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OTT report card of 2023: Web shows were a hit but films failed to leave a mark

Dec 30, 2023 09:49 PM IST

Despite the growth of OTT platforms, there was a significant reduction in users and subscribers as compared to previous years.

The year was a rollercoaster ride for OTT platforms, which came out with content that not only entertained viewers but also demonstrated the potential of OTT to produce high-quality content that rivals traditional theatrical business. But despite the growth of OTT platforms, there was a significant reduction in the growth of users and subscribers as compared to previous years.

Shahid Kapoor's Farzi and Karishma Tanna's Scoop were hits.

According to the latest Ormax Media Report, Indian OTT audience base grew 20 % from 2021 to 2022, but has grown only 13.5 % over the last one year (2023). the Indian OTT audience currently stands at 48.11 crore people which means only 34 % penetration in the country. But the quality content that one witnessed this year promises a brighter future ahead.

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What worked

Farzi, starring Shahid Kapoor as a small-time artiste who teams up with his best friend Firoz (Bhuvan Arora) to make counterfeit money, became the most watched Indian web series with 37.1 million views. The second spot was also taken by Raj & DK's show titled Guns and Gulaabs.

As per IMDb, nine out of the top ten shows on the list fell under the crime genre but that has always been a popular choice on OTT. However, an interesting trend that was noticed this year was shows that struck the right chord with the audiences were investigative dramas. Whether it was Hansal Mehta's Scoop, which was based on the true story of investigative journalist Jigna Vohra; Kohrra that follows the police investigation of a murder case; or Dahaad that shows Sonakshi Sinha investigating a series of deaths as several women are found in public bathrooms, all had investigation at its core.

Among other shows that caught people's attention were Saas Bahu aur Flamingo with 16.2 million views, Bhuvan Bam's Taaza Khabar with 23.5 million views, The Night Manager with 28.6 million views, Jubilee with 5.5 million views, and Four More Shots Season 3 with 18.8 million views. Sirf Ek Banda, Trial by Fire, Lust Stories 2, Scam 2003: The Telgi Story, Panchayat season 2 and The Freelancer also garnered positive reviews from critics and audiences.

To cater to the huge demand for premium content, streaming platforms such as Zee 5, made a conscious investments in originals across languages and saw a stupendous success with titles across genres and languages. "Some of the projects that did well for us were Sirf Ek Bandaa Kaafi Hain, Taj, Duranga Season 2, and regional content such as Puli Meka in Telugu, Abar Proloy, Shwetakali in Bangla, which led to significant engagement on the platform," shares Manish Kalra, Chief Business Officer ZEE5, adding, "With viewer choices evolving significantly, a notable trend was the success of socially relevant content that leaves a mark. We successfully met this consumer appetite. These titles garnered appreciation from critics and viewers alike and were reflective of the audience’s evolving choices."

Streaming platform Netflix, in a blog credited creative collaborations with some of India’s most celebrated and iconic creators in 2023, such as Yash Raj Films, Hansal Mehta, and Neeraj Pandey. "Also, working with first-time directors such as Yashowardhan Mishra (Kathal), Shiv Rawail (The Railway Men), and Arjun Varain Singh (Kho Gaye Hum Kahan), as well as seasoned creators like Sujoy Ghosh (Jaane Jaan), Vishal Bhardwaj (Khufiya), and Konkona Sen Sharma (Lust Stories 2), helped us take their stories to over 190 countries," read the blog.

Ones that missed the mark

While OTT offered extensive range of content tailored to everybody's preferences, it also saw shows struggling to find their footing and ultimately falling short of expectations. Most of these had big names from the entertainment world. Akhiri Sach, based on the infamous Burari case created a lot of buzz and had a stellar cast led by Tamannah Bhatia. But the show failed to impress the audience.

Even a spectacular performance by Kajol could not save The Trial which lacked depth. The show was a Hindi remake of The Good Wife. Another much-talked about series was Citadel, which wasn't really an Indian show, but Priyanka Chopra in the lead made audiences excited, only to be disappointed later. The generic and uninspired plot did little to excite people. Adah Sharma's Commando, Shantanu Maheshwari's Tooth Pari: When Love Bites were also criticised heavily.

Reality shows took the viewership higher

Reality OTT shows like Shark Tank India Season 2, MasterChef India Season 7, Kaun Banega Crorepati Season 15, Squid Game: The Challenge were quite popular among the audiences. According to a press statement from Jio Cinema, the platform registered 245 crore video views and 540 crore votes across the two months that Bigg Boss OTT 2 streamed on the platform. It also claimed to be the highest viewership for a live streamed event in India, after IPL. Eighth season of Karan Johar's Koffee with Karan effortlessly kept the audience glued to the screen as the celebrities talked about love, life and work. And of course, the iconic game show Takeshi's Castle from the 1980s returned after 34 years.

Theatrical films over direct to OTT releases

The year in talks wasn't go great for the original films except a few like Darlings, Kadak Singh and Monica O My Darling among others. But the theatrical releases such as Gadar 2, OMG 2, Satya Prem ki Katha, Jawan and Pathaan, which are secondary content on OTT, did wonders. Marketing factor played a major role here. "In comparison to a web-series or a direct-to-OTT film, a theatrical film has been through 4-8 weeks of promotions leading up to its original release in the cinemas, followed by organic (audience-sustained) marketing in the post-release period. This gives a theatrical film significant familiarity before the OTT platform spends any effort or money to promote its streaming launch," shares Producer and Trade Expert Girish Johar. From Tiku Weds Sheru to Mission Majnu, Gaslight, Pippa and The Blind, originals didn't work well.

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