2021: OTT platforms tweak content strategy as online video entertainment universe expands

OTT platforms, which were skewed towards male and urban audiences before the pandemic, have seen huge consumption growth from Tier 2 and 3 cities

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Dec 29, 2021 9:08 AM  | 6 min read

The addition of new users to the digital video entertainment universe has pushed over the top (OTT) platforms to widen their original content offerings by experimenting with newer genres. OTT platforms, which were skewed towards male and urban audiences before the pandemic, have seen huge consumption growth from Tier 2 and 3 cities. The audience mix has also seen a change with more middle-aged adult population taking to video streaming.

Speaking about the key content trends on OTT in 2021, Ormax Media Founder and CEO Shailesh Kapoor noted that the OTT market has become mass from being Metro-centric to catering to smaller towns as well. He believes that this change in the audience universe has also influenced the kind of content that is available on OTT platforms. According to him, OTT content in 2021 has been slightly more mainstream and diverse in terms of genres.

"Because platforms are catering to different audiences and are trying to massify, they are doing more comedy and mainstream kind of dramas rather than just sticking to thrillers. There were lot more films on OTT platforms with 100 films coming out this year. That has created more options for viewers. Before lockdown last year, OTT was largely limited to series. Another key trend has been the rise in audiences who are watching content from other languages which are dubbed or subtitled. For example, the Tamil legal drama film 'Jai Bhim' has done well outside South India as well. The language and regional barrier are becoming less relevant," Kapoor stated.

Even as OTT content is getting more inclusive, it is nowhere close to TV in terms of the universality of content as it is still driven by bigger cities rather than smaller towns, Kapoor said. "One of the things that we have noticed is that there is less focus on things like violence, abusive language, and sex something which was earlier the default in every web series. OTT platforms are looking at getting genre diversity in both films and shows keeping in mind the Tier 2 and 3 cities. It is a process that has just started. In the next one or two years, we will see more comedy, family, and romantic shows coming out which are lighter genres," he averred.

According to Banijay Asia Head-Creative Development Mrinalini Jain, one key trend that got accentuated in 2021 is the migration of film talent to OTT. "We are seeing a migration of a lot of film talent into the OTT space. Film stars who were earlier reluctant to be part of OTT pre-pandemic are now extremely open to being a part of the OTT landscape. Whether it is actors, directors, technicians, we have seen a huge migration of talent to OTT," she remarked.

Apart from genre diversity, OTT platforms are also looking to launch shows that have strong female protagonists. "Some of the genres that have always worked on OTT are thriller and crime. However, there is an influx of some light-hearted content as well. It is a post-pandemic situation because we have gone through a tough time. A lot of female protagonist content has seen its way into OTT. I see a lot of demand from OTT platforms in terms of getting them very female-oriented stories with strong female protagonists. We have also seen a huge demand for comedy in the unscripted and scripted space. There is also a wave of a lot of unscripted content on OTT. The audience is more receptive to different types of content now," she informed.

Jain also said that OTT platforms are upping their investments in regional content across the board as India is not one market but multiple markets. "India has six major markets - Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, and Marathi. It is like doing shows in six different markets. There is a lot of demand for native language content in South India. While Hindi has been a focus area for most players, six other markets have huge potential in terms of scripted and unscripted content. The content industry down South is very dynamic and everyone today wants to work in the OTT industry. We are very aggressively pushing into regional markets with unscripted and scripted content."

Concurring with Kapoor and Jain, Bodhitree Multimedia MD Mautik Tolia said that the OTT platforms are reaching out to a wider audience and are experimenting with wider genres. He recalled that the OTT platforms used to offer a lot of crime dramas but have now moved to comedy and dramas. A lot of other genres have also been added like reality and documentary formats.

While OTT platforms are aggressively increasing the volume of original shows, the success ratio of new shows has been abysmal. According to Kapoor, the original shows on OTT have a lesser success ratio than the general entertainment category on TV.

"OTT players are doing a lot of things hoping that something will work because it's a new category. There is a lot of hit and trial going on. A lot of content is getting produced, so platforms are trying to figure out what genres they want to target. Some platforms are beginning to research their scripts, research their shows. The success rate is alarmingly low with less than 10-15% of shows getting registered. Even in GEC, around 20-25% of shows end up doing decently well. For every hit show on OTT there are 7-8 shows which are not doing well," he elaborated.

Bodhitree's Tolia said that there is a lot of clutter on OTT due to the growth in the volume of content. "We didn't have that many show launches earlier so that novelty was there. OTT viewing has now become regular. With the number of shows that are launching on OTT, it has become like a bread-and-butter category. OTT viewership has gone up in the last three years. The success ratio of OTT shows is not impacting viewership," he contended.

Contiloe Entertainment Founder and CEO Abhimanyu Singh believes that stories which are told well regardless of genres are clicking with the audience. He also said that it is a great time for storytellers and audiences alike due to the advantages that OTT as a medium brings. "India has a large discerning audience which was looking for an alternative to television. TV content was not catering to their appetite, and they were watching a lot of foreign-language content. They wanted to see Indian language content with the same sensibilities as the international ones. OTT has given them that space in the last couple of years and therefore at this stage you see a lot of genres that have done well," he stated.

On the success ratio of OTT shows, Singh pointed out that good stories have to be backed with good execution. "One of the large reasons why the failure ratio is so high is because people are finding it difficult to translate good stories into compelling premium content. Success ratio will improve because you will have good makers who will make good content and ensure that the bar is raised", he added.

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