The EEMA estimates that the Rs 10,000-crore events industry stands to lose nearly 80% revenue in 2020-2021
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced several businesses, especially ones that cannot support social distancing, to change course in order to stay relevant to the consumer. Online ticketing platforms are among the worst hit, as the future of on-ground events remains uncertain. The Event and Entertainment Management Association estimates that the Rs 10,000-crore events industry — to which ticketing platforms had been contributing roughly 20% — stands to lose nearly 80% revenue in 2020-2021.
Sensing an existential crisis, most online ticketing platforms have quickly shifted gears by curating virtual events, online gaming tournaments, upskilling courses, and used their consumer database to promote OTT shows and podcasts. Will these new business streams prove to be as rewarding?
To experiment with virtual events, platforms have been curating content on a few specific topics. “We identified six latent demands — fitness coaching, engaging children, learning hobbies, professional guidance such as financial planning, and unwinding and relaxing,” says Shreyas Srinivasan, founder and CEO, Paytm Insider.
For the next three months, the company will be concentrating its efforts on offering content along these themes. Srinivasan says that in four weeks, Paytm Insider curated around 1,500 live shows, and continues to curate 400 events every week.
BookMyShow has been working around themes such as music, poetry, theatre, comedy, fitness, food, cocktail making and environment conservation, across 700 free and ticketed events since the beginning of the lockdown.
At the beginning of the lockdown, events were mainly streamed live and free of cost on social media, and ticketing platforms helped spread the word. Ticketed events were very few, but that is changing now. Albert Almeida, COO, live entertainment, BookMyShow, says, “The response has been unprecedented, and has prompted us to test the waters for ticketed events. Customer engagement has grown steadily with over 40 lakh consumers viewing these events in the first month.”
Tickets for live shows on Paytm Insider cost Rs 250-350, and a commission of 8-10% is charged on them. Srinivasan says the platform is witnessing “5,000-6,000 transactions every day, with 15-20% week-on-week growth in the number of users”.
These platforms are also offering games that friends and families can play together. For instance, Paytm Insider is offering a crossword competition for Rs 39, and BookMyShow is selling tickets for the game Mafia for Rs 50. There are online courses on offer, too, from chess and yoga to script writing and photography, priced in the range of Rs 2,000-Rs 5,000.
In the absence of theatrical releases, BookMyShow is informing users about movies, shows, podcasts, and other digital content that they can stream online.
Online ticketing platforms hope to keep this new revenue stream alive even after on-ground events resume. However, for that to happen, platforms need to offer exclusive experiences, experts say.
Ankur Pahwa, partner and national leader, e-commerce and consumer internet, EY India, says there are several options for ticketing platforms to forge partnerships beyond the established ecosystem. “Content creators and ed-tech platforms can harness the wide user base of these platforms to sell tickets to their live events and programmes online.”
In the presence of established video streaming platforms, ed-tech and gaming apps, ticketing platforms will have to carve a niche for themselves. “The USP for these platforms has to continue to be about live events or premium pay-per-view access for exclusive digital content. For example, a digital movie launch that can be ticketed via the platform,” Pahwa adds.
Besides, since these platforms are not investing much in marketing and promotions, expanding the user base will prove to be challenging. “Online ticketing platforms have built awareness for booking movie tickets and event passes over the years. If they don’t spend on marketing, consumers may not think of these platforms as their first option to find entertainment online,” points out Alagu Balaraman, partner and MD, CGN & Associates.
Just as it wasn’t smooth for aggregators like BookMyShow at the start, when theatre owners wanted to sell tickets online themselves, building fresh alliances in unfamiliar territories won’t be easy either. “The partners would want to be reassured that the platforms will be able to generate sales from the new content verticals,” Balaraman adds.