Govt.’s foray into online streaming is cultural intervention, says Shaji N. Karun
The State government’s proposed foray into the online content streaming space with the launch of an over-the-top (OTT) platform is a cultural intervention, rather than something prompted by the market or revenues, according to Kerala State Film Development Corporation (KSFDC) chairman Shaji.N.Karun.
Speaking to The Hindu, he said the plan is to launch the platform by November 1.
‘‘Even though the market is crowded with too many platforms, the government is taking this up as a cultural intervention, rather than looking at its viability. We do have an audience which is spread out across the globe. Even an OTT platform like Mubi, which has curated content, has its set of audiences. But, our priority will still be the big screen, with the films first getting a screening in the cinemas and then coming to the OTT platform,’’ Mr. Karun said.
Though major players such as Netflix and Amazon have been showing more interest in Malayalam cinema, it is mostly limited to films which they are ensured of a revenue. In the past one year, only fewer than 15 Malayalam films, a majority of them featuring big stars, have been taken up by these streaming platforms. Smaller, home-grown OTT platforms such as Neestream and Mainstream TV do not have the financial muscle to match the bigger players. The government’s proposed platform might ensure space as well as some sort of revenue share for the lower budget, independent films that are struggling to see the light of the day.
‘‘We have initiated conversations with firms handling the legal issues regarding streaming on international platforms, especially regarding the concerns of protection from piracy. Making a platform on our own would be ideal, as the data and content would remain with us, rather than with a third party, if we depend on an existing platform. In the initial period, we might have to engage consultants for the smooth running and to address streaming issues that might crop up,’’says Mr. Karun.
The filmmaker sees the latest initiative along with the major ongoing works to turn the Chitranjali Studio in Thiruvananthapuram to match international standards. The ₹150-crore project, he says, will enable filmmakers to produce high-quality content in smaller budgets, which would in turn have an assured OTT platform too.
‘‘The government is seeing this as part of a vision extending from the production to the exhibition side. In recent decades, the KSFDC and Chitranjali have been weak in the production side, causing directors to migrate to other locations. Now, along with the works at Chitranjali, the KSFDC is setting up a connected production centre in Ernakulam. With the latest set-up becoming a reality, filmmakers would be able to make better use of remote production possibilities; for instance, a music director can remotely guide an orchestra based in eastern Europe or a filmmaker can remotely associate with a colourist based in London,’’ said Mr.Karun.