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OTT platforms to focus on family content amid backlash

Over-the-top (OTT) video streaming platforms and makers of web shows are weighing their options to target family audiences for a while instead of dishing out edgy or bold content to steer clear of controversies and play it safe.

Recent controversies around web series such as Tandav and Mirzapur 2 and the clampdown from both the government and the courts has pushed content creators to resort to time-tested and ‘safe’ fare for the families, at least in the short-term.

“I don’t see any controversial or risqué content coming out for close to a year-and-a-half now. Everyone is looking at safe subjects and platforms are pretty much going the TV way,” said a senior executive at a streaming platform on condition of anonymity. Not watering down content immediately could make it difficult for platforms to operate in India in the long-term, the executive said.

Platforms and studios that have witnessed an increase in nationalist or historical films over the last few years in line with the mood of the nation, feel that similar content could make its way to the web.

“We’ve been pitched a lot of scripts that have to do with the Independence movement or some part of forgotten history or cater to the idea of the nation. This is all part of the trend and audiences have been rewarding towards them in the past,” said Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice-president, films and television, Saregama India, which owns boutique studio Yoodlee Films.“Filmmakers are trying to map and predict audience preferences. So it’s a business decision,” Kumar said.

Nationalist or patriotic subjects, if told right, have always found resonance as Bollywood hits such as Border and Gadar show, said filmmaker Samar Khan, who has worked on web shows such as ALTBalaji’s The Test Case.

Marathi filmmaker Akshay Bardapurkar, who is developing a show on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh founder K.B. Hegdewar said such content will continue to do well given the mood of the nation. “Besides, these are local stories that need to be taken to children who are studying in English-language academic institutions. They are also great for syndication, because makers in other languages will want to dub or remake them given how relatable they are,” Bardapurkar said.

Many platforms are also ramping up content specific to children. VOOT and Discovery+ have kids genres, while Disney+Hotstar has brought out a show called The Legend of Hanuman this January.

For a country as diverse as India, you need a content slate that can cater to the audience’s diverse preferences across languages, said Nimisha Pandey, head, Hindi originals, ZEE5 India, calling the service “India and Bharat’s multi-lingual storyteller”.

For its web originals Amazon has onboarded top Bollywood stars such as Akshay Kumar and Shahid Kapoor who have mass appeal.

Netflix and Amazon Prime Video did not comment. Applause Entertainment, which produced Avrodh based on the Uri attacks for SonyLIV, and is working on Taj- A Monument of Blood, based on the Mughal empire, also did not comment. Disney+Hotstar did not respond to Mint’s

“Fundamentally, OTT is like TV, just more democratized, and is meant to be watched by all members of the family even if some also watch it individually. We could not have grown to this extent if we only targeted certain genres,” said Ajit Thakur, chief executive officer of Telugu streaming service aha Video. The pandemic has accelerated the trend of OTT content being watched on large screens such as smart TVs in big groups and the platform has had parental controls since its launch last year, Thakur said. Mint

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