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Debate: Streaming with caution

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The guidelines are broad and allow platforms to ‘self-censor’, which is a good sign.The guidelines are broad and allow platforms to ‘self-censor’, which is a good sign.The guidelines are broad and allow platforms to ‘self-censor’, which is a good sign.

The Indian government has mandated a three-tier redressal mechanism to hold video streaming platforms accountable for the content they stream online. Venkata Susmita Biswas asks experts if these guidelines could alter or limit the scope of OTT content.

Varun Duggirala, co-founder & content chief, The Glitch

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‘Regulated OTT market will be more like television’

The rollout of OTT guidelines felt oddly familiar to anyone who has worked in the TV business. It’s a clear case of déjà vu, both in terms of the guidelines themselves and their ramifications on the kind of content we will get to consume on these platforms.

While OTT platforms could go far and wide in the kind of content they create, it was only a matter of time before they came under a similar guardrail as television. Is it going to be as easy to execute? Not necessarily. Because, while it’s easier to regulate streaming platforms that have control over their content, the internet also allows any individual creator to publish content. So, we are moving towards a system where the regulated OTT market will be more like television, steering away from anything overly sensitive, while the open content ecosystem beyond OTTs will become the playground for everything else. One offers more regulations with ample, upfront monetisation opportunities, while the other provides freedom but more long-term monetisation. It is now up to the creator to choose.

Shailesh Kapoor, founder & CEO, Ormax Media

‘Platforms will look at more accessible genres’

The guidelines are broad and allow platforms to ‘self-censor’, which is a good sign. Mandating that platforms display age restrictions for shows and films is sane advice, and something that is followed by responsible platforms globally. OTT consumption in India is largely personal in nature, predominantly smartphone-driven. But to widen the audience base, platforms will have to look at genres that are more accessible, such as comedies and family shows. The next level of OTT growth is going to come from regional audiences, small towns and those older than 35 years. The largely metro-centric approach of several OTT platforms will have to evolve. Hence, while there will be a broad-basing of OTT content, its primary trigger will not be the OTT guidelines, but the business need.

Having said that, one of the fallouts of the Tandav controversy is that OTT platforms want to clearly and firmly stay away from content that is politically and socially sensitive in nature. No international or national platform wants to get embroiled in legal tangles and run the risk of facing short-term or long-term bans.

Sunil Doshi, director, Manzar Studios

‘Stringent self-moderation is the way forward’

OTT platforms are keen on aligning themselves with the government mandated regulations and not suffer the same fate as TikTok in India. They want to now explore themes like romantic comedies, content meant for young adult viewers, and shows/ movies that families can watch together. Over the years, OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video had become the default destination for content based on dark themes. That is already changing, and this shift is only going to get more prominent now. At least for the next two years, content on OTT platforms is going to be high on mass appeal, resembling television content, rather than being tailored for the metro audiences.

The row over Tandav has instilled some amount of fear among the community. The priority of these platforms is to continue to do business, and no one wants to upset the apple cart. Further, the abolition of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal indicates that there is a restrictive environment that is taking shape. Stringent self-moderation is going to be the way forward.

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