The past couple of months have been a heady mixture of ups and downs for the streaming industry in India. With some of the best home-grown content, like Sacred Games, Mirzapur, Ghoul coming up, Indian content is looking up. Apart from the tentpole web series, there’s lesser known but well-made web series like ALTBalaji’s Broken, Home, so on and so forth.
Also Read | Amazon Prime Original Mirzapur Review
This period can be termed as the revival of modern cinema and discovery of new talent. Content creators were making stuff out of sheer passion. Several directors and writers confessed that some of the stuff they made as web series because they wouldn’t be commercially viable.
So, Indian audiences were treated to some pathbreaking, whacky stuff. This pathbreaking, whacky stuff was different from the kind of content that was running in the theaters, made by the mainstream. That was the defining point of streaming v mainstream – what the audiences couldn’t get on mainstream, they could get in streaming – anywhere.
That might change, and with that, the very DNA of streaming entertainment might change. In the past month, several traditional media houses have set up production houses that are streaming exclusive. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the production houses are the DNA of any content. In several cases, it’s the production house that procures the script, has the actors and other talent locked. They go to financers and investors or even broadcast partners. With the traditional production houses getting to work for streaming projects, the concept of ‘saleable names’ might soon crop up in streaming – something that’s already rearing its ugly head.
On the other hand, streaming projects are becoming streamlined and the finances are decided. For example, Voot did an anthology of short stories – which had advertisements already inserted. That means, the financial deals were already struck, even before the content was uploaded on the streaming platform, quite reminiscent of the ‘brand partners’ card that we see in the credits of Bollywood films.
There’s also this trend of mainstream actors coming into streaming via different doors. Imran Khan directed a short film recently, Zee5 got a deluge of actors and mainstream crew to work on their series – a whopping 75 web series this year, so on and so forth. Even pathbreakers like TVF are now making web series that already have financers on board. Of course, they themselves are ‘names’ in the streaming industry today, so they don’t have a lack of ‘stars in the system’.
This is, of course, a ‘what if’ article, but entertainment has seen the dumbing down of entertainment several times in India. Compared to the tv series that we are seeing today, the series that ran in the eighties and nineties are considered gold. Facebook has several groups that are full of fans of these years, calling them the Golden Age of Television.
In that sense, the Golden Age of Streaming is upon us, but what’s creeping somewhere in the background isn’t something that audiences will look forward to.