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OTT world goes big on budget

With star-studded casts and big ideas, the world of over-the-top or OTT platforms is also upping its scale in terms of budgets allotted for projects.

And the same is reflected in the KPMG’s Media and entertainment post COVID-19 report, which states that India may have a billion digital users by 2030, which will add to the demand for OTT originals, leading to higher requirement of cash flow.

“It is a good space to be in. Makers and OTT platforms are looking to go big with production value to stay true to the content. They want us to compete with the global productions,” shares filmmaker Kunal Kohli, who captured the grand scale of India’s mythological history with his web show, Ramyug.

From Ajay Devgn’s Rudra-The Edge of Darkness, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heeramandi, to upcoming digital outings by Akshay Kumar, Shahid Kapoor and spin-off of Baahubali franchise, big bucks are expected to pour in to create these OTT wonders.

“Makers will invest thought, time and money to explore the potential of this medium. But you cannot make any kind of content without spending money. How much you spend will depend on the kind of story you want to tell,” opines producer Anand Pandit tells us.

It is quite evident that content creation in the OTT space has turned out to be a billion dollar market. According to a latest FICCI report, the streamers are expected to spend around ₹1,920 crore to create original content for India in 2021, which is a 17 per cent rise over ₹1,400 crore spent in 2019.

Explaining this, Jehil Thakkar, partner at media and entertainment, Deloitte India, says, “The sole objective of OTT platforms is customer acquisition, so the focus is on increasing the spending on shows to create signature or tentpole shows. Because average style shows just don’t work on the digital platform. They don’t get people to sign up. That is what is driving a lot of the spending”.

The acceptance of digital content in recent times has instilled confidence among the makers as well as the platforms, feels Vikram Malhotra from Abundantia Entertainment.

“For instance, we have tripled our investment behind content development in the last 18 months. That’s the sign of confidence and the results that we all are trying to get,” adds Malhotra, who is overlooking the development of Kumar’s The End and adaptation of book, Keepers of the Kalachakra.

Actor Aahana S Kumra, too, agrees that investment has risen. , “People are now ready to invest more in a web project as compared to before, which is a good thing,” she says.

But that doesn’t mean that there has to be a free flow of cash. Filmmaker Nikkhil Advani, who created the ambitious, The Empire, shares, “It’s a misnomer to think that budget is not a constraint anymore. In my experience as far as projects are concerned, while we never compromise on ambition, we always have to bear in mind the ‘guard rails’ of a budget”.

On the other hand, Call My Agent director Shaad Ali asserts, “Money can buy you a budget, not aesthetics. In the end, it all comes down to vision and good eyes”. Hindustan Times

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