#RoadTo2021: The new definition & trends for OTT in 2021

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OTT trends 2021

With OTT apps gaining higher amounts of subscriptions with increased time spent in 2020, the platform's role in the media mix has changed too. Karthik Nagarajan from Wavemaker pens down OTT trends 2021.

To say that the pandemic was the ‘growth hack’ that the OTT industry was looking for would be stating the obvious. However, I feel the real news was how the definition of the ‘OTT industry’ itself changed in 2020 thus redefining OTT trends 2021.

It is today clearly no more the remit of just a handful of entrepreneurs and platforms, few specific ‘OTT kinda’ genres or the ‘OTT kinda’ actors and creators, all of which were the stereotypes that were also partially true until recently.

The mainstreaming of this medium happened in India, not so quietly in 2020. While ‘crystal balling’ anything should be frowned at after the kind of year we just had, here are some trends that largely seem inevitable.

The Home Box Office is here to stay

It is ironic that I am using a brand name that just shut shop in the country as a ‘future trend’ but stay with me for a bit (and try to not imagine the acronym).

Exactly eight years back, Kamal Haasan came up with a novel idea to release his film Vishwaroopam on DTH, a day before its theatrical release (roughly 4 weeks before Netflix released its first-ever original – House of Cards).

It was met with the same criticism from theatre owners that some films faced in 2020 for going directly to OTT. However this time, the time for the idea has arrived, and hence, the innovators prevailed. ‘Ponmagal Vandhal’ and ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ normalized top-billed films finding an OTT release in Tamil and Hindi respectively.

Also Read: #RoadTo2021: How to ace storytelling in 2021?

This trend opens up a whole new world of opportunities for brands. The Tata Tea Gold association with Shakuntala Devi on Amazon Prime is a great example, where the brand not only partnered with a film that perfectly reflected its ethos of ‘Dil ki suno’, but also took the association to commerce, where it was able to impact customers shopping for grocery on Amazon pantry. The larger story here is that promotional tie-ups for a brand for OTT films offer more outcome-based, measurable possibilities across the marketing funnel.

The promising SVOD possibilities for brands

It is a misnomer that AVOD is the only playground for brands on OTT channels and 2020 was a great example of this.

The future of content marketing for brands is not pre-rolls but the ability to leverage cultures and sub-cultures and original content beyond the paywall is where these cultures take shape.

No, I am not talking about AFP or product placements in a new avatar but about brands making certain kinds of content viable and showing off its stripes, as against just ‘advertising’. I think it is safe to say that we are likely to see many more brands taking positions on integrations with both fictional as well as non-fictional content on OTT channels.

Winning in multiple India(s)

You could count with a single hand, the number of original content pieces created on OTT platforms in regional languages, up until 2018. However, the last two years have not only seen an explosion in the number of platforms catering to non-Hindi and English languages but also the number of mainline, regional language cinematic creators taking to this medium – from top actors to directors.

Add to the fact that we are finally creating original Indian content like Scam 1992, which is not the Indian version of a global format/show but a quintessentially Indian tale. While it is not a reality yet, the additional reach through dubbing of content like this is a huge, yet-to-be unlocked potential. What this means for brands is the extraordinary opportunity this offers to personalize at scale – both on AVOD and SVOD platforms.

This piece has been authored by Karthik Nagarajan, Chief Content Officer, Wavemaker India.

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