'Piracy is a bigger concern for regional OTT platforms'
Charles George, Regional Head of Neestream operations in Kerala, talks about the piracy issue plaguing smaller, homegrown OTT platforms
The release of The Great Indian Kitchen has directed the attention of many Malayali and non-Malayali viewers to a little-known, homegrown OTT platform called Neestream. Following the film's success, the team released another Neestream original feature called Thirike. The film revolved around the bonding between a 22-year-old Down syndrome-affected man and his younger brother.
While the film's producer Abraham Joseph is glad about the warm reception to his film, he is disappointed by the "sad reality" that most viewers watched Thirike via pirated links uploaded on Telegram. In a statement, Abraham, for whom Thirike is his maiden production venture, called for support to smaller OTT platforms that encourage independent filmmakers.
"New OTT platforms like Neestream, which so graciously gave our film a home, require monetary support (the equivalent price of a single theatre ticket only) to sustain themselves. Viewing the film on any platform/site other than Neestream amounts to no less than a crime. This will ultimately lead to these new OTT platforms not being able to pick up more films in the future," he said.
When we got in touch with Charles George, Regional Head of Neestream operations in Kerala, he opined that the central government should implement some measures to curb the problem. "We are helpless when it comes to security. While we welcome the regulatory guidelines for OTT platforms prescribed by the central government, we also hope to see a solution to curb piracy from their side. They should intervene by implementing a new law or something," he said.
Though the release of The Great Indian Kitchen has increased the subscriber count on Neestream, Charles also reveals that the film was seen more through illegal channels on Telegram than on their platform. "The number is unbelievably huge. We are facing the same issue with Thirike. What's more strange is when we give the promo material of the film on social media, we see comments where people ask for the film's Telegram link, and some people give it to them. There have also been absurd instances where some ask a producer about a film's release on Telegram. For some odd reason, many seem to think that downloading through Telegram is not illegal," he shares.
Charles adds that they are planning to launch an anti-piracy campaign to spread awareness. "This is something that affects not only an OTT platform, but also the film industry as a whole. If an independent or first-time producer's film gets pirated, they will hesitate before doing a film the next time, which means the frequency of films made will also decrease. Let's remember that a lot of filmmakers and technicians depend on this business for survival. Now, this issue may not affect the giant OTT platforms much, but the small, regional OTT platforms, which are in their infancy, get the short end of the stick."