The OTT market represents 7-9% of India’s M&E industry: Piiyush Singh

Piiyush Singh is the Co-founder & Group COO of Vistas Media Capital. He is also the Chief Operating Officer, Golden Ratio Films & Co-Chairperson of the Singapore South Asian International Film Festival (Sg. SAIFF). A well-established entrepreneur and renowned film producer, Singh has produced more than 500 hours of content.

In conversion with Adgully, Piiyush Singh speaks about rapid expansion of the OTT ecosystem, shifts happening in content consumption, evolution of cinema in India, upcoming collaborations, and more.

What are the trends dominating the entertainment industry at present?

Earlier movie theatres were considered to be the main source of entertainment. Post-pandemic though, things have changed quite a bit. In 2020, consumption of filmed entertainment went through a huge evolution with the growth of streaming platforms. According to reports, Netflix has seen an addition of 36 million new members in 2020. This was the business’ strongest yearly growth since the start of its video streaming service in 2007. The term ‘binge watching’ has become a part of our vocabulary. Streaming services like Netflix, ZEE5, Disney+ Hotstar, and Amazon Prime have also entered and created their own niche. This has led to a considerable behavioural transformation in consumers. Over 70% of Indian customers have transformed themselves into viewing OTT content on Smart TV for up to 4 hours each session.

The consumption of regional content, too, has vastly increased since the pandemic exposed viewers to entertainment in different languages. This has successfully brought attention to regional cinema, allowing producers to make films on a limited budget by inculcating a series of interesting subjects. The OTT market represents 7-9% of India’s media and entertainment industry and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of over 20% over the next 10 years.

How has cinema evolved with time (from theatre to digital platforms)?

Before the concept of content streaming over devices like cell phones, tablets etc., television and movie theatres were the first stop for entertainment, including films. Movies would stay in theatres for the longest time. In 2020, during the pandemic period, theatres were shut and a lot of film producers faced a difficult time getting their movies theatrically released. This gave rise to releasing even big budgeted films on OTT platforms. In addition to cumulatively delaying the release dates for theatrical release, delaying movies for the current year also deteriorated the commercial potential of the film. 

The dynamic & fast-evolving digital technology has significantly changed the film industry over the last few years. Today, digital formats are used to release mainstream productions. This is probably because producers have realised that only star-studded big budgeted movies were making the cash registers ring and the frequency of such big-ticketed films was coming down. This was evident with the performances of big-ticket films that released over the past 12 months.
OTT serves a broad range of audiences in numerous languages that enhances the local audiences’ desire to access diverse content. To keep up with the growing demand, regional players have stepped up their game. Examples include the Bengali OTT platform Hoichoi, the Gujarati OTT platforms OHO, Neestream, and Koode, the Malayalam OTT platform CityShor.TV, the Marathi OTT platform Planet Marathi, and the Haryana dialect OTT platform Stage, among others. The most popular OTT services are causing regional and national content to become increasingly jumbled. Nothing can replace the thrill of viewing a movie in a theater, but OTT platforms have definitely expanded the market by making movies and web series more available to a wider range of viewers.

What are your upcoming projects?

Golden Ratio Films (GRF) currently has a diverse slate scheduled for theatrical and OTT release. ‘Goshtha Eka Paithanichi’, our upcoming Marathi film has won the Best feature film in Marathi category at the 68th National Film Awards. Our other films in post-production are – a Hindi film ‘Sehar’ featuring Pankaj Kapur, versatile actor Supriya Pathak starring in a thriller film ‘Baby Crasto’, Meera Chopra, Tighamshu Dhulia, Poonam Dhillon in the film titled ‘Superwoman’, Anshuman Jha’s directorial film ‘Lord Curzon Ki Haveli’. Apart from this, the Tamil film ‘JBABY’, which is in partnership with ace film maker Pa. Ranjith’s Neelam Productions will be released in theatres soon.

We have a line-up of projects that are being planned to go on floors this year. ‘Filming a Love Story’ is a web show that will have show-runner Sudhir Mishra, a docu-series on the legendary Raj Kapoor that will be directed by internationally renowned director Pan Nalin. We have acquired the rights of the book written by Rahul Rawail on RAJ KAPOOR - A master at work. We are working towards a 8-episode web series ‘Sarpatta’ based on Pa Ranjith’s film and also doing a web show ‘Red Card’, that will be directed by me for which the casting is in progress.

Other projects under development are – Marathi film ‘Baba Tujhya Aabhaiala’ to be directed by Manish Kadam. ‘Nit Khair Mangaan’ is being directed by National Award winner filmmaker Ashwini Chaudhary that has Prakash Raj, Neena Gupta, Satish Kaushik and the shooting commences soon.

Tigmanshu Dhulia will be directing a film that has a working title ‘Yash’ that has Arshad Warsi, Pratik Gandhi and others. Mari Selvaraj will be directing the Tamil film ‘Manathi’, which is a sports drama biopic based on the life of Arjuna Awardee Kabaddi player Perumal Ganesan that goes on the floor next month.

On the animation project front, ‘ITCH’ is an 8-episode animated web series that is going to be directed by Soumitra Ranade and is about 8 different stories across the world, a bit of an adult content in terms of violence set against the city of London.

How do you pick the right content? What are the criteria?

At Golden Ratio Films, when it comes to selecting the right content, there is no good or bad story. We produce films and web shows in Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu with presence in Hollywood. The idea is to make content driven socially relevant cinema which may not necessarily be an outright commercial film.

But for us it is crucial to choose the content that would stimulate viewers' interest and encourage them to consume the content. Even a simple story, well made, and well-cast story can have a big impact on people. We look for wholesome, clutter-breaking content where we endeavour to find new voices, both as stakeholder talent and the narrative.

What are your marketing strategies or upcoming collaborations and associations?

There is no single strategy for marketing our films. For every project we keep the audience first and then define the communication choices to make a meaningful communication strategy. For one of our recent Marathi film release, ‘Chandramukhi’, we created a marketing campaign to connect with audiences extensively through on ground events, which managed to drive positive conversations for the film, which led to building a strong buzz for the film which was later supported by mass media campaign closer to films release in theatres. We will continue to look at drawing marketing campaigns that creatively engages the audiences to build momentum for the film before making mass media spends.


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