As we set foot in 2023, the entertainment industry is all set to welcome another year of excitement and change. From innovation to recalibration of business, here are a few trends to watch out for… Kunal Doley explains
Metaverse on the move
With metaverse, media companies will continue to prepare for the next age of interactivity. Film producer Vashu Bhagnani’s production house Pooja Entertainment and Films Limited (PEFL), which in 2022 became one of the first production majors in India to purchase land in metaverse, is all set to release its project Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, starring Akshay Kumar and Tiger Shroff, on Christmas in 2023. Through the movie, makers are going to create first-of-its-kind quality immersive experiences for viewers.
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Jackky Bhagnani, actor, producer and MD of PEFL, says metaverse is no longer a futuristic idea but one that’s already started bearing shape. “From releasing trailers and songs, watching a film, experiencing games based on movies, online competitive gaming, interactive augmented reality and use of VR to experience cinema, our limits will be limitless,” he adds.
Globally, metaverse has already become an active playground for media companies to explore, invest and implement, and this will continue in the new year as well. “Today’s experimentation will become the business plan of tomorrow and the revenue generation beyond. To execute, media companies will stay on the path of taking purposeful steps, appointing dedicated metaverse champions and supporting them with technology, finance, legal, and creative talent to frame out scenarios and drive innovation,” says a new report by EY.
The market share of metaverse in the entertainment space is also going to increase manifold. As per market research report provider Technavio’s report ‘Metaverse in Entertainment Market by End-user and Geography – Forecast and Analysis 2022-2026’, the share of metaverse in the entertainment market is expected to increase to $28.92 billion by 2026 at an accelerating CAGR of 8.55% with the key consumer countries being the US, Canada, China, the UK and Germany.
Rightly so, industry observers are urging decision-makers to come out with a proper roadmap for regulating the metaverse. Earlier, at an Idea Exchange session of The Indian Express, Meta’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg, while stressing that the gap between policymaking and technology can be minimised, called for the US, Europe and India to agree on foundational principles of tech-related lawmaking. “Politics cannot move as fast as tech, but the gap can be minimised. The Like button on Facebook was invented 13 years ago and we are talking about regulating social media today,” says Clegg, adding: “I urge decision-makers not to repeat a similar pattern when it comes to regulating the metaverse while making rules around data portability, interoperability, child safety, age-gating, etc.”
Rise of regional content
Even though it was an offshoot of the pandemic, the surge of interest in regional content will continue in the new year as well. Like in previous years, most of the consumption will happen on OTT. According to Chandrashekhar Mantha, partner, Deloitte India, the country is witnessing a boom in regional content and the share of regional language consumption on OTT platforms is expected to cross 50% by 2025 from 30% in 2019, easing past Hindi at 45%. “The growth will be supported by investments in original content, pricing innovations, low data cost and the rise of short form content,” he explains.
Some of the movies in regional languages to watch out for in 2023 include Mahesh Manjrekar’s Vedat Marathe Veer Daudle Saat starring Akshay Kumar in the role of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (to be released in Diwali 2023 in Marathi, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu); Salaar, an action thriller by acclaimed director Prasanth Neel (to be released in Kannada on September 28, 2023); and Indian 2, a vigilante action thriller and sequel of Kamal Haasan’s 1996 blockbuster Indian (the big-budget film will be released in Tamil along with Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and Malayalam dubbed versions).
Pushpa: The Rule, the sequel to Allu Arjun’s 2021 blockbuster film Puhspa: The Rise; R Chandru’s Kabzaa, starring Upendra, Kichha Sudeepa, Shriya Saran (filmed in Kannada, it will release in seven Indian languages including Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, and Malayalam); Telugu-language spy thriller Agent, starring Mammootty, Akhil Akkineni and Sakshi Vaidya; Thangalaan, starring Chiyaan Vikram of PS-1 fame; and Rajinikanth’s 169th outing Jailer will also see the light of the day in 2023.
OTT to remain on top
The OTT scene in India has been going steady, and will further grow at a strong pace on the back of increasing Internet penetration, more choices in content and a flourishing market of regional content.
As per a new report, India’s over-the-top (OTT) video streaming market may record a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 20% to touch $13 billion-$15 billion over the next decade, riding on original content and pricing innovations. Paid subscribers are also estimated to expand at a CAGR of 17% to reach 224 million by 2026 from the current 102 million, according to ‘All About Screens’, a report by multinational professional services network Deloitte.
At the same time, some of the strategies adopted by OTT players earlier will continue to grow in 2023. One such is bundling of apps. Amazon Prime onboarded over 13 channels to its platform. Likewise, Tata Play Binge, OTT Play and some other players are also offering several apps under their bundle.
“If we’ve learned anything in the past few years, it’s that long-term success in streaming requires establishing a durable subscriber relationship. Building on the long and successful legacy of the cable TV model, nearly all media companies that are active in the direct-to-consumer (DTC) arena today are now aiming to offer consumers a bundled offering of streaming content and other services,” says a report by EY.
OTT platforms will continue to adopt various subscription (hybrid) models to sustain and reach out to a wider base. According to a report by global consulting firm PwC titled ‘Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2022-2026’, India’s OTT Video services are expected to become a `21,031 crore industry by 2026. Within this, the report suggests, `19,973 crore would come from subscription-based services and `1,058 crore from Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD)—aka pay-per-view—a business model that gained traction when cinemas were shut during the beginning of the pandemic. The idea is to earn additional revenues from blockbusters or films with high demand after they have had their successful theatrical runs.
Gaurav Gandhi, vice president, Prime Video, India, says, “We have steadily innovated in the way we offer movies to our consumers, from offering films in a post-theatrical early-window to direct-to-service premieres bringing the most anticipated movies to consumers’ living rooms and preferred devices. The TVOD movie rental service will not just give even more expanded reach to films but also give customers more choice in how they want to access and watch content.”
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Theatres will recalibrate business
With global box-office revenues and number of films already below annual averages compared to pre-pandemic years, studios and exhibitors are all set to recalibrate the movie theatre business. Studios are reviewing which genres ‘work’ economically for theatrical releases versus a straight-to-streaming approach.
“Action, superhero, horror, family-friendly, rom-com and so on all bring different budgets, marketing plans, potential audience breadth and, ultimately, monetisation opportunities for studios. Studios are basing release plans on a corporate agenda that is now centred on maximising DTC—ultimately determining that some films are best suited for a streaming release,” says a new report by EY.
In response, theatre owners are also recalibrating their business and financial models to account for less film product flowing through their multiplexes while staying nimble enough to capture the returns from the mega blockbusters, adds the EY report.
Ajay Bijli of PVR Cinemas is already on the job. In December, PVR Cinemas pushed the envelope by launching the ICE Theatre experience in India—also the first in Asia-Pacific—in two cinemas in the NCR. ICE technology features LED panels on each side of the auditorium, offering an immersive experience with dynamic shapes and colours enhanced with 4K projection, 3D Dolby Atmos, besides custom-made wide seats and curved rows.
“The philosophy is that people should get what they can’t in their homes. We have to keep pushing to get people to come to the cinemas, and offer an experience that attracts them to theatres,” Bijli, chairman and managing director, PVR, said in a recent FE report.
In the new year, he insists multiplexes will hold their ground against the OTT onslaught. “OTTs are just another channel to watch movies. Today, everything can be ordered at home, but all retail outlets are doing better business than pre-pandemic. Similarly, while you can watch films at home, it can’t match the movie-going experience, which is also a social outing. So, it’s about coexistence,” he added.
Although cinema will be the mainstay, multiplexes are also focusing on other channels of revenue. For instance, multiplex chain INOX Leisure live screened all matches played by India at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 in its cinema halls across the country. This will continue in the new year as well.