have an opportunity to produce niche content for niche audience.

If one looks at the content of the shows streamed on OTT platforms, he/she will be surprised as the language and presentation of the shows are bold, steamy and adult in nature quite unparallel to the contemporary content broadcast on television.  The societal behaviour which was mostly termed unethical and immoral in the society is shown explicitly in the shows streamed. The language used by the protagonists in these shows is rugged, coarse and mostly influenced by the regional dialects. Frontal nudity scenes are frequently used in these shows quite higher than other screens – television and cinema. The viewing experience on these OTT platforms gives a customized control to the viewer to watch the content anywhere, anytime as per their convenience.

The million dollar question is whether the popularity of these shows is because of the fact that now the Indian audiences are becoming more liberal or it shows some gratification signs in comparison to other regulated mediums. The rise of OTT platforms is reflecting a different kind of awareness of modern Indian society (Kay, 2018.) The ongoing argument is that whether the stories on these streaming platforms reflects the innate ambitions and desires of real life character’s or it is just an illusion of changing social reality strategically dramatized for commercial purposes.

The characters like Poroma Sarkar in Love Lust and Confusion or Megha in Lust Stories emerges as bold avatars on screen in contrast to the socially accepted sanskari characters of conventional television soap-operas. Whether the acceptance of these reel characters shows a new kind of change taking place in the belief system of Indian audience or it just reflects the changing socio-cultural realities of urban and semi-urban towns, is a question for debate and discourse in media studies. The language, costume, outfits, mannerism of these screen characters on OTT platforms are different from the sophisticated popular characters of Indian television shows and are narrated differently from the previous versions. The web series on these streaming platforms is countering the established stereotypes. The content earlier on the small screen-Television was with minimal use of profanity, however with the emerging streaming industry, the content creators are walking away from the sensibilities of established stereotypical audience and are producing the content with profanity wherever required. Series like DEVDD and Haq Se streaming on Alt Balaji questions the stereotypical identity of girls and their problems.

The report ‘Media ecosystems: The walls fall down’ by KPMG published in 2018 states that maximum time in watching online video is spent by small towns as compared to metro cities and bigger towns and most of the online video content is consumed by the people belonging to low economic class (KPMG, 2018). To target this market, the streaming platforms are now coming up with content in regional languages to reach these audiences. Another advantage of these streaming platforms is that they can provide the audience the experience of binge watching – watching all the episodes at one time. This has grown not only in urban but also in rural areas as per the report of PwC.  A survey conducted by Netflix claims that Indians are second highest public bingers (Netflix 2017). Scheduling of a programme and making it viewed at the same time is a challenge for the conventional media which can be easily countered by the OTT players. With the release of a new show, the viewer can watch it as per his/her own convenience which breaks the geographical and time barriers. Since the content producers are not bound to specific broadcast slots (prime-time) they have more flexibility in producing contents and releasing it as per the targeted time which is a further boon for the streaming industry thus making it a most preferable entertainment business of coming days.

References
Asia: Prices by City of Internet (2019).  Retrieved from http://www.numbeo.com
Cesar, P., Knoche, H., & Dick, C.A.B. (2009). From One to Many Boxes: Mobile Devices as Primary and Secondary Screens. In  Aaron Marcus, Anxo Cereijo Robas & Riccardo Sala (Eds.) Mobile TV: Customizing Content and Experience (pp. 327-348), London: Springer.
Deloitte. (2015).  Digital Media: Rise of On-demand Content. Retrieved from https://www.deloitte.com
Economic Times (2018, Feb 22). Average mobile data usage at 11GB a month: A Study by Nokia. Retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com
FICCI and EY (2018). Reimagining India’s M&E sector March 2018.  Retrieved from https://www.ey.com
Kay, K. (2018). New Indian Nuttahs, 1-20. New Delhi:Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from https://sci-hub.tw/10.1007/978-3-319-97867-3_1
KPMG (2018). Media Ecosystems: The walls fall down. Retrieved from https://  www.home.kpmg
Netflix (2017).  Survey ranks India as second highest public bingers in the world. Retrieved from https://www.news18.com
PwC (2018). Perspectives from the Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2018-2022.  Retrieved from https://www.pwc.com/outlook
Statista  (2019).  India: retail e- commerce revenue forecast from 2017 to 2023. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (2019). Telecom Subscription Data as on 30th November, 2018. Retrieved from www.trai.gov.in

Manisha Pandit is a PhD scholar in the Department of Mass Communication and Electronic Media, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala.

Frontier
Feb 22, 2019


Manisha Pandit manishapandit90@gmail.com

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