PATHSALA: The mobile theatre industry in Assam is facing a new challenge, that is, in the form of OTT (over-the-top) platforms.

Contents in OTT platforms can be accessed anywhere for a relatively low fee.

This has led to an increase in viewership on OTT platforms, which has posed a threat to the mobile theatre industry.

Audiences are getting used to easy access to web series, films and documentaries on their smartphone devices and Smart TV, thanks to numerous OTT platforms.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Zee5, Disney+Hotstar, SonyLiv and Voot are few of the examples of OTT platforms that have been gaining popularity among users in Assam.

Sudipta Dutta, a student at the Bhattadev University in Assam said, “After lockdown, I installed Netflix, Amazon prime in our Smart TV.”

Bijan Bayan a senior citizen of Pathsala said, “Earlier people from various parts come here to see the live dramas of mobile theatre in Pathsala town where Achyut Lahkhar gave birth to ‘Bhryamyman’ or mobile theatre in the 1960s. But now times have changed. Digitalisation changed everything. The young generation don’t want to enjoy the dramas of mobile theatres anymore. Instead of buying a ticket at a high cost, they would like to buy monthly OTT service and net packs.”

Tapan Lahkar, producer of Kohinoor Theatre, “Theatre offers a larger than life experience. That cannot be replaced by television or OTT platforms. Going to theatre adds an important dimension – it becomes a social occasion and a collective experience. The OTT platforms will clearly not match up with that.”

“OTT platforms cannot possibly replace mobile theatre Industry. Here people can enjoy the live dramas and cars, train made up of wood appear on stage without green screen. No digital technology can change the feel of live dramas on stage,” he added.

According to SBI Research, OTT market is expected to reach Rs 11,944 crore by 2023, up from Rs 2,590 crore in 2018, logging in a compound annual growth of 36 per cent.

This may lead to a repeat of the sudden death of the VCR/VCP/DVD industry that boomed in the 1980s, with the exponential rise of multiplexes since early 2000s across metro/urban areas, the report warns.

OTT has already chipped away 7-9 per cent of the entertainment industry share and revenue, and is consistently growing with over 40-odd players and offering original media content in all languages, published on August 26, 2022.

India’s entertainment and media (E&M) industry is expected to reach Rs 4,30,401 crore by 2026 at 8.8 per cent CAGR, according to a report published on June 23.

The PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2022-2026 report has shown substantial growth across India’s E&M industry segments such as OTT video, newspaper, advertisements, online games, cinema, and music, among others.

The remarkable adoption of OTT media can be attributed to several causes including the convenience, accessibility, and affordability it brings to a wide range of users.

The rise of over-the-top (OTT) media has caused a significant shift in the entertainment industry towards digitization and economy; as consumers in India seek differentiation and value-based offering in their media consumption.

Anyone with a smartphone, laptop or Smart TV and an internet connection can watch any content, movies or series from anywhere in the world.

Further, the ability to stream content directly over the internet has increased with the rise in the number of internet connections, better network connectivity, technological innovations and the availability of smart devices.

Many media houses and entertainment channels have already launched their own platforms or are looking forward to collaborating with other platforms to stream their content in response to rising demand.

The OTT market is set to do an encore of what multiplexes did to the VCR/VCP/VCD segment in the early 2000s and is set to become a Rs 12,000-crore industry by 2023, up from Rs 2,590 crore in 2018, says a report published on  August 26, 2022.

Sasanka Talukdar

Sasanka Talukdar is Northeast Now Correspondent in Pathsala. He can be reached at: sasanka140@gmail.com