New Delhi: In what could become a trend for low-budget films, UTV Motion Pictures Plc.’s Phir Kabhi will be exclusively released on the direct-to-home (DTH) platform next month.
UTV and DTH operators see the film as an experiment in the right direction for both producers of small-budget films and the platform itself. “For smaller movies, investments in theatrical publicity and distribution costs many times do not justify the revenues they bring in, so for such small-budget, niche films, we are exploring DTH as a platform on an experiment basis,” said Amrita Pandey, vice-president, international distribution and syndication, UTV Motion Pictures.
Phir Kabhi has been produced at a cost of Rs3 crore. Producers typically spend 30-40% more on promotional expenditure when the movie is being released in cinemas.
UTV, which will release Phir Kabhi on the platforms of most DTH companies including Tata Sky Ltd, the Essel Group-owned Dish TV, Reliance Communications Ltd’s BIG TV and Bharti Airtel Ltd’s Digital TV, said it would assess the film’s success before producing any more movies exclusively for release on the DTH platform.
The movie will be released on a pay-per-view basis, and while the price is yet to be finalized, Pandey said it could be around Rs50-75.
She refused to reveal details of the agreement between UTV and DTH operators on the financial aspects of the deal.
“With a growing base of 13 million homes in India and a fully measurable technology platform, DTH provides a viable digital distribution platform to movie producers,” said Sanjay Behl, chief executive officer of Reliance BIG TV.
A pay-per-view, or video on demand, service is made available only to viewers who ask for it and pay for the content independently. An on-demand movie on DTH platforms costs between Rs25 and Rs100.
Viewers could also find the pay-per-view option less expensive compared with cinema tickets, said Pandey. “A consumer might not want to spend Rs200 to watch a small-budget film in a cinema hall but might be attracted to the sub-Rs100 price point to watch the movie sitting in his house.”
DTH operators are optimistic about such a trend catching on and are hoping pay-per-view emerges as a separate revenue stream. Currently, the pay-per-view business contributes an insignificant amount to their revenues. “It is still early days for the DTH industry, therefore, this is not a major revenue stream,” said Jehil Thakkar, head of media and entertainment practice at consulting firm KPMG.
DTH operators say the pay-per-view route could also help small producers fight piracy. “This new business model will not only help producers in cutting costs and reach over 10 million homes, but also help in curbing piracy,“ said Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer, Tata Sky. “For any movie to reach smaller towns it takes a minimum of three-four days by when pirated CDs are already available there. A simultaneous (DTH) release will restrict such an activity.”
Mehta said Tata Sky is already in talks with some producers for their future projects but declined to provide details.
DTH firms have been experimenting with the pay-per-view model for some time. Earlier this year, Tata Sky offered its customers an option of viewing Slumdog Millionaire for Rs25 a pop. The offer lasted for three days before the Academy Awards and some 150,000 viewers took it up.
A report by KPMG and industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry predicts that the number of DTH subscribers in India will go up to 28 million in the next four years from around 13 million in March.