Everything may have come to a screeching halt for the major part of the outgoing year owing to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic across the world, there is one segment that has had no reason to complain over people being confined to their homes in such a depressing time: digital platforms for entertainment.
With people “staying safe and staying home” for months together during the enforcement of the lockdown from March 25 onwards, the year 2020 witnessed a huge shift in the way entertainment content was consumed in the country, with binge-watching becoming the buzz words all over. As the multiplexes and single-screen theatres grappled with a mammoth crisis during the prolonged shutdowns, the over-the-top platform's position as being the most popular channel of entertainment for the Indians was confirmed, once and for all.
In this period, the use of video- and audio-conferencing tools increased by leaps and bounds with faster internet connections and the audiences veered towards the digital space like never before.
According to a data, India now has over 77 crore internet connections with over 97 per cent being wireless connections. Though the metros were the prime movers, the internet saw a huge growth in tier II and tier III towns as well.
In fact, it is the smaller towns and villages in rural and semi-urban India which fuelled the unprecedented success of shows like Mirzapur, Paatal Lok, Bicchoo Ka Khel, Gandi Baat and Aashram among others in the digital age.
Big-time OTT players such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video catered in a big way to the metros with web shows like Mismatched, Four More Shots, A Suitable Boy, Masaba Masaba, Indian Matching, Bandish Bandits, Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives and The Family Man. But the surge in the number of small-town consumers subsequently prompted them to extend their base with shows like Hasmukh, Betaal, Delhi Crime, Panchayat and Inside Edge among others.
According to trade experts, Indian entertainment industry has always revolved around the masses and players like ALTBalaji, Hotstar and Zee5 curated programmes primarily for a pan-India audience this year. While Hotstar seemed to cater to a mixed profile of the audiences with shows like Special Ops, Hostages and Aarya among others, ALTBalaji with their shows Bicchoo Ka Khel, Kehne Ko Humsafar Hai, Baarish, Broken But Beautiful, Baarish, Who's Your Daddy and Gandi Baat kept every small-towner glued to the screen.
ALTBalaji headed by Ekta Kapoor, for one, created a niche for itself in the “originals” space and emerged the fastest-growing homegrown platform, with over 60 originals to its name. Their partnership on shows with Zee5 also paid rich dividends as Code M, Mentalhood and Kundali Bhagya had a big slice of the consumer cake. Slowly and steadily, other players in this segment including MXPlayer and Ullu have made a decent attempt and show immense promise.
Trade watchers and industry people believe that the popularity of digital platforms is not going to recede in the months to come, as they seem to have cracked the code of what it takes to lure the audiences.