To say that there is a black hole of data on streaming is putting it mildly. With theatrical releases, at least there is the pretence of box office collections which production houses put out — as dubious as they may seem. With streaming, even that pretence is not considered necessary.
Streaming platforms like Netflix rank their trending movies and shows, but there is little to distinguish this data point from their promotional exercises. Since 2018-19, Ormax Media has been trying to fill that gap with numbers. Their weekly reports of the top five shows being watched across India is one reliable metric. Their latest mid-year report looks at the best performing shows — Indian and international — based on viewership, marketing buzz and content strength.
What is clear is a significant downward slide of viewership numbers from Ormax’s 2022 mid-year report. For example, in the mid-year streaming report for 2022, five shows gathered over 20 million views, with Rudra: The Edge Of Darkness getting over 35 million views. In contrast, between January and June of this year, only three shows were able to breach that 20-million barrier.
However, Farzi, at 37 million became the most watched Hindi show in streaming in India, of all time. Both Farzi and Rudra are headlined by popular Hindi cinema actors — Shahid Kapoor and Ajay Devgn, respectively — which suggests cinematic stardom can translate to streaming.
On average, web series are being watched less, but there are still one-off shows that are able to mobilise the cresting viewership numbers of the COVID-19 pandemic days.
Five of the top ten shows from the first half of 2023 are on Disney+ Hotstar — same as last year’s mid-year report (The Night Manager, Taaza Khabar, Saas Bahu Aur Flamingo, City Of Dreams S3, Pop Kaun?). This shows that despite losing the rights to Indian Premier League (IPL) of cricket, their subscriptions continue to tide over their competitors. Three of the top ten shows are on Amazon Prime Video (Farzi, Dahaad, Happy Family: Conditions Apply). Netflix, absent from last year’s list, has failed to make it into the list this year as well.
A striking difference is the complete disappearance of MX Player. In 2022, four shows from the free platform were in the top 10. In 2023, there are no shows from MX Player in the Ormax list. While MX Player, owned by Times Internet, launched with an exciting push, it has since steadily disappeared from both the weekly Ormax lists, and now, the mid-year report. Earlier this week, Mint reported that a deal under which Amazon would have acquired MX Player had fallen through.
This year saw the introduction of Jio Cinema as a competing platform, with some shows available free of cost and a premium package for international shows and ad-free viewing. The film Bloody Daddy, also starring Shahid Kapoor, became the most watched movie on OTT. Bloody Daddy’s viewership numbers, however, are lower than what streaming films from last year recorded — A Thursday, Gehraiyaan, Kaun Pravin Tambe? — despite being available for free. Although its shows are not among the most-watched, Netflix is the leading platform with three of the top ten films streaming on it. Two of the top ten films are on Disney+ Hotstar and Zee5, each.
Citadel, headlined by Priyanka Chopra Jonas, is the most-watched international original in the first half of 2023, being ahead of the rest of the pack by more than 50%. Though it must be noted that international shows are watched with far less enthusiasm compared to Indian shows. For example, if we were to slot Citadel as an Indian show, it would rank fifth.
While there is a general pessimism, with an average decrease in viewership, the latest data gestures to some hopeful exceptions. With the second half of the year packed with shows like the much (and long) awaited second season of Made In Heaven and Guns & Gulaabs (both expected on Amazon Prime Video in August), we’ll see if the downward trend in viewership can be shocked into a robust reversal.