Bollywood Being Killed By Onslaught Of Online Streaming Channels?
by Joginder Tuteja
Things weren't as bad till six months back. However, they have turned from worse to terrible. Bollywood flicks are not even taking an opening at the Box Office, leave aside being rejected by the audience after the content has been watched. Last film to take a double digit opening was Arjun Kapoor's Half Girlfriend (I am not talking about Salman Khan's Tubelight since despite its 20 crore opening - which was underwhelming by the way - it turned out to be a Box Office disaster soon enough). Ever since then, Bollywood biggies have been struggling big time, be it Raabta, Jagga Jasoos or Munna Michael.
So what is actually plaguing the industry?
Well, one thing that I can think of is the onslaught of online streaming channels.
Picture this - Raabta is available on Amazon Prime within six weeks of its theatrical release. Hindi Medium too came a few weeks back. Raees is available on Netflix. Jolly LLB 2 and Kaabil can be seen on Hotstar. Badrinath Ki Dulhania has been a hot property on Amazon Prime for many weeks now. These were examples of most of the films that actually did well at the Box Office.
Now look at the second rung of films that brought in some sort of moolah. Phillauri, Commando 2, The Ghazi Attack - each one of these can be seen online as well on the aforementioned channels, and can be further screen cast on television as well. Other notable films like OK Jaanu, Rangoon, Begum Jaan and Noor can be seen on your cell-phone, tablets, computers or television. All of it at the convenience of your time, location and internet availability. And not to mention, legally!
Not that this was not possible a year or so back. However, most of it was illegal (or shall I put it the other way, unethical) via torrents or unauthorized websites. The picture quality could never be guaranteed and there was some effort required to download or stream. This isn't an issue anymore, courtesy the big players entering the market, all of whom are acquiring films at a rapid pace and making them available for audience really soon. Sometimes it is happening within a month itself, as was evident with Konkona Sen Sharma's Death In The Gunj that got a token theatrical release, only to find itself on Netflix soon enough.
With the software been available for ready consumption in such quick time, at least in urban India one can well expect audiences to really pick and choose their theatrical experience quite wisely. After all, why to spend Rs. 2000/= at an average on a film when at this amount you can pick your monthly subscription of all the online streaming channels [Amazon, Hotstar, Netflix, Eros Now and more] combined together along with high speed-high capacity internet plan and watch unlimited films?
Of course many would argue about the penetration of such channels in each and every household. That's correct, that is yet to happen on a large scale. However, the cycle has begun. After all, home video has almost become extinct, what with several major retail chains already closing, brick and mortar showrooms turning ghost towns and online sales of DVDs and BluRays too hitting an all time low. To think of it, many major electronic retail chains are not even selling DVD and BluRay players anymore!
That's the sad state of affairs and the arrival of online streaming channels has further intensified competition closer home!
Of course every story has a happy side as well and this too could well be the beginning of some exciting times ahead. Let me talk about that and more in Part II of this feature!