Is streaming zone the new multiplex?

From adding star power by roping in veteran A-list stars, hosting digital concerts with big names attached, bringing movies onto the streaming services within a few months of theatrical release to reviving cancelled shows on fan demand – the world of over-the-top or OTT platforms is expanding, and what started on the small screens of the smartphones the world over, suddenly threatens to becoming bigger than the big screen.

Netflix and Amazon Prime have been producing original shows and films for a while now, which often generate more buzz than much of what is made by traditional sources as movie studios or TV production houses.

In this context, these digital players have entered the space of live entertainment, too.

Be it Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Eros Now, Hotstar, Voot, Zee5, Viu, ALTBalaji or Sony Liv – the growing number of platforms in India is a testimony to it.

Manish Aggarwal, Business Head, ZEE5 India, mentioned that the "digital viewer is seeking fresh, edgy, relatable and engaging content every day" – which is changing the landscape of the content being produced.

The proliferation of over-the-top or OTT platforms has not come without objection from people associated with the filmmaking business.

Netflix's Roma Oscar glory this year made way for a debate over whether movies for streaming services should be allowed to compete at big award ceremonies, traditionally meant for feature films that get full theatrical release.

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg, a member of the Motion Picture Academy's board of governors, started a campaign to pitch for a rule change to make things more difficult for streaming platforms. Netflix was absent from Cannes Film Festival for second time this year due to the ongoing row between the streaming giant and festival organisers over priorities of persevering the theatrical experience or embracing the new age digital viewing space.

The streaming giants are hoping to find a common ground.

"(The norm is) it has to be a full release or you won't be up for an award consideration. That however is not in the ecosystem of this evolving business. I think they have to figure out something in between," Salke said.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings feels movies must be judged on artistic merit, and not windowing strategy.

"Today, the rules are the rules that they are, and we comply fully with those rules. And I think all of you here would say that 'Roma' is an Oscar quality movie. We really believe films should be judged upon their artistic merit, not upon their windowing strategy," Hastings said at an event.

The screen size should be no measure of the size of the entertainment, most OTT giants argue. They are roping in big names form Hollywood as well as Bollywood to create big wonders on the small screen.

Hollywood stars including, Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot have Netflix projects added to their resume. From the world of Bollywood, stars including Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Emraan Hashmi and Abhishek Bachchan have associated with streaming giants.

'Stranger Things' producer-director Shawn Levy is happy with the cinematic quality of the content being churned out for the streaming services.

"For me, the thrilling part of season three is that it truly feels like a movie. The scope of the action and spectacle, while still keeping the emotional depth of each character, is highly cinematic," Levy said.

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