One-time watch

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Updated: Feb 15, 2021 7:04 AM

The pay-per-view streaming biz in India is gathering steam, as BookMyShow and Eros Now, too, join the fray

Typically, films premiere on digital platforms about six to eight weeks after their theatrical release.Typically, films premiere on digital platforms about six to eight weeks after their theatrical release.

Transactional video on demand (TVoD) or pay-per-view is the latest blockbuster in the world of OTT streaming platforms. After Zee5 introduced it last year, Eros Now and BookMyShow, too, have now joined the bandwagon. BookMyShow Stream, the ticketing platform’s TVoD service, launched with Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984. Eros Now’s First Day, First Show will debut with Greenland, an action thriller starring Gerard Butler. Meanwhile, ZeePlex was launched in October 2020 with an exclusive showcase of Khaali Peeli and Tamil movie Ka Pae Ranasingam.

In markets like the US and UK, pay-per-view is a well-established model. As per Statista, the TVoD market in the US is projected to reach $2,064 million in 2021. In India, where almost 67% of a filmmaker’s revenue comes from theatrical releases (according to ICICI Securities) and digital rights account for 5.9% of the money earned on a film, can TVoD make a significant contribution?

Screen agnostic

Ever since film producers began to opt for digital-first releases as a result of the pandemic, the media and entertainment industry has been mulling a hybrid model to showcase movies, such as the one Netflix employed for The Irishman — a limited theatrical release, followed by the OTT premiere.

All those launching TVoD platforms say a curated selection of movies will premiere online. “Fresh premium content will move to TVoD first, and platforms with fixed subscription fees will continue to be home to large content libraries,” says Pradeep Dwivedi, CEO, Eros International. Eros Now First Day, First Show plans to add nine films from the STX Films stable to its TVoD offering over the next 18 months.

Since its launch, ZeePlex has premiered movies like the Russell Crowe-starrer Unhinged and Diljit Dosanjh’s Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari. It will add regional films such as Ninnila Ninnila, Awanchit and Puaada over the next few months.

BookMyShow launched its own streaming platform in July 2020 when events moved online, and followed it up by introducing a pay-per-view platform. Contrary to popular opinion, Ashish Saksena, COO – cinemas, BookMyShow, maintains that the TVoD venture isn’t solely a product of the pandemic and reduced footfalls in theatres. “TVoD empowers users to pay only for the content that they watch, which is a prevalent trend in other global markets, but untapped at scale in India yet,” he adds.

Viewing window

Typically, films premiere on digital platforms about six to eight weeks after their theatrical release. With the introduction of TVoD, all the stakeholders will need to agree upon a windowing model to account for the new revenue stream. “The success of this model depends on the windowing arrangement. We do not have anything of the kind in India yet,” points out Jehil Thakkar, partner, Deloitte.

Kunal Sawhney, SVP, Carnival Cinemas, says that producers are negotiating to reduce the duration for which a film runs in a theatre. In July 2020, Universal Pictures struck a deal with AMC Theaters (a chain of theatres in the US) to play movies for at least three weekends — down from three months — before releasing them for rent or sale online. A smaller theatrical window would mean that viewers have fewer incentives to choose a cinema hall over home viewing.

Eros Now’s Dwivedi says that movies streamed on First Day, First Show will remain on the platform for four weeks. Following this, the studio will make a decision on the subsequent SVoD OTT and TV telecast. For example, in the US, Mulan premiered on a pay-per-view basis on Disney+ in October, and was finally available to all paid subscribers of Disney+ in December.

Will TVoD have many fans in this market? Greg Armshaw, senior director – solution sales, Brightcove APAC, believes so. “A majority of Indian viewers are opting for shorter SVoD plans rather than investing in annual plans. Further, 40% of viewers do not mind paying to watch movies online.”

Thakkar, however, says that TVoD appeals to an audience with a high disposable income that can afford to watch movies in theatres, but chooses not to. But that audience is fairly small in India.

Ultimately, it is the nature of the film that will decide if viewers want to spend extra (over and above SVoD fees) to rent/buy movies. Shariq Patel, chief business officer, Zee Studios, hopes this model will work better “when bigger films are released in this format”.

Read Also: Why 2021 is the year of more marketing than ever before

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