Race for digital-first film releases hots up on OTTs after Gulabo Sitabo

A mail sent to Disney+Hotstar elicited no response till the time of going to press. Netflix India officials were also not available for comment.
Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo, which premiered on Amazon Prime Video last Friday, has paved the way for more direct-to-digital releases across over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

People with knowledge of the matter told Bhuj: The Pride of India (starring Ajay Devgn), are slated for release on Disney+Hotstar soon.

Netflix, similarly, has grabbed the rights for Shershaah (starring Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani).

However, the Akshay Kumar-starrer Brahmastra, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, will not release on OTT platforms.

A mail sent to Disney+Hotstar elicited no response till the time of going to press. Netflix India officials were also not available for comment.

Both Disney+Hotstar and Netflix are said to have been in talks with producers for a few months now, given the rising competitive intensity. Based on monthly active users, Jio Cinema and Disney+Hotstar have a share of 35.5 per cent and 30.3 per cent, respectively, in the domestic OTT market. Prime and Netflix have a 14.8 per cent and 9.2 per cent share, respectively.

Prime was the first to grab streaming rights for seven titles in one go, last month, for an estimated Rs 300 crore. This included Gulabo Sitabo and Vidya Balan-starrer Shakuntala Devi: Human Computer for Rs 65 crore each.

While the Tamil-Telugu bilingual Penguin was acquired for Rs 60 crore by Prime, four other regional films have been acquired for Rs 30 crore each, said people in the know.

KPMG has pegged India’s OTT market at over 325 million users, saying it will touch 550 million in the next two years. Digital media expert Shrenik Gandhi — the co-founder of White Rivers Media — says the lockdown has driven adoption of digital media platforms, with viewers seeking fresh content being confined to their homes.

 “Television content in the last three months has been led by popular yesteryear and mythological shows. The only avenue available for those seeking new content is OTT,” he says.

Data by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) shows users have spent close to 3.5-4.0 hours a day on smartphones during the lockdown, versus 3 hours prior to the lockdown.

Films such as Sadak 2 have been co-produced by Fox Star Studios, which is Star’s motion picture arm and now part of Disney group. Bhuj, meanwhile, has been produced by T-Series.

Other films that Disney+Hotstar is looking to telecast before its theatrical release include Dil Bechara, which stars the late Sushant Singh Rajput in his last appearance, as well as The Big Bull (starring Abhishek Bachchan) and Mimi (starring Kriti Sanon and Pankaj Tripathi).

Two other small-budget films likely to premiere on Disney+Hotstar are Shiddat, co-produced by T-Series and Dinesh Vijan’s Maddock Films, and Loot Case, which has been produced by Fox Star Studios.

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