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Streaming services roll out slates to woo family audiences

Over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms, long seen as the medium of individual viewing, especially, in a mobile-first market like India, are increasingly rolling out content for family audiences which they feel is the key to crack this market.

What may be true for TV viewing where, traditionally, families are known to gather around the idiot box to watch content together, could be applicable to streaming which is now being seen on the large screen.

Historical fiction, biopics of national heroes, mythology, and comedy are some genres being attempted to make sure families, including children, can watch content together. Recent programming slates across platforms reflect the learning. While Disney+ Hotstar brings The Empire, SonyLIV is readying a biopic titled Rocket Boys on Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai. Netflix that has seen 60% of its members globally watch some kids and family content every month, will release more than 50 original movies and shows targeted at the segment this year, including Comedy Premium League this week. That these relatively safe subjects sit well with the government is an added advantage.

“We are at a time where there is no longer an awareness issue or uptake challenge. Households with single TV which were tuned to appointment viewing are finding OTT as an alternative where families and individuals find content they like collectively or personally.With the global pandemic and very few entertainment options outside of home, viewers are flocking more and more to different services to watch content,” said Amit Dhanuka, executive vice-president at Lionsgate that owns the Lionsgate Play OTT service.

The VoD platform that is targeting premium content and urban audiences, said its latest film Wrath of Man saw consumption and subscribers from all over the country. Its upcoming title, The Father, slated for September will also strike a chord with a vast majority as it is high on emotion- a genre Indian audiences love, Dhanuka said. Platforms such as Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar, SonyLIV and ZEE5 did not respond to Mint’s queries.

According to the Ficci EY report 2021, smart connected TV homes in India that currently stand around 5-7 million, are expected to reach 14 million by 2023 and 40 million by 2025.

A senior executive at a top studio creating content for various OTT platforms said over time, the services have realised that family audiences are key to generating volume and value in India. When OTTs were launched, it was taken for granted that they would only dish out edgy or violent content. “During the lockdown when many families began watching OTT shows on large TV screens, platforms realised there was a dearth of suitable content beyond some basic animation that parents would be comfortable with their children watching, the executive said. With very few new direct-to-digital films making a mark, most families were turning to older movies underlining the need for such content going forward, the person said.

The burgeoning appetite for regional language content has brought to the fore many stories of local heroes, giving birth to genres such as biopics said Akshay Bardapurkar, founder of OTT service Planet Marathi that is planning a show on RSS founder KB Hedgewar. “There are two kinds of self-regulation happening, one, by content makers themselves and then by the platform if they find something problematic,” Bardapurkar said admitting to the sensitivity of the times and the need to play safe.

Instances such as Viacom18 bringing shows like Bigg Boss to OTT first are proof that streaming services are getting started on content targeted at families, said Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO at SoCheers, an independent digital agency adding that genres like reality series will throw up drama that people love. “The idea is to have enough for the whole family sitting together and for a teenager watching alone. As the overall quantum of content goes up, there will be a decent amount for everyone. Since OTTs have defined tier-two and three towns as the way forward, their potential to come up with content can only go up from here,” Gupta said. Live Mint

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