As students and working professionals moved to their native towns before the lockdown, they took the OTT-viewing culture with them

How the culture of OTT viewing has reached rural TelanganaImage:
news Entertainment Thursday, December 03, 2020 - 14:49

As is evident by now, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our lives, a majority of which are unprecedented. Work and education almost across the board have shifted online, and so have new sections of the audience when it comes to entertainment. Before the onset of the pandemic, the Telugu film industry, which has a huge consumer base, had a considerable number of movies releasing in theatres every month. However, theatres in the Telugu states were shut for seven long months, and the announcement to reopen them was made only recently.

As a result, students, Information Technology and software professionals who left Hyderabad to return to their small towns/ tier two cities before the lockdown, took the culture of watching new releases on Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Disney+Hotstar with them.There's also the exclusively Telugu portal Aha, a relatively new player in the OTT scene, which has seen an increase in subscribers. 

Several people claim that despite challenges of digital connectivity, they now choose to watch movies, shows and web series on OTT platforms. Nagur Rakesh, a job aspirant from Karminagar in Telangana, who completed his MBA amid the pandemic and lockdown, says that in the last six months, OTT platforms have now been introduced in many households. He says, "People understood that they can watch movies on alternative platforms after the pandemic began. Consumption of entertainment has definitely changed, but may change again once things go back to normalcy."

"For example, my family has adapted to this over a period of time.  These OTTs also have some content that we can sit together and watch as a family," he added, while referring to recent family-friendly releases on OTTs.

With 100% Telugu content, OTT platform aha claims that it has witnessed a rise in consumption in these last few months. Ajit Thakur, Chief  Executive Officer (CEO), says,"In a short span of time, the video streaming platform has become a household name across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, recording an incredible 20 million unique visitors and close to 6.8 million app downloads. The numbers testify aha’s success in capturing the Telugu speaking market. We have witnessed significant growth in viewership across shows falling under various genres." 

He adds that movies and originals are the most preferred content formats on the platform.

Anil G, an employee at a private company who moved to his native village to work from home, says, "Availability of data on phones and cost of subscription also decides the shift to OTTs. People in villages may also be watching content on OTT otherwise, but we can’t say that it is totally inclusive." 

He also said, "The middle class and the families who have at least one person with digital knowledge may have a relatively high chance of watching movies on OTT."

Kothagolla Krishnaiah, a government school teacher from a village in Hanwada of Mahbubnagar, tells a different story about his relationship with OTT platforms. He says, "I have subscriptions on at least three platforms, and when I’m at leisure, the neighbourhood youths come and watch movies. Some of them even subscribed to the platforms themselves. But not everyone in other villages can afford this.”

He further adds, "I don't think those platforms will be as popular once normalcy is restored and theatres are opened, because people love to have the theatre experience. But of course, there will be a bunch of subscribers who are familiarised with OTT content, or formats such as web series, and may not leave the platforms.”

The Telangana government recently announced its consent to run movies in theatres with 50% capacity, following COVID-19 safety guidelines. However, the movie theatre association in the state is yet to make an announcement on the commencement of screenings.