Shreyas Kulkarni

Publishers, streaming platforms come to the aid of locked down India

Here's how publishers, streaming platforms, and broadcasters responded to the country's increased entertainment consumption during lockdown.

When Jack Torrance, in the horror novel ‘The Shining’, develops cabin fever while staying in the isolated Overlook Hotel, he attacks his family... Being in one place for an extended period can do this.

Thankfully, Indians, despite reeling under a 21-day lockdown to combat COVID-19’s spread, won’t do this to their family members. Being one of the world’s largest consumers of online content, there are umpteen options to keep them entertained.

And keeping in mind their consumption habits, publishers and streaming platforms have decided to come to the aid of Indians.

Condé Nast India, through its social media accounts, has announced one-month free access to its magazines: Vogue, GQ, Architectural Digest, and Condé Nast Traveller, including the archives. All you need to do is sign up.

Juggernaut Books, the digital publishing house, announced on social media that it has made its entire catalogue free from March 22, 2020. All one has to do is download the app to start reading.

Eros Now, an Indian OTT platform, is offering a two-month subscription for free. Just use the code STAYSAFE and you’re good to go.

Amazon Prime India wasn’t going to be left behind. It, too, is offering free content to audiences. You can access a selection of kids and family titles, and while you don’t need a Prime account, you will need an Amazon India account.

Even Apple TV+ has announced a new show with Oprah Winfrey on the Coronavirus that will steam for free. In it, the talk show host speaks to people about the crisis through FaceTime.

Zee5, too, decided to help audiences enjoy the best content on its platform. On March 26, the streaming platform announced, on social media, that one can access its premium content for free.

According to an Outlook India report on March 28, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) said that four major broadcasting networks have decided to waive all tariffs and charges for four channels under them for a period of two months. The channels are Sony Pal, Star Utsav, Zee Anmol, Colors Rishtey. These channels will be available free of cost for two months on all DTH networks.

BookMyShow has also unveiled a series called ‘Live From HQ'. It will feature performances from popular music, comedy, and performing artists on social media and the brand's app.

While these announcements are welcome for the weary Indians locked inside their homes, it does pose another problem - that of excessive consumption. A previous afaqs! story looked at this aspect.

A virtual meeting was held by Uday Shankar, chairman, Star & Disney India, along with other stakeholders of the digital industry: NP Singh (Sony), Sanjay Gupta (Google), Ajit Mohan (Facebook), Sudhanshu Vats (Viacom18), Gaurav Gandhi (Amazon Prime Video), Punit Goenka (Zee), Nikhil Gandhi (Tiktok), Ambika Khurana (Netflix), Karan Bedi (MX Player) and Varun Narang (Hotstar).

They released a media statement, which read, “The digital industry has decided to act immediately in the larger national and consumer interest, and to ensure the robustness of the cellular network. It was unanimously agreed that as an exceptional measure, all companies will immediately adopt measures, including temporarily defaulting HD and ultra-HD streaming to SD content, or offering only SD content, at bitrates no higher than 480p on cellular networks. These voluntary measures will be in effect until April 14. All participants are immediately taking measures.”

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