How to bring in revenue when theatres are either shut due to COVID-19 or are playing old content? The global film industry is seeing a few solutions.
One possibility is the pay-per-view or transactional video-on-demand (TVoD) model.
Recently, Disney announced its big-ticket venture Mulan’s release on Disney Plus on September 4, which will be available to subscribers for $30. The film will release on the same date in theatres in markets where cinemas have reopened and where Disney Plus is not available.
There are other experiments with the TVoD model as well.
For example, AMC, a theatre chain which operates 8,000 screens in the US, has struck a deal with Universal Pictures, under which the latter will make its films available for OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime after 17 days of theatrical release. As part of the deal, AMC will get a cut for every premium video on-demand (PVoD) sale.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Now, a film can go to an OTT platform only after 6-8 weeks of its theatrical release.
The Indian scenario
Video-streaming platform ShemarooMe is trying out the pay-per-view model through its ShemarooMe Box Office feature. Here, movies will be available for Rs 80-Rs 100 for a three-day viewing. These films are direct-to-digital releases. So far, the platform has released two films ---My Client’s Wife and Scotland.
But are people paying for these films?
Without giving exact numbers, Hiren Gada, CEO, Shemaroo Entertainment, said: “Both the films have created a buzz but the numbers are small. The good thing is that people are trying it and we are seeing traction. Before the launch of ShemarooMe Box Office, we were not even sure that people would pay. So, it is a decent beginning. Also, these films are not with A-list stars. They are more concept films. In fact, the theatrical journey of some of these films would have been limited.”
The traction, not surprisingly, is more in metros because “people are willing to experiment,” added Gada.
For smaller films, the pay-per-view model will mean more revenues as they have limited market when it comes to theatrical release.
Theatrical and OTT platform revenues
According to experts, a film earns 90 percent of collections in the first three weeks of its release in a theatre. A small film, post that, will most probably be out of theatres.
Now, since a film can go to an OTT platform only after 6-8 weeks of its theatrical release, there are a few weeks more before going to OTT platforms. During this time, a film can tap the pay-per-view model.
The catch, according to Preetham Daniel, Senior Vice-President, Asia, Harkness Screens, is that “it is very difficult for a critical mass to pay for a single piece of content.”
“The question is will people pay that kind of money to watch a single film or would they wait for a film to come to an OTT platform because the cost of one particular content (film) is the subscription cost of an OTT platform for a month,” said Daniel.
However, some experts point out that a movie available under the pay- per-view model, for probably Rs 100, is not for a single person but can be watched by many.
Yet, the TVoD model hasn’t picked up pace in India. “While in India, lot of experiments have happened around this model, it has not developed the way it should have,” said Gada.
Time to experiment
He added that now the time has come to experiment.
“In international markets like the US, Hong Kong and Singapore, the TVoD model is a well-established revenue stream. Ideally, India should also have the pay-per-view window but there are limitations,” said Gada.
But Daniel points out, “The US market is matured to an extent. They have different ways to sell content. In India, it is too early to have a pay-per-view model. And let’s not forget the piracy problem. These are not concerns in the American market.”
He added that “even OTT platforms like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are picking up now in India with a 5-7-year model.”
In US, Trolls: World Tour, which released on the same day (April 10), both in theatres and on PVoD platforms like Apple TV for $19.99, gathered as much as $100 million in rentals.
In fact, makers of the animation venture, Universal reportedly said that it would consider releasing more big ventures on PVoD or via a shortened theatrical window.
Trolls: World Tour, despite all the controversy, has definitely given confidence to producers to take the pay-per-view route, including in India.
Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 Global, thinks “the success of TVoD as a sustainable model will be hugely driven by the merit of content that a platform has, especially in crowded markets."For Zee5, she believes, "TVoD offers huge scope when it comes to digital premieres as it will enable us to take our films to a broader audience, currently unable to go to movie theatres. I see it as a challenging yet exciting monetisation route.”