From the iconic and path-breaking 'Mother India' to the flashy and entertaining 'Four More Shots Please', entertainment industry in India has come a long way and along with that came the entirely new and engaging era of OTT platforms such as Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar and many more.
However, this article is not about the success or the net profit generated by these streaming platforms every year. India's entertainment industry is one of the most profitable industries with a revenue of over $34 billion, and recently, a fundamental shift has been witnessed in the industry as streaming giants like Netflix and Prime Video are targeting and expanding female audience.
Women represent a key demographic for the Indian entertainment industry and thus the need of the hour is to have diverse cinematographers, storytellers, writers, directors, and actors share their unique perspectives in raising the bar of the entertainment industry by the increased inclusion of women-centric roles.
Streaming platforms are engaging more women in front and behind the camera
“More than half of Netflix films released in India this year have a female producer or director, according to Monika Shergill, Netflix India’s vice president of content. Netflix saw unique women visitors jump to 40% last year from 26% in 2018, according to Comscore data. The Los Gatos, California-based company is working with 30 women producers and directors besides a dozen women writers this year, Shergill said.”
The fundamental shift in the industry has been viewed as a consequence that all of Amazon Prime Video's six originals released in India this year had women in key roles while more than half of Netflix films had a female producer or director.
Also, OTT players were keen enough to target female viewers as soon as the movie theatres were shut to the coronavirus induced nationwide lockdown. We witnessed a surge in women-centric content such as 'Masaba Masaba' and 'Bulbbul' on Netflix to 'Pushpavalli' on Amazon Prime.
Bollywood industry which earlier relied on an A-list male superstar in lead to top the charts and become a blockbuster is now focusing on the push for equality by giving females leads the chance and choice related to the content targeted on them. According to data from Statista, as incomes rise in the $2.9 trillion economy, per capita spending on media and entertainment is expected to almost double to $35 in India by 2021 from five years earlier.
Traditionally, watching movies and shows were considered as a group activity, however, with the surge in the use of smartphones and streaming platforms, people can watch what they want, where they want, and by themselves on their personal devices. Thus, content creators and streaming platforms are now able to provide target based stories and cater to niches.
A 2016 study by Google and A.T. Kearney estimated that Indian women’s share in overall online spending will jump to 42% by 2020 from 20% in 2015 whereas, a 2019 study by the Boston Consulting Group said Indian women are increasingly having a say in household purchase decisions.
One additional benefit of streaming platforms is the prospect of less financial risk compared to contemporary ways. Thus, producers are also ready to take the liberty of creative freedom and experimenting with characters. Prominent examples of this, Netflix film Bulbbul, a supernatural film in which a woman is mistaken for a witch, Gunjan Saxena, a biopic about India's first woman combat pilot who went to the Kargil war and Amazon Prime's series Four More Shots Please, which openly addressed taboo issues such as female sexuality and homosexuality. Thus, better access to the Internet is motivating creators to pitch stories that resonates with females.
Also, India's experience throws light on the worldwide trend in which more women are involved in the creation of streaming content directed toward women. Netflix had women helming 20% of its 53 original U.S. films last year, nearly double the rate of representation for women directors across the 100 top-grossing U.S. films of 2019.