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The Growth of OTT platforms, COVID’s Impact, and How It Impacts Theatre-going Audience!


OTT platforms emerged as early as 2008 in India, the first Indian OTT platform being BIGFlix, launched by Reliance Entertainment. It was in 2010 that Digivive launched the country’s first OTT mobile app, nexGTv, providing access to both live TV and on-demand content. But it wasn’t until the streaming market giants, Netflix and Amazon Prime’s entry, that the Indian audience were attracted to the new media consumption model. And the real boom in OTT happened with the onset of COVID-19, with the population confined indoors, and the choice of entertainment getting very limited.

Earlier, way before the pandemic hit, access to OTT platforms was considered more of a privilege, restricted mostly to the urban and upper-class population. But the increased affordability of smartphones, availability, along with the low cost of internet data, paved the way for the OTT revolution. Availability of fresh, authentic Indian content was yet another reason for its rise. According to research from the Satta Matka team at Betway, India is one of the youngest nations in the world, with 70% plus of its population under the age group of 35, meaning they had an inclination to consume entertaining content meant for the youth (18-35). An estimated Indian user is found to spend close to 11 hours on average watching content on OTT platforms, which is a whopping 3 times more, as compared to people globally! Also, the number of OTT subscribers has increased by a staggering 70%, courtesy of the pandemic.

Sushant Singh Rajput’s ‘Dil Bechara’ made the biggest ever opening on Disney+Hotstar in July 2020. Kay Kay Menon’s ‘Special OPS’, Sushmita Sen’s ‘Aarya’ and ‘Scam 1992’, were some hugely successful web series, killing it on OTT.

And with the online streaming audience expanding beyond millennials and big cities, homemakers and senior citizens in small towns also began contributing to the viewership. This led to a mushrooming of regional streaming apps to cater to this non-English and non-Hindi market. Regional platforms like Hoichoi, Aha, Oho Gujarati are a few such shining examples who made it really big.

OTT and International Players

With more than 5 crore Indians switching to OTT, the industry is brimming with local and international players like Disney+Hotstar (300 million users), Amazon Prime (13 million users), Netflix (11 million users), among many others. It is believed that the forthcoming revolution on OTT would be capitalising on the privilege of the revenues and Indian market shares. And with an annual growth rate of 28.6%, it is predicted to become the 6th largest market by 2024, leaving Germany, Australia and South Korea behind!

So far so good, but there is more to the picture. Yes, the lockdown surely helped the OTT industry grow by leaps and bounds, with viewership and subscription numbers skyrocketing the entire period. But now, with the restrictions being lifted and theatres reopened, the OTT platforms are anticipated to take a hit. Many viewers still prefer the larger-than-life theatre experience, creating memories with loved ones, over watching content on mobile devices. It was also the OTT platforms’ new content strategy of offering direct-to-digital releases, which led to its subscription numbers booming, from about 21 million paid subscriptions in 2019 to 53 million in a single year. Shailesh Kapoor, CEO of media-consulting firm Ormax Media opines, that “When theatres were shut, multiple big films were released on OTT first as originals, but now the films will go back to theatres first and only then to OTTs. And this will take away a huge marketing plank that OTT platforms like Disney+ Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video etc. have been relying on since 2020.”

So what lies ahead? In spite of the major disadvantage, OTT platforms can still be expected to grow against all odds and breakthrough into the prime of the entertainment forte. But, on the other hand, the rise of OTT platforms does not really mean a fall for the TV or film industry. They are rather expected to grow side-by-side in the entertainment market. As for revenue, increasing advertisements and user subscriptions are generating steady revenues for OTT platforms, and more and more budding OTT entrants are investing for a progressive future in the market. Shifting the focus from buying the digital rights for movies and shows, the lesser-known OTT platforms are now producing in-house content, like original web series and stand-ups to reclaim viewers’ attention. In the end, it is going to be all about ensuring top-tier content, from across genres, covering all the regions.


Ram Kumar blogs at DeviceBowl. He is a graduate in Computer Science and Engineering. Addicted to Blogging and Coding.

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