It came it spread it conquered – part 8 – Entertainment and OTT

It came it spread it conquered – part 8 – Entertainment and OTT

It came. It spread. It conquered.

Ever since Wuhan reported its patient zero for the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in November, 2019, the world has not been able to heave a sigh of relief. The virus has penetrated and continues to penetrate into receptacles of almost every country you can name – the burden being distributed asymmetrically. The streets have been deserted, flights and trains have been suspended, companies have come to a standstill, and the common man has been trapped inside the four walls of his own house – for a period of time that even the highest authorities are unable to state. Quarantine and social distancing have taken the role of those uninvited guests in our day-to-day life, who barge inside without a knock. Hygiene and sanitisation practices have taken birth as a new religion, while people all around are going frenzy over immunity boosting techniques. As healthcare and pharma giants worldwide struggle to find a potential cure, SMEs and start-ups are also joining forces and working round-the-clock amid this invisible battle – or rather microscopically-visible battle. Albeit, keeping the possibility of mass commercial availability of a viable vaccine at bay, let us break down and scrutinise the consequences of this pandemic on businesses – sector by sector.

Entertainment and OTT

As more than 100 countries have called for confinement, as much as half of humanity (more than 4 billion people) is under lockdown. Except for working from home, spending time with family, watching news, working out, and pursuing hobbies, they are left with no other tasks to do indoors. TV channels too, had been unable to shoot due to the lockdown, and started running old content. Reasonably enough, in order to kill time, people began gravitating towards binge-watching fresh content on over-the-top (OTT) platforms, more than ever before. According to a recent survey by InMobi, there was an upsurge of as much as 46 per cent on OTT content viewership. Tarun Katial, CEO, Zee5 India, said the platform witnessed an 80 per cent increase in subscriptions and over 50 per cent growth in time spent recently. Netflix, on the other hand, saw almost 16 million new subscription accounts in the first three months of the year. That is almost double the new sign-ups it saw in 2019. The home-entertainment giant’s share price has climbed more than 30 per cent this year as investors bet on its ability to benefit from people spending more time indoors. Earlier in February, the European Union urged Netflix and other OTT players to lower the video content quality from 1080p HD to 480p SD, to ensure people get high-speed internet to gain access to information on coronavirus and for official work online. Later on, YouTube and Amazon also joined the bandwagon to cut picture quality to prevent overload in Europe. Netflix said it expects to stick to its release schedule through June and has been acquiring other movies to keep its offering fresh. But it said future membership growth could be hurt by delays to upcoming seasons and shows, as production and shoot have been put to an abrupt halt.

Indian General entertainment channels (GECs) had to rejig their programming strategy to keep audiences engaged during the lockdown, having run out of fresh content. Apart from reruns of old shows and longer edits of recent shows, broadcasters also began tapping into the library of OTT platforms. Zee TV, Star Plus, and other channels opted for this strategy. However, one key player that deserves an honourable mention about its reruns of serials is undoubtedly Doordarshan. It’s strategy to re-telecast Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and Baldev Raj (B R) Chopra’s Mahabharata has been an absolute winner, making Doordarshan help reinforce its position in the hearts of Indians as the National Broadcaster. The timing was right, with the lockdown reducing people’s entertainment options, plus DD National being free to air (FTA) and wide in reach. And the announcement got a strong push from the government, with Information and Broadcasting minister Prakash Javdekar announcing the telecast and later tweeting a photograph of himself watching the show.Add alt text

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As soon as Ramayan’s rerun began, Doordarshan’s viewership rose exponentially. From 9 million, it went to 545 million in the last week of March. “These were the highest numbers we’d seen in the past five years. Not even a sporting event like IPL comes close,” said Romil Ramgarhia, BARC CEO. On the morning of May 2, 2020, DD National tweeted about Ramayan achieving a historic world record by garnering a viewership of a whopping 77 million viewers, making it the most-viewed episode on TV ever in the global history. An infographic compared Ramayan with Game of Thrones (17.4 million) and The Big Bang Theory (18 million). Although the claim has been challenged by viewers saying that the American series M*A*S*H is still the holder for that record with 106 million viewers, it is still a plausible accomplishment in itself, which almost no one saw coming. Below are performance indices for the top five shows as on week 21 of 2020.

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