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OTTs to invest ₹1,900 cr in original content this year

Video streaming services are expected to spend around 1,920 crore to create original content for India in 2021, a 17% rise over 1,400 crore spent in 2019. This comes after the services had seen a sharp rise in audiences during the 2020 lockdown.

The platforms will further increase spends, including on sports, to 30,000 crore, during 2021-25, according to the latest Ficci-EY media and entertainment industry report. Around 500 original titles are likely to be released in 2021 across platforms, as opposed to 385 titles in 2019 and 220 in 2020.

Despite the greater opportunity, over the top (OTT) players spent only slightly more than 1,020 crore on creating around 1,200 hours of original content in 2020, because of production coming to a halt during the lockdown, the report said.

The investment in original content makes sense given that viewers are learning to pay for the content they consume. In 2020, 29 million subscribers paid for 53 million OTT video subscriptions (not counting subscriptions bundled along with data plans), a figure that is estimated to increase to 39 million subscribers for 71 million subscriptions in 2021.

“We are investing as much as is required (in India). You can’t look at storytelling in terms of a budget. Different films need different budgets and instead of trying to qualify it with a figure, it’s the number of titles you see coming (that gives a sense),” Srishti Behl Arya, director, international original film, Netflix India, had said in an earlier interview to Mint.

However, Monika Shergill, vice-president, content, Netflix India, had added that the service has more than 40 originals scheduled for 2021 and is expanding its slate by nearly three times compared to 2020, and would spend more than the 3,000 crore figure quoted by founder Reed Hastings for 2019 and 2020 on his visit to the country more than a year ago.

Meanwhile, rival Amazon Prime Video has 50 local originals in various stages of development and 30 in various stages of production. Add to that the advent and consolidation of regional players such as aha Video (Telugu), Koode (Malayalam) and City Shor TV (Gujarati). Demand for original content will double by 2023 from 2019 levels to more than 3,000 hours per year, according to the report and the share of regional language consumption on OTT platforms will cross 50% of total time spent by 2025, easing past Hindi at 45%.

“India is not only one of the fastest-growing media and entertainment markets globally but is also well poised to keep this momentum going,” said Divya Dixit, senior vice-president, marketing, direct revenue and analytics, ALTBalaji.

As much as 95% of the viewing on OTT happens for web shows, but docudramas could emerge as a genre soon, said Neeraj Roy, founder and chief executive officer, Hungama Digital Media. Hungama is working on nearly 20 originals this year versus 14 in 2020, Roy said. Live Mint

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