OTT: War of originals

Published: January 21, 2019 12:20 AM

Most major OTT players have launched original shows over the last year. Voot produced 18 original shows, SonyLiv launched more than 20 since 2015, while Zee5 plans to launch 90 originals by FY19.

OTT: War of Originals

By Sonam Saini

Originals is the latest buzzword in the OTT space. After Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others, Hotstar, one of the early entrants in the business, is reinvigorating its content portfolio with Hotstar Specials that promises shows from ‘India’s most acclaimed storytellers’.

The OTT player had previously launched eight shows, including On Air with AIB, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, Tanhaiyan and As I’m Suffering From Pyaar, under Hotstar Originals. With Specials, it hopes to up the ante with ‘high quality’ dramas.

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What’s ‘special’?
For its first set of Hotstar Specials, Star India has partnered with film personalities Shekhar Kapur, Neeraj Pandey, Kabir Khan, Nikkhil Advani, Nagesh Kukunoor, Mahesh Manjrekar and Salman Khan.

“With the mobile phone leading an explosion in the number of screens in the country, we feel that our content also needs to reinvent and boldly move forward. With Hotstar Specials, we hope to deliver Indian stories to a billion screens,” said Sanjay Gupta, MD, Star India, at a media briefing recently. The first show under Specials is expected to be rolled out by the end of this quarter. The shows will be available in seven languages.

“We haven’t produced much web-only content. We extended the versions of some shows that had worked on television,” says Gaurav Banerjee, president and head – Hindi GECs, Star India. “We treat digital as a ‘mass’ play, where there should be a wide range of stories across genres. With Specials, we want to set the bar high in terms of quality.”

Currently, 80% consumption on Hotstar is driven by entertainment and 20% by sports. The platform claims to have 150 million monthly active users.

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Need to diversify
Despite 32 OTT platforms in the country, experts believe there is scope for much more content. Shamsuddin Jasani, group managing director, Isobar South Asia, notes, “There isn’t enough web-only content of high production quality available. We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to online content that has the kind of production and star value that TV content does.”

There is clear headroom for growth as far as Indian content on OTT is concerned. “Sony, Star and Viacom18 have got a head start as they have been creating Indian content on television. But the more the content created for digital, the better it is,” Jasani adds. Hotstar also has the IPL advantage, albeit for five years. While IPL may continue to be the biggest revenue driver for Hotstar, having entertainment content could increase traction, especially for paying premium customers.

In the last one year, most major OTT players have launched a slew of original shows on their platforms. For instance, Voot produced 18 original shows, SonyLiv launched more than 20 originals since 2015, while Zee5 plans to launch 90 originals by FY19.

Hotstar’s belated focus on originals may not necessarily be a disadvantage, say experts, as it has had time to observe and avoid the mistakes of experimentation made by other players.

Shrenik Gandhi, co-founder and CEO, White Rivers Media, says that Star has understood its target audience in the last few years. “India was not a mature market when OTT came up, but now it is with shows like Sacred Games and Mirzapur around. Having tried different content with audiences, Hotstar now has a clear understanding of the type of content that will work.”

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