Self Platform vs Established Ones: What makes sense for film makers?

06 . Sep . 2017
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The streaming scene has definitely seen an uptick in India. More and more Indian film makers are jumping on the web series and short films bandwagon. The reasons are many and varied. Some say that’s because they use this platform to tell stories that don’t fit into the mainstream – whether because of time duration or due to concept. Others say that they are bored of the stars system, where you need a big star around which the whole project rotates and revolves. Whatever be the reason, the mainstream is plunging into streaming.While that’s the scene on the creative front, there’s still some discussion to be done on the commercial front. For example, when it comes to web media, you can go to the big three – YouTube, Netflix and Amazon.

With Netflix and Amazon, it’s a simple transaction – they commission or buy your film. With  YouTube, until recently, short film makers could make money only with the ads.  That is about to change soon, but currently, ads are the way to make money from your film if it’s on YouTube.

One other monetary option that’s coming up is setting up a platform from scratch – something that companies like ALTBalaji is doing.  With that,  the film maker is the judge, jury and executioner of the project. If they want it to stream, stream it shall.  With a platform, the film maker also stands to become the fourth in the scenario of the Big Three.

While that freedom exists, all freedoms come with a price – and this particular one comes with a huge price. To begin with, a film maker will need to make massive investments in terms of technology, hardware as well as soft skills. The film maker will basically need to pay attention to the business side.

Even if the film-maker doesn’t put their own money, they will need to venture out, looking for investors. And we all know how true the phrase ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’  has become in Bollywood.

The other aspect of setting up a platform for streaming is that the returns are staggered, and quite frankly, one doesn’t even know if there are any returns. Setting up a platform would mean that a film-maker would make money only via tie-ups and advertisements. That would mean that a film maker has to make such extremely interesting content that entities would want their names affiliated with the project.

The simpler way, of course, is to peddle your product to the Big Two, or even go via the advertising mode with YouTube and be done with it. The problem with selling the product for Netflix or Amazon is that you then bid goodbye to most of the rights of the product. Bollywood is scattered with stories of producers and directors who don’t have the rights to their own films because they have sold it to a platform for a few crores. Nobody would want that to happen with the upcoming film-makers of short films.