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OTT platforms bet on the fame game of Bollywood A-listers

Over-the-top streaming platforms are increasingly relying on the innate urge of Bollywood A-listers to find an audience and reach out to the masses, to expand their subscriber base, said media experts.

Shows featuring top stars draw audiences from places beyond the metros, much like the cinemas, and with the successful debuts of Ajay Devgn, Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit on streaming platforms it is good news for the likes of Shahid Kapoor, Sidharth Malhotra, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Anushka Sharma and Akshay Kumar, who are set to make their OTT debuts, they added.

While Devgn’s Rudra: The Edge of Darkness has been the most watched show on Hotstar for its subscription video-on-demand offering, Dixit’s The Fame Game is the second most watched Hindi web series on Netflix. Khan’s Radhe got 8.9 million views in the opening weekend in India.

“The appearance of popular actors draws eyeballs and definitely arouses interest around the launch of a show or movie. The relationship between film stars and OTT is symbiotic—while the stars bring in viewers to the platform in the form of their fanbase, the extensive reach of streaming platforms help stars reach a wider set of audiences,” said Manish Kalra, chief business officer, ZEE5 India.

Along with Radhe, Zee5 saw traction for Taapsee Pannu’s Rashmi Rocket, State of Siege starring Akshaye Khanna and Abhishek Bachchan’s Bob Biswas, beside Tamil star Ajith’s Valimai,that premiered soon after its theatrical release.

Kartik Aaryan-starrer Dhamaka, too, did well, featuring in the top 10 global list for non-English movies for weeks on Netflix, and was in the top 10 in more than 10 countries. Tovino Thomas’ superhero flick Minnal Murali was in the top 10 films across 30 countries on Netflix, including Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Saudi Arabia. It had featured in the global top 10 list for non-English films on Netflix for four weeks and has been watched for over 25 million hours since its release.

“Top stars have the potential to drive new subscriptions, as their shows and films invariably carry tentpole value,” said Shailesh Kapoor, founder and chief executive of media consultancy Ormax, which researches popularity of TV and web shows.

From a marketing perspective, these properties give platforms the visibility among a wider audience, especially outside the metros, he said. “Big stars in shows help drive initial sampling of the content, as seen in films that get released in theatres where the first weekend is the about the star’s pull among audiences,” said Ashwin Padmanabhan, president, partnerships and trading GroupM.

“While project costs may go up due to the star’s presence, most platforms are evaluating it as an investment that has to be made to draw more audiences and get existing subscribers to keep coming back,” he added.

“Star-studded content is a sure draw, the challenge is if it can sustain consumer’s interest. OTT is a level playing field, a consumer has the option to pause and play or decide otherwise depending on the content that has been dished out. Viewers might get tempted (by star presence) but may not stay committed for the full duration (of the film), making it important to understand the return on investment that star power will bring,” said Deepak Kumar, India head, The Story Lab, Dentsu’s branded content division.

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