Mumbai: Commuters struggling to get to work (and back home) in monsoon-drenched Mumbai can’t have missed the Bollywood-style promotions—rose-draped hoardings, revolving cut-outs of a couple canoodling under a coat, bus stops that sing through the day, or promenades dotted with young couples resembling the lead pair from the movie Aashiqui 2.
Why the big fuss? The Bollywood film produced by Vishesh Films and T-Series has already had its stint at the box office, where it collected more than Rs.100 crore after an end-April release. The renewed publicity blitz is for the television premiere by Sony’s Max channel, which has pulled out all the stops with a fresh marketing wave to attract a wider audience.
This isn’t the first time a TV premiere for a movie is being marketed but the scale and intensity of the effort shows how much the stakes have gone higher, a whole lot higher.
“Earlier, you would do a couple of tune-in announcements, press ads or outdoor hoardings and use the same posters to promote the film,” said Vaishali Sharma, vice-president of marketing at Max, which is run by Multi Screen Media Ltd.
Such efforts now rival the strategy used at the time of a film’s theatrical release, and often include new advertising campaigns, multi-city roadshows, newly shot promotions to be shown online and in cinema halls, meet-and-greets with the actors of the film, and aggressive outdoor marketing, among other campaigns.
Sample this: As a run-up to the TV premiere of Barfi!, featuring actor Ranbir Kapoor, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) got young men on bicycles to dress up like the character in the movie and distribute boxes of barfi to passersby in multiple cities.
For the film ABCD—Anybody Can Dance on its channel in July, Zee Cinema conducted dance workshops by the stars of the film in key cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Indore.
For English Vinglish, starring Sridevi, Zee Cinema set up a number to call, in association with entertainment site Ditto Suno, allowing viewers to sign up for free modules on English speaking, in keeping with the theme of the film.
As the cost of acquiring movie rights rise, broadcasters are doing all they can to ensure a robust viewership numbers.
The rule of thumb is that filmmakers usually expect an amount equal to 20% of box office collections for satellite rights, said Smita Jha, leader, entertainment and media practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers India, a consultancy. This sum is then negotiated up or down based on various factors. This includes when the theatrical release was, the timing of the home video’s release, how many replays it will have on television, etc.
Acquisition costs of movies are up 15-20% from last year, according to industry estimates.
The Max channel has spent approximately Rs.250 crore this year, according to industry estimates, to acquire a slate of big banner films that include Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Murder 3, Mere Dad Ki Maruti, Talaash, Ek Thi Daayan, Aashiqui 2, Gippi, Shootout at Wadala, Aurangzeb, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, Lootera, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Again and Krrish 3.
While market dynamics often determine the price, the shrinking pool of films that work well on television often means that many broadcasters are bidding for a handful of titles.
“Longevity of films on television is not what it used to be,” said Neeraj Vyas, executive vice president and business head at Max, explaining that movies that have been made in the last three-four years cater largely to the sensibilities of a multiplex audience.
“This is a matter of concern for us, as the audiences we are trying to reach out to are in the interiors of the country where single-television households are a way of life,” Vyas said. “So while these movies have great production values, are racy and slick, and audiences may be perfectly happy watching them in multiplexes, they may not be happy viewing it in a family environment.”
Which is why the tone adopted by a broadcaster’s marketing campaign may be very different from that used at time of the theatrical release.
“The publicity material for the film Agneepath was very intense and featured Hritik Roshan against a backdrop of flames. We changed that and used an image of the actor against the backdrop of the Ganpati festival. Even the on-air promotions featuring the hit song Chikni Chameli from the film used visuals from a reality show on the channel, showcasing children dancing to the song, instead of Katrina Kaif, to appeal to a family audience,” said Akash Chawla, head of marketing, national channels, ZEEL.
The channel has acquired titles such as Agneepath, Agent Vinod, Heroine, ABCD, English Vinglish, Joker, Kai Po Che, Race 2, Barfi! and Himmatwala this year.
Even filmmakers are doing what they can to help push up viewership of their film on television, said broadcasters as it helps them reach out to markets they may not have been able to tap. In the case of English Vinglish, producer R. Balakrishnan, also chairman and chief creative officer at Lowe Lintas and Partners, was closely involved in the marketing of the film for television, which included ambient media signage at theatres, coffee shops, airports and malls with messages such as ‘Coffee Voffee’, ‘Exit Vexit’ and ‘Please Switch off your Mobile Vobile’. The film is directed by Balakrishnan’s wife Gouri Shinde.
“Not only do you have to rope in newer audiences in newer markets (that filmmakers may not have reached) but also infuse curiosity to ensure that audiences in key markets, such as metros, come back to the movie on television,” said Sharma of Max.
Also forcing their hand is the fact that most movies are bought these days for a limited-release period, said Jha of PwC. “Most broadcasters buy rights for a single or limited release period, making it even more important for them to rope in a lion’s share of the audience for that screening. While this ensures that the channel does not block a large sum of money to secure rights to a film for, say five years, it’s even more important for their marketing campaign to reach a wide audience and ensure maximum viewership,” she said.