Content media

Production houses are turning to digital content

A number of content production houses that traditionally make movies and TV shows are increasingly turning to creating web shows for better pay, acting skills, storylines, and creative freedom. While some studios have shifted 100% to digital content, others have said nearly 50-60% of their annual slates are now for OTT services.

Companies such as Saregama-owned Yodlee, Reliance Entertainment, Sikhya Entertainment and others known for making niche urban Hindi films are driving this shift. They claim that the web offers far more freedom in terms of writing and acting, and that technical talent is more readily available than television, while changing audience tastes, making it economically viable.

“The process for a producer to make a film is always the same. OTT platforms have allowed us to tell braver stories that were harder to tell in the business model of theaters,” said Achin Jain, Producer at Sikhya Entertainment. The company known for films like The Lunchbox and Masaan, will release Kathal, starring Sanya Malhotra on Netflix next year. “People are generally skeptical of anything new. Initially, many actors, technicians and filmmakers were not open to switching to digital media. Also, OTT platforms only selected selected films. However, OTT strategies have evolved and consumers have also adapted,” Jain said.

There was some skepticism about OTTs initially, producer Anand Pandit agreed. Webcast access to A-list actors was also limited, as most stars were very reluctant to explore OTT offerings due to the perception that it would be like working on TV. “What has changed is the understanding of the reach, respectability and acceptability of OTT platforms and the money people are willing to invest in them,” Pandit pointed out.

For a company used to tight TV budgets, OTT has helped redefine investments and bring makers closer to the cinema ecosystem, said Vaibhav Modi, founding director of Victor Tango Entertainment, known for ZEE5’s original Mukhbir. “In TV, it all depends on the length of the show. Today, a small boutique studio and a large production house are competing for the same resources (allocated by OTTs). Although some may think they are a disadvantage, overall the ads have definitely improved,” Modi said.

Certainly, big-name directors and actors over the years have realized the merit of being a part of OTT shows and movies, said Roshni Ghosh, senior producer at Locomotive Global Media, a production house working on the original. NetflixRana Naidu. The prestige associated with such projects is well recognized. “The downside is that talent has become more unavailable and more expensive. All good department heads are extremely busy because there is currently a glut of OTT shows and movies in the market. So the challenge is that demand good creators and actors today is far greater than the supply,” Ghosh said.

With the OTT market having stabilized somewhat in India, platforms are definitely reassessing budgets, said Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice president, film and television, Saregama India, which owns boutique studio Yooodlee Films. “It takes a lot of effort to prepare this Bible to present to the platforms with the cast and other details of the project. Also, the decision-making time, even if they were to reject the pitch, is very long,” Kumar pointed out. He added that several companies are therefore starting to use their own resources to put together projects and present them to platforms.

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