GUEST COLUMN: OTT platforms are revamping the art of storytelling

GUEST COLUMN: OTT platforms are revamping the art of storytelling

Storytelling is akin to painting a picture albeit with videos.

Nitin Jai Shukla

Mumbai: The OTT space in India is exploding. There are a plethora of options available for people to watch online. Be it any genre, one will find something interesting to watch and enjoy. There are new titles dropping every week, all trying to catch the eye of viewers. The number of users that are warming up to the OTT bandwagon too is increasing. With the internet penetration getting better and smartphone adoption improving, more people now have access to OTT services.

OTT players are also looking to expand their market share and vying to get the maximum time spent and visibility. All this is ensuring that viewers have a lot of options to binge. While that might be the case, the space is still getting warmed up to the idea of storytelling.

OTT and the art of storytelling

Storytelling is akin to painting a picture albeit with videos. It is an art that requires a lot of extensive observation and weaving into an etched story that viewers can connect and resonate with. The current explosion in the OTT space has enabled many to tap into this world and create beautiful, well-thought stories that are entertaining, educating and enlightening the audiences. However, the process is still at a very nascent stage. A very few OTT players have been able to crack this space and use storytelling to its full potential.

As the competition in the space continues to heat up, storytelling will become even more important. Platforms that are able to master this art will be the ones that will be able to leave a lasting impression on the minds of the viewers.

Growing popularity of regional content

In the last couple of years, regional content has started gaining popularity amongst the masses. Earlier the regional content was only limited to the audience of that geographic area. However, with the advent of OTT platforms, this content is now widely available. Moreover, most OTT platforms are offering dubbed versions of the content that is enabling users to enjoy the same in the language of their preference. The recent success of titles such as Dark, Money Heist, Lupin, Squid Games, Crash Landing on You, “Pushpa”, “Beast”, and “KGF” are glowing examples of how content from any language and geography is able to connect with the audience.

The content viewing behaviour has become more personalised and everyone wants to watch what they like best. Television was more about watching it with family and OTT has changed that drastically.  To cater to the evolving tastes and preferences, OTT players are revamping their strategy and getting regional and local flavours to reach out to a wider audience base. Content is truly the king and if they can come up with an interesting story then they will find suitable takers for the same.

Data-backed decisions

OTT platforms heavily rely on the data of consumers. There are two sides to data, the good and bad. On a positive note, the platforms have a complete picture of what content is getting consumed and the demographics of their users. They even get to know details such as which device the content is being consumed, how much time the viewers are spending on their app, at what hour of the day they are getting maximum traffic, and the drop-out point. It also provides information on what type of content keeps the users engrossed and what they are searching for. This is the bad side of the data as it impacts their social behaviour and how their personality is getting moulded. A lot of companies use this data to push their products and services.

While data is helping OTT players in finding the most engaging content but it is also typecasting them into making the same things. Serving similar content over time may result in fatigue and viewers switching over to other platforms. Therefore, one needs to be mindful of how they are using the data and make intelligent decisions.

Emergence of short video app

The attention span of people is reducing. OTT players now have a very short time to hook the audience to the content. There is also increased competition that OTT content is facing from the new age short video format apps. Tik-Tok, Instagram Reels, Moj and Chingari have managed to create a space for themselves. These short video apps deliver a variety of content and have become immensely popular. These apps are now forcing the OTT players to rethink and rejig their strategy. Some OTT players are now thinking of reducing the time per episode to 25 mins from 45 minutes. Netflix is also planning to come out with a short video format to take on these apps head-on.

In nutshell, there is no dearth of content available online. From different genres to platforms to video lengths, there is space for everyone. Viewers are also exposed to quality content from across the globe. While there are global titles and K-Dramas that are ruling the roost, even the regional content is making a big impact. In the end, it is powerful stories and engaging content that is gaining the maximum attention. There is also a wider segmentation. Not everyone will be open to consuming content about spirituality and religion. The older audiences are more likely to connect with bhakti and pravanchans but to connect with the younger lot, the platforms will need to have a fresh approach. In the past, mythology shows that are well presented and made keeping in mind the sensibilities of today’s audience have worked wonders for the OTT platform. Legend of Hanuman on Hotstar was one such show.

Presentation is an important aspect in today’s time. Great presentation and storytelling can go a long way in winning over the audiences and garnering viewership from across age groups.

The author is OMTV (India’s first sanatan storytelling platform) founder and MD Nitin Jai Shukla.