The great Web Series fraud!

The Night Manager on Disney+Hotstar was needlessly divided into two ‘parts’. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

It’s progressively becoming worse. A fraud is being committed on us, the audience. And not only should someone be accountable but it also must be reversed.

Last year, Disney+Hotstar broke The Night Manager into two mini-seasons a few months apart when it could have been shown (as filmed, in all probability) at one stretch. And if not shot at one go, they could have waited for completion before the final streaming! Seven episodes of about an hour each were split between four in February 2023 and three in June 2023!

The platform repeated this with the concluding section of Aarya. Season 3 was divided into 4 episodes in November 2023 and four in February 2024. The Freelancer was split between 4 episodes in September 2023 and the remaining 3 from December 15!

ZEE5 followed suit with Taj: Divided by Blood streaming 10 episodes in March 2023 and, later, a divided Season 2, Taj: Reign of Revenge with 4 episodes in May and four more in June!

SonyLIV has now gone the whole hog by releasing Raisinghani Vs. Raisinghani like a TV serial: three episodes every week! This is creating huge disinterest for those who love finite web series divided, if needed, into seasons with a specific end to each. Billed by them as a web series, it is now 21 episodes long—which never happens with a web show in a single season. And there is no idea if more installments are coming, for I have stopped watching it after week two, episode 6 when the story had already started rambling, big-time!

Emraan Hashmi in the series Showtime, which has been cut for the moment after just four episodes without the viewer knowing when the next part will stream. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

Recently, Disney+Hotstar have cut, and plot-wise very abruptly indeed, the promising story of Showtime after just four episodes, when there is meat enough in it to be carried into 8 or 10 such parts! I sincerely hope that whatever is remaining (and whenever it streams, which has yet to be announced!) is in one continuous ‘part’—a terminology all such platforms have adopted as their term for splitting the series!

And now, Disney+Hotstar has crossed limits by releasing the series Lootere at one episode a week! Not to speak of the burgeoning ads on almost every show of theirs that come irritatingly more than once at less than 10 minutes’ gap and lasting up to 40 seconds!

Someone needs to explain the following crucial points to all these platforms where business heads must be having the upper hand over the creative heads:

  • One, the audience for a web series is way different from that for a TV serial.
  • And so they have a different mindset, a clear perspective and much more (ahem!) refined esthetics.
  • Ergo, they do not appreciate senseless breaks midway after a short duration of four episodes in a story that seems very interesting. And that too, just for a matter of a few weeks!
  • Platforms like Amazon and Netflix, which still get most of the cream in series, do not make viewers suffer from ad breaks, especially repetitious and long ones akin to those we have become used to as an economic necessity for TV serials!
  • On the web, people prefer content to excite them, regardless of genre, and if a saga is to be extended into more than one season, they need a finale for that season that makes us anticipate the next one, even if it will come a year or more later (check Aashram, Maharani, Panchayat, The Family Man et al).
  • A plot cannot be needlessly stretched on the web, either in a planned manner or based on viewer response to earlier seasons (not individual episodes)!
  • There should be a ‘All Episodes Streamed from …” commitment, enabling hungry viewers, if they so wish, to binge-watch.
  • And platforms should have a clear demarcation in concept and execution. Because soaps are considered a poor cousin of cinema, while most web series match or surpass cinema in scale, production values and content.
  • Also, most of these stories involve reputed filmmakers like Karan Johar, Ram Madhvani, Hansal Mehta, Neeraj Pandey and others and I sincerely request these names to put their foot down and insist on a continuous streaming of their work.

So dear OTT platforms, please start thinking of us audiences, who have made you achieve mega-status within less than seven years, and stop your indifference to our web sensibilities that, incidentally, the very stuff you have shown have helped develop within us over the last four years in particular.

Once again, a web series is a web series. And a TV serial remains a TV serial. Mixing the two will be a fraud that can unsettle you in the long run! As the famous quote in a classic poem goes: Never the twain shall meet!



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