OTT vs Theatre
The rise in affinity towards Over The Top or OTT platforms has been further fueled by the pandemic, and has once again stirred up the ‘OTT vs Cinema’ debate.
While many are now attuned to watching content online, the cinema loving audience remains true to their first love. While both these formats of content distribution are often pitted against each other, it is important to note that they both cater to different sets of audiences and offer diverse USPs.
Content consumption both domestically and internationally has been at an all time high, driven by the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This hunger for good content was earlier single handedly satiated by multiplexes and television as means of entertainment were limited.
However, today OTT platforms have offered people the means to indulge themselves in content of their choice at the click of a button. To get a clear picture of the nitty-gritties of this debate, it is important to understand the individual selling points of both these popular formats.
OTT vs Theatre
Releasing a film on an OTT platform
The Industry / Producer’s point of view
o There are only about 9600 theatres/screens in India, and most films don’t get a proper slot for a release (As they are competing against big budget films). Remember film industries like the ones in Bollywood and the South produce more than 200 + films a year.
o Therefore, most of these films don’t end up getting their due in theatres because they don’t get enough run time, or enough marketing resources, or for various other things. These films would be more than happy to get released on an OTT platform.
o Releasing a film on an OTT platform gives the producer a fixed income, it is not linked to the performance of a movie, like in most movie releases in theatres (Except the biggies that get Minimum guarantees). In most cases, this is about 80% of the revenue a film released on an OTT platform earns. Besides this, it might earn 15-20% from satellite revenues. Essentially, a Producer is sure of the amount he/she will earn, unlike a theatrical release.
o The reach the movie will get is huge – when on a platform like Amazon Prime or Netflix, it usually reaches 200 odd countries, and is watched with subtitles. This is a reach that is huge for a small budget film or a film from an Industry that is not so big otherwise i.e. Assamese, Gujarati, Marathi etc.
o The cost of Movie promotions and advertising will surely come down for a Producer for a film being released on an OTT platform. Most of the advertising is done by the OTT platform itself.
o How long with a Producer hold onto a finished product? Even after theatres open, there would be a preference for bigger budget films. The producer might as well earn what he/she can and move on to the next project.
o It’s ideal for small budget films to hold on before they release in a theatre.
The Consumer’s point of view
o Massive savings in terms of expenses per movie outings – which often end up becoming an outing with the family or friends, with monies spent not just on the movie tickets, but F&B, Mall parking, Dinner etc.
o The sheer choice of films, especially for migrants (Read, the kind of people like you and me, who live in other cities and crave for movies in their language – and theatres in your city do not play these movies)
o Like all OTT content, can be watched at the consumer’s convenience.
Releasing a film in a theatre
The Industry/Producer’s point of view
o The monies that can be generated from a theatrical release, cannot be generated from releasing a film on an OTT platform.
o Ticket prices can be increased at the time of release, there can be special pricing for Red Carpet previews and these Red Carpet shows by itself can generate content from Sponsors or TV/online partners who want this content.
o Every return of the viewer to the theatre is additional monies, unlike in an OTT platform where the consumer pays a fixed amount of monies, not connected to the number of times he/she consumes the content.
o It’s ideal for Big budget films to hold on before they release in a theatre.
The Consumer’s point of view
o Watching movies in a theatre is an experience… often we remember the way we hooted for a Rajinikanth movie rather than the story line of the movie itself. Essentially experiences are often more cherished than the actual product itself.
o Going to a theatre is ingrained in our social fabric – and it’s not something that can be erased by an OTT Platform. When satellite TV started, people feared that people would reduce their visits to theatres. It did not happen. Movies releasing on OTT platforms will also not stop people from visiting theatres. Both will co-exist, side by side.
Maybe it’s time producers, at the time of planning a film, decide which platform they want to release their films on – if they opt for an OTT platform, they can reduce expenses substantially at the planning stage itself. Content of the film can also decide where it should be released. For e.g. a movie with unknown artistes should perhaps be released only on an OTT platform.
Eventually, we as consumers, will consume films on both platforms – Watching a film on an OTT platform often serves a functional need, whereas watching a movie in a theatre serves an emotional need.
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