Last Updated: 12.11 AM, Apr 13, 2023
New Delhi: Streaming video platforms are experimenting with shows that drop episodes regularly like in conventional television, diverging from their established practice of dropping entire seasons of a show at one go. The platforms hope the change in strategy will keep audiences hooked for longer, and trim expenses at a time of pressure on advertising and subscriptions.
Going forward, some shows may have 30-50 episodes, but can go up to 100, and will be released in a staggered manner. Made with less popular faces, it will help control costs and improve viewer stickiness by keeping interests alive over a longer period of time. A lot of content will increasingly be free, supported by advertisements and follow the appointment viewing model, akin to TV serials airing at a particular time. Other than licensing inexpensive regional content, many services are also eyeing already-shot shows instead of commissioning and shooting from scratch.
Over the past few months, shows like The Night Manager (Disney+ Hotstar) and Happy Family Conditions Apply (Amazon Prime Video) dropped episodes in a staggered manner.
“Everyone is experimenting with the frequency of dropping episodes and increasing the number of episodes overall at lower costs in order to drive appointment viewing and better sampling,” Mautik Tolia, director, Bodhitree Multimedia Ltd, said. It is known for Netflix original Class, that was renewed for a second season.
Experts said platforms have also exhausted the pipeline of shows commissioned before or immediately after covid. As they see viewership patterns settle down, services are trying out new things and don’t see sense in spending for the sake of it. A lot of these new non-premium shows cost ₹15-40 lakh per episode. Targeted at appointment viewing, many of these will help drive advertising for the platform, by sharing more data on the audiences to advertisers.
Considering that smaller-scale shows are easier to put together, and with big stars not involved, reshoots or long gaps and delays between seasons are avoidable. “The emphasis on big stars is coming down, and premium is no longer the mainstay. All platforms are doubling down on regional content on sheer logic, as continued subscription growth can come only when you look beyond the Hindi-speaking market,” said Siddharth Anand Kumar, senior vice- president of films and events at Saregama India Ltd, which owns boutique studio Yoodlee Films.
Keerat Grewal, partner at media consulting firm Ormax said that according to its 2022 estimates, the average number of subscriptions per person remained steady at 2.4 over a two years, despite 24% growth in paid subscription. “Data indicates there may be a saturation point in per capita subscription, particularly in metro cities where subscription levels hit maximum capacity. To sustain growth, subscription video on demand players must tap into smaller towns and rural areas of India,” Grewal added.
Streaming viewership that exploded during the pandemic has come down by nearly 50%, said Vibhu Agarwal, founder of OTT app Atrangii. Since prices can’t be raised beyond a point, all services are looking to cut costs and adopt TV-style, long-format shows. Besides, as most subscriptions were limited to bundled telco packages, even language-specific apps are venturing into other languages, said Akshay Bardapurkar, founder of Planet Marathi.
With more players entering India’s OTT market, the cost of acquiring premium content has also gone up, making it challenging for some players to sustain their businesses.
Additionally, subscription-based models have limitations in terms of reaching a broader audience and generating revenue, agreed Roshni Ghosh, producer, Locomotive Global Media.
“While some players have cut down on large-scale shows due to the high production costs, others have continued to produce them to cater to demand. Some players have shifted their focus to producing mid-scale shows that are less expensive to make but still offer a high-quality viewing experience. There has been an increased focus on regional content, as players are recognizing the potential of regional content to drive growth in the industry. Overall, platforms and other commissioners for original content, have rationalized their slates and are scrutinizing more severely any projects they are considering for investment,” Ghosh said.