Akshay Kumar’s Laxmii was the big attraction for Disney+ Hotstar as it released in the Diwali week on November 9. While the opening day viewership of the horror comedy was the highest for any direct to digital film streaming on a paid platform, the viewership dropped the following days due to poor public feedback and availability of other options in the digital world. According to an insider, vis-à-vis the amount paid by Disney+ Hotstar to acquire Laxmii and the expectations with respect to spike in viewership and subscriber base, Laxmii managed to attain merely 50% of the target in the opening week benchmark. This has left a huge question mark about their recovery model considering that spike in subscription is the major source of income for OTT players.
Following this performance, the OTT giants are in two minds with regard to their acquisitions of big feature films. “Bhuj: The Pride of India, which is another offering on Disney and Coolie No. 1, which has been acquired by Amazon, have both fetched huge amounts for direct to digital premiere and have been acquired by the giants without watching the film in advance. They paid the amount based on the names involved and the goodwill of the stakeholders in the market. Most of the OTT films have failed to do well on the respective platforms, and their sale for digital premiere was more of an attempt to salvage the product. However, with back to back debacles, the OTT heads have now woken up and are planning to demand advance screening for all their acquisitions henceforth and decide on the price to buy the films based on the content. The discussions are still on, however, this inside buzz has left Bollywood producers by shock as this might cut short their income by a massive amount,” a trade source told Bollywood Hungama.
This move however has come as a respite for cinema owners, as with limited income for direct to digital premiere; the producers are left with no option but to release the film on the big screen to stand a chance to recover their investment. The talk in the trade is, Amazon has requested for an exclusive screening of Coolie No. 1 for the in-house content curation team.
“The business model of OTT is not meant to acquire feature films. This was an experiment in unprecedented times like COVID 19, which has clearly failed as Bollywood sold all the substandard products to OTT and filled their own pockets. Now the focus will shift on curating content exclusively of OTT platforms, with a film or two being an exception depending on several factors. A web series with no A-List stars gets the OTT players more eyeballs and income than an A-List star film acquisition. The idea is to get the viewers hooked on to the episodes and season and then make them renew the subscription for the second, third and subsequent seasons. It’s a clear business model, and there lies little scope of acquiring new films at astronomical rate. Laxmii is an eye opener given the blind buys”
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