BHUBANESWAR: Web series have quietly become the ‘in thing’ of the entertainment industry. After Netflix and Amazon Prime, MX Player has officially launched itself with five original shows. Bengali and Marathi shows have started to show promise too. However, Odia web shows are yet to take off like its regional counterparts.
The industry is still in its nascent stages in the state. Although some web based news channels are starting to gain traction, the concept of web shows as a whole has not been established in the region. There are some who have tried to launch web shows using YouTube as a platform.
State players can take a leaf out of the book of other web content providers though. Times Internet-owned over the top (OTT) platform MX Player is planning to launch 20+ original web shows in 2019. The platform has the brand philosophy of ‘Everytainment’. It hosts a library of over 1,00,000 hours of licensed content that caters to 70 million users every day.
Ekta Kapoor’s Alt Balaji, a digital streaming app, has already made 30 shows in less than 2 years. The app is gearing up for 30 more shows in 2019. The app has amassed over 9 million subscribers. All these facts confirm that there is a lot of ground to be gained in the field. Subscription rates of regional services are way cheaper than Netflix and Prime and target audiences have been focused upon too—viewers in tier 2-3 towns and those beyond the demographic that pays for more expensive OTT platforms in urban India.
Biraj Rath, director, Raban Podi, which is one of the state’s first original web series, said, “Web contents are gaining popularity because of the ease of access and flexibility that it offers to users. The rise of streaming mediums like YouTube and other OTT platforms have opened up huge opportunities for youngsters. It has also lowered cost of making. However, I believe, quantity is not a yardstick to evaluate how a particular industry is performing. If you analyse, there is a huge boom in terms of digital content in Odisha, but that doesn’t mean we have grown a great deal as an industry.”
Here comes a word of caution though. “As the quantity has gone up, the quality is often compromised. Odisha needs a bunch of producers and think tanks who understand the digital media better and produce contents that is relevant to people of different age and backgrounds,” he added.
Producer of Raban Podi actor Samaresh Routray hopes their initiative encourages others to indulge in more such projects. “However, other production houses are not venturing into the field. Web series are the future and our production house must tap the potential of the market. We have plans to create more digital content in coming days. Marketing is an essential aspect of the industry.”
Roshan Bisoi, creative head, TechnoArt Productionz, which has created multiple Odia web shows such as Panic Shorts, the first Odia web horror show, and Saheb, Biwi aur Sala, said, “The response to our first web series was great. We have two more web series lined up: Tike Sata Tike Michha, which is designed along the lines of sitcom and Grains, which is a drama based on photographers, their life and struggles.”
“As a web industry, we should let go of mediocrity. We have presence in the web. However, it is restricted to music videos mostly and that is helping in no way. We don’t really produce original content, or even ones with a hint of honesty. Our agenda is clear and we will continue to do so. We will keep making fresh and original content on Odia web space,” he added.
Anupam Patnaik, filmmaker and MD of Technoartz, said, “The trend of producing Odia web series is taking off. There is a certain degree of comfort working in the digital space as we have genuine followers here if you provide good content.”
Actor Dipanwit Dash Mohapatra said, “A revolution is brewing in the online space of the country. Web series, or shows meant exclusively for the internet, are catching the fancy of audiences, and, as an extension, of content producers and advertisers.”
Arindam Ganguly, OP