In what can be seen as a new trend emerging in these pandemic times, Malayalam film-makers have begun experimenting with simultaneous release of small-budget movies across multiple over-the-top (OTT) platforms for wider reach.
Last month, Malayalam anthology ‘Cheraathukal’ was released on eleven regional (Malyalam) OTT platforms. The trend towards simultaneous release began in May when ‘Aarkkariyam’ was released on more than one streaming regional platform.
“Non-exclusive releases in multiple platforms help in reaching a larger number of people. This also helps customers who do not have any subscription view the film on a pay-per-view mode,” Jomon Jacob, producer of ‘The Great Indian Kitchen’, said. He added that the Malayali diaspora across the world can this way view the film even in remote places, which otherwise is not possible.
‘The Great Indian Kitchen’, which released a couple of months ago, first debuted on a Malayalam platform, Neestream First, as no big platform was interested in taking it. But, having achieved critical acclaim it was subsequently released on Amazon Prime Video also once the three-month exclusive contract expired.
Jacob said that non-exclusive streaming on multiple platforms on a revenue sharing model also helps very small or independent films find their audience, as getting theatrical release is next to impossible without stars and big names.
Manu Abraham, director of Neestream Creations, told FE that the non-exclusive revenue sharing model is good for both producers and the streaming platform. His platform offers the pay-per-view for Rs 98 and it can be watched unlimited times for five days. The annual subscription for the streaming platform comes to Rs 1,750 per year. “The film reaches a larger number of people in the shortest time and the platforms do not have to risk paying a large amount upfront. Most of the regional OTT platforms are small players,” he added. The revenue share is often in 50:50, 60:40 and, in some cases, 80:20 ratio.
It may be too early to surmise if this model will get a broader acceptance nationally but there are definitely some indications that the trend of having a multiple OTT release is gaining ground.
Hindi movie ‘Mimi’ featuring Kriti Sanon and Pankaj Tripathi is set for a simultaneous OTT release on Jio Cinema and Netflix on July 30, the makers of the film announced recently. The family flick has been jointly produced by Jio Studios and Dinesh Vijan.
“’Mimi’ is our first exclusive OTT release, and while a family outing at the cinemas could take some time, with this, we are bringing wholesome cinema to families in the comfort of their homes. Finding two incredible digital collaborators in Jio Cinema and Netflix is very exciting,” said Vijan. The makers did not elaborate on the rationale behind this move.
Analysts, however, said that this strategy may not work for big-budget movies. The model works for small, mid-sized films that are looking to widen their pool of revenues through multiple OTT releases. Also in many such cases, the platforms offer the flexibility of a pay-per-view feature and the revenue gets shared between the film producer and the OTT platform.
For big films, the three OTT platforms of choice are deep pocketed Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+Hotstar, which have the subscriber reach and the scale. The platforms do not mind paying a hefty amount to get new content. Producers looking to get returns will typically opt for an exclusive release with one platform.
As Neestream Creations’ Manu Abraham points out, “Big movies with star value would always prefer exclusive contracts with big OTT players. The subscription model works only with exclusive releases and the platforms will have to go in for some exclusive releases to retain them.”
Mathew Mampra, producer of ‘Cheraathukal’, said that established big players only buy big films with star value and small films do not often entertain small films. “More the number of platforms, the more the attention and publicity and more people watch your film. This also helps in getting maximum revenue in a short time before the film is widely circulated through piracy,” Mampra added.