Hitlist Web Awards: Celebrating age of binge!
Platform content head honchos launch Hitlist Web Awards, 2020, over an engaging huddle; discuss the brave new world of films and long-form series.
Chronology samajhiye: First, you pick the show you might like to watch. That becomes your watch-list. Then you binge on some of the series. That's your binge-list. And then, inevitably you draw up the shows, seasons, performances, writing, and direction that were 'hits'. For you. In 2019. That's the Hitlist!
And that's the pick, with all public votes combined, and judges' verdict taken into account, winning the mid-day, Radio City Hitlist Web Awards, 2020, for the finest in online entertainment, available on subscriber-based OTT platforms.
The public voting lines stay open between February 14 and March 8. There are 14 separate categories to choose from, making it the most comprehensive web awards in India, that takes place on March 19 in Mumbai.
And what better way to announce/launch the Hitlist Web Awards than have India's top content creators/competitors in one room, in a huddle, facing each other, discussing the brave new world of OTT entertainment. Only fair that we start the discussion with, "What the hell is 'OTT' (Over-The-Top), anyway?" We know what we do, as more proverbially, Netflix and chill!
Sameer Nair of Applause Entertainment, which has lately produced shows like Mind The Malhotras (Amazon Prime), Criminal Justice (Hotstar), Hostages (Hotstar), explains that the term is unique to India, yes, but comes from the fact that "video (like music) streaming is a service that remains over the top, of existing services [on a mobile phone]. Telecom and broadband players laid the cables and created [infrastructure for] the Internet. What got built over it is called OTT."
And which is the sort of industry that everyone in the room, barring Ridhima Lulla from Eros Now being much younger, became migrants to, having spent years in various other media, namely films and television. What was that unique 'unlearning' they had to go through to adapt to the fresh platform industry? While it doesn't seem so, it is less than four years old!
The first learning Vijay Subramaniam, content head, Amazon Prime Video, points out is that, "Every customer [here] is her own programmer. It's one-on-one [relationship]." According to Nachiket Pantvaidya, COO, Alt Balaji, "The [viewership] data is precise, which was not true for TV."
Or, as Gaurav Verma — who's worked extensively in the multiplex business, currently heading Red Chillies, that recently produced The Bard Of Blood on Netflix —puts it, "The film/multiplex business has been about the individual going to the neighbourhood. This gets reversed [on web platforms], where you go [with your content] to the individual."
(From left) Mayank Shekhar, editor, Hitlist, Ridhima Lulla, CCO, Eros Now, Vikram Malhotra, CEO, Abundantia Entertainment, Gaurav Verma, COO, Red Chillies Entertainment, Shrishti Behl Arya, director international originals, Netflix, Sameer Nair, CEO, Applause Entertainment, Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji, Vijay Subramaniam, director, content, Amazon Prime Video
"And that [content] stays forever," says Nair. Unlike films in the traditional box-office model that had "low elasticity." This personalised entertainment therefore creates space for all kinds of content. Srishti Behl Arya of Netflix India, says, "[You have to make way for] both guilty pleasures, and your conversation pieces." What doesn't change though, as Lulla weighs in, is writing: "All the engagement lies in the writing."
Subramanian reiterates, "The writers' room is where battles are fought and won. Bar on creativity is steadily rising, thanks to series/long-format. And it's then that you bring in the cinematic vision to support the story."
While Arya reveals that "of all markets in the world, India watches most films on Netflix," no one huddled up in the hall, that's more like an echo chamber, has any prophet of doom for cinemas. To be fair, the multiplex business continues to grow alongside.
This coexistence, even cross-pollination, appears natural to Abundantia Entertainment's Vikram Malhotra, who's paving Akshay Kumar's entry into web for Amazon, besides having produced Breathe (with R Madhavan), the second season of which stars Abhishek Bachchan: "The presence of traditional stars can be reassuring for audiences who haven't tested the medium yet."
Vijay Subramaniam, director and head, content, Amazon Prime Video
This is besides that OTT platforms are simultaneously creating their own stars. "Stories are creating stars now. This is as true for newer stars in cinema as well," Malhotra says. That OTT platforms, through instant access, have in fact given a fillip to films from different Indian regions, let alone international content, can't be denied either.
"If you wanted to watch a Tamil film, you'd hope that it's playing in [one theatre] Aurora [in all of Mumbai]. You can click on [Vetrimaran's] Asuran right away instead," Pantvaidya rightly points out. Which is the reason Hitlist Awards also has a category for non-Hindi [Indian] film available on web.
Great time for consumers. Check. Lifetime to binge. Check, although that's not new for Indians, since they have, on average, been watching four hours of TV anyway, Nair says. But what about the cheque at the check-in counter, on your TV/phone? There are currently 42 OTT platforms, still more on the way, with multiple monthly bills, running into thousands, when cable bills until recently, were all of a couple of hundred bucks. Shakeout expected soon?
Nair reasons, "Nobody could've predicted 600 TV channels in India either. This is growth phase for OTT —early evening at a Diwali party; high rollers will stay until late. There will be rise and fall." Malhotra butts in, "The caterers are happy [either way] though."
More importantly, Malhotra emphasises, "There's been so much disruption in such short time — technology, data [rates] dropping, smart phones, younger demographic, proliferation of content, new mechanisms, content changing on film… Unsure if the audience will remain the same five years from now."
Well we know where you were all of last year. And hope you'll arrive at what you loved most on OTT platforms to pick winners of Hitlist Web Awards, 2020. Happy voting. And no EVM jhol — that's a promise!
Shrishti Behl Arya, director, international originals, Netflix
'[You have to make way for] both guilty pleasures, and your conversation pieces'
Sameer Nair, CEO, Applause Entertainment
'Nobody could've predicted 600 TV channels in India either. This is growth phase for OTT — early evening at a Diwali party'
Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, Alt Balaji
'If you wanted to watch a Tamil film, you'd hope that it's playing in [one theatre] Aurora [in all of Mumbai]'
Ridhima Lulla Eros Now CCO
'All the engagement lies in the writing'
Vikram Malhotra,founder and CEO, Abundantia Entertainment
There's been so much disruption in such short time—technology, data [rates] dropping, smart phones, younger demographic, proliferation of content, new mechanisms, content changing on film'
Gaurav Verma, COO, Red Chillies Entertainment
'The film/multiplex business has been about the individual going to the neighbourhood. This gets reversed [on web platforms], where you go [with your content] to the individual'
Hitlist Web Awards Timeline
- Voting lines for public opens: February 14; closes: March 8
- There are 14 categories that the public can vote for. Log on to www.hitlistwebawards.com to cast your vote in segments like Best Series, New Season, Adaptation, and Web Film, among others.
- You can also vote via SMS. Send HITLIST <space> category name <space> your choice (a/b/c/d as on the website) to 57575
- The awards will be held on March 19, in Mumbai
- Watch the full Sit With Hitlist huddle with OTT content heads on the website, www.hitlistwebawards.com
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