Anatomy of the Anthology: A Public Perspective
- Number of anthologies distributed in Indian streaming category trending upwards
- However, most of the Hindi anthologies launched so far have not performed well in terms of content or marketing metrics.
- Primary research of 1,200 Hindi streaming audiences confirms anthology format holds niche appeal, only in short films and documentaries
- The author believes that the anthology format is not to the taste of the Indian public and is based on a sensitivity borrowed from the West.
When a streaming platform recently announced a release date for its next anthology series, social media was abuzz with memes examining the number of anthologies produced in the streaming category in India. . So, is the Indian OTT space seeing an overabundance of anthologies? We decided to explore this question from a factual perspective.
Of the 139 original Hindi shows and movies launched on major streaming platforms in India in 2021 so far, only 10 were anthologies. At only 7% of total original content released, “overkill” is not a word we could associate with. But the trend is on the rise, with the number of anthologies more than doubling from just four in 2019 to double digits in 2020. And those are just the numbers in Hindi. There have also been anthologies in languages like Tamil and Telugu, bringing the total number for the year to around 15. And most of these have also been high-profile launches, backed by significant marketing spending. .
Streaming players are making more and more anthologies year after year. But where is the Indian public on this subject? We surveyed over 1,200 regular Hindi streaming viewers about their willingness (appeal) to watch different types of content on streaming platforms. The options were articulated to the audience in their language, with an anthology described to them as “a collection of 4 to 5 short stories or short films, each 20 to 30 minutes”.
The table below summarizes the results
While you wouldn’t expect the anthology format to be on par with web series or movies, The Splits tells a story of its own. At less than 50% of the two most popular formats, anthologies compete with niche categories like short films and documentaries, than in the mainstream space.
But do anthologies have a primary target audience, which perhaps makes them an attractive option for at least a large cohort? While the call for anthologies hovers around the 36% mark in most audience segments, the difference by age, as shown in the graph below, is interesting to note. Attractiveness increases with age, although even in the older segment (31+) it falls far short of web series (75) and movies (70).
You could argue that the lack of familiarity with the anthology format leads to its low appeal, but the content itself was appreciated. The table below lists the Ormax Power Rating (OPR) of some Hindi-language anthology originals on streaming platforms so far. The OPR is a measure of audience appreciation, and scores of 65+ translate to a “Liked” response from the audience.
Not only is the anthology format unappealing, but the material produced so far has also failed to break through, except for two that managed to break through the 60 mark.
The third argument can relate to the fact that anthologies are “buzz makers”. Arguably, because several well-known actors and directors are joining a project, audiences are bound to notice an anthology in the streaming mess, where over 135 Hindi originals have already released in 2021. A quick look at the streaming clutter. Buzz numbers of Ormax Stream Track are enough to reject this hypothesis.
Ormax Stream Track, launched in April 2021, tracks the buzz (among other metrics) of new streaming originals released by major platforms. The average buzz from the launch week of the 20 best Hindi originals so far is 40%, that is, 40% of the audience was able to remember the show without help. If we remove franchise properties from this list, the average Buzz of the top 20 Hindi originals (non-franchisees) is 29%.
The graphic below shows the Buzz of Hindi anthologies launched since the beginning of Ormax Stream Track. With the exception of Ray, none of the others would have reached the top 20 (non-franchise) list in the 18-month period for which this data is available.
So far, anthologies have very little interest, either in terms of marketing or content. While the format may allow for the collaboration of multiple artists, the excitement of the idea is more within the industry than with the audience itself. Even historically, anthologies have had little success in theaters in India, with no box office success. Life In A Metro (2007) is the only Hindi anthology to have achieved any box office success.
The root cause, perhaps, lies in how Indian storytelling has spanned the ages, from the epic tales of the Ramayan and the Mahabharat, to multi-star cinema of the 1970s, to the daily TV soap operas of the past 20 years. Indian audiences, while extremely comfortable with multiple characters and subplots, still like the story to revolve around a singular and central narrative. The idea of multiple stories woven into a thematic presentation is based on a sensibility borrowed from the West and lacks the inherent simplicity of storytelling that even the most complex Indian movies and shows intuitively rely on.
In a very competitive and crowded category, where market growth will be a challenge over the next couple of years, anthologies appear to be a somewhat pointless idea. The anthology report for the Indian streaming category looks poor so far, and based on the data cited above, one would not bet on a better look in the years to come. The platforms may need to tone down their eagerness to commission anthologies for Indian audiences. Unless they hope to change decades of public conditioning in a few years!
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of exchange4media.com in any way.
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