OK, before you start thinking you stumbled upon a sexpert’s weekly column mistakenly – Don’t worry we are still discussing movies here!
There have been many ‘media gurus’ and ‘trade pundits’ who have attempted to answer the question – ‘Is it truly feasible to make feature length films for exclusive streaming platforms alone?’ While many have argued that the need for a shift in audience mindset is needed or the paucity of production budgets is a hindrance, or even losing out on the experiential factor of being in a dark room and witnessing celluloid magnificence on the largest screen available is a concern, the biggest question left unanswered is what the audience seeks!
So my friends at Screengobblr reached out to me and wanted me to share my perspective on this and what according to me would be the way forward for filmmakers evaluating the best potential ‘destination’ to find their audience! So here goes…
To stream, or not to stream, that is the question!
The culture of video streaming platforms is merely a decade old, with Netflix being one of the pioneers in the space and the likes of Amazon Prime, Hulu and HBO soon following suit. These platforms have been recognized for their trailblazing and disruptive content offering, while never being afraid of experimenting with diverse genres and languages. The culture of over the top (OTT) and video on demand (VOD) services that originated primarily in North America has now transcended across geographical boundaries and welcomed with open arms globally.
The onslaught of online streaming giants in the entertainment landscape is ‘good for filmmakers, good for film and good for movie audiences’. But as these digital newbie brigades have breathed fresh life into the cinematic ecosystem in recent years, they have also raised problematic questions that go to the very heart of what a movie is. With the cinematic marketplace shifting rapidly, both older, established directors have had to negotiate sometimes the difficult decision of how best to bring their work to audiences: via a theatrical release, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, another Internet or cable on-demand service – or some combination thereof?
A pricey affair!
The content business is certainly a pricey affair, and it’s without doubt not a game for the weak-hearted!
Under its business model, Netflix releases its films in theatres and via streaming simultaneously – or in some cases, exclusively via streaming. Amazon takes a more conventional approach, typically releasing its films in theatres for at least a month before making them available on its Prime Video service.
In either case, going with a streaming release can mean forgoing much, if not all, of the potential back-end upside that could come with a major box office hit in favour of an up-front payday. Some moviemakers may be willing to gamble on the possibility of greater future rewards. But given the often unforgiving caprice of the film business – with smaller films frequently struggling for consideration in a marketplace dominated by big-budget behemoths and generations raised on the movie theatre as the centre of the cinematic universe, giving way to younger ones steeped in on-demand streaming- the sureness of an assured cheque can feel like a safer bet.
Awards vs. Rewards!
Despite the fact that streaming giants like Amazon and Netflix have attracted critical raves and sizable audiences for their successful shows, there’s still a sense among many in Hollywood that movies lose some of their prestige if they bypass the big screen in favor of the smaller one. Many filmmakers believe movies – particularly ones with an element of spectacle – inevitably lose some of their immersive quality if they’re watched at home on a TV or an iPad.
Though Netflix and Amazon have each racked up multiple Emmy wins for their original series, they have yet to make a major splash at the Academy Awards. The snub, thus far, has been interpreted as a sign of Oscar voters’ resistance to Netflix’s day-and-date streaming model.
India: A land of billion opportunities!
India may be one of the youngest markets for streaming giants to stake their claim, but it arguably is the market with the greatest potential in the near future. While data connectivity and broadband penetration have been a perennial cause of concern, with the JIO movement things have been on the fast track as far as data connectivity is concerned and only mounting at breakneck speed.
India may be one of the youngest markets for streaming giants to stake their claim, but it arguably is the market with the greatest potential in the near future.
Most of the broadcasters did jump onto the OTT bandwagon in what could be coined as another #MeToo movement (sic) but only Star India Network’s hotstar did anything noteworthy for the digital millennial audience, largely riding on LIVE Sports and Events. While on creating home grown content which were ‘made for OTT’ ALTBalaji and Amazon Prime India are head and shoulders above any of the ‘also ran’ players in the race for supremacy in the OTT entertainment space.
Netflix finally found its toughest competition yet in the global entertainment arena, and it is none other than the Indian audience itself! While its early strategy was to pick up any ‘arty’ cinema it could lay its hands on in the local festival circuit and add it to its library catalogue, it didn’t quite resonate with the intellectually inclined strata, who would still prefer to see more realistic stories as against watching something that’s a little too far stretched from reality, unless it’s an out and out Sci-Fi actioner!
The first original Netflix India production with ‘Love Per Square Foot’ has done a world of good for its brand promise and continued investment in the sub-continent, which would only be further strengthened with more and more independent filmmakers being given the platform to tell their stories to a whole new world that’s always in search for great content and stories!
The Future Is Now…
With other tech giants like Facebook, Google and Alibaba also burning the midnight oil to get a piece of the original content action, the choices facing filmmakers will get only more complicated. Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos believes attitudes will continue to shift.
“When people say they want their movies in a theater, I think what they really mean is: they want them in the culture,” he said in an earlier interview. “I think people will come to understand that being on Netflix, accessible to over 100 million people around the world at the same time, they will be in the culture. It’s just a different definition than the one they grew up on.”
“I think people will come to understand that being on Netflix, accessible to over 100 million people around the world at the same time, they will be in the culture. It’s just a different definition than the one they grew up on.”
There you have it from the horse’s mouth. Things will get more complicated, tough decisions will need to be made, but one thing will always define the choice – The Audience! Content will always be consumed, regardless of the destination… but only good content will survive and stand the test of times!
About the Writer
Sidharth Iyer is a young Media Professional, who has carved a niche for himself in the field of Media and Entertainment. Over the course of time he has worked on numerous strategies thereby creating value for various brands at large. He constantly strives to deliver stellar marketing plans that propel the brand and its products towards success.