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NEW DELHI: The move to offer films on a pay-per-view basis seems to have flopped in India even though platforms like ZeePlex, BookMyShow Stream and ShemarooMe have tried it over the past few months with theatres remaining shut owing to the pandemic.

While Hindi crime drama Khaali Peeli, Tamil film Ka Pae Ranasingam and Salman Khan’s Radhe made little money on ZeePlex, other films on ShemarooMe and BookMyShow Stream have also remained weak on the buzz generated so far. Producers are no longer keen on the strategy to release films on a pay-per-view basis both for poor monetisation and also rampant piracy which leads to big revenue loss.

According to a recent report by multinational professional services network PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), TVoD (transaction video-on-demand) or pay-per-view that allows users to pay for one viewing of a single offering, takes market share of only 9.9% of the total VoD (video-on-demand) market in India and is forecasted to decline to just 6.7% by 2025. The primary reason is that consumers have transitioned to subscription-based services first.

“The learnings from Radhe haven’t been that great and it has definitely created a hole in the Zee pocket," said a film trade expert who declined to be named. Having paid over 200 crore to acquire all rights for the Khan film, including digital, satellite and overseas distribution, Zee is estimated to have only made around 30-35 crore so far. Available for 249 per view this Eid, Radhe had fallen prey to rampant piracy within hours of release.

Zee filed an official complaint at the Cyber Cell, pertaining to the pirated version of the film being circulated across messaging platforms, including WhatsApp and Telegram. The action flick had made around 20-25 crore over its opening weekend from online views according to industry estimates, a fairly low realisation given the film’s budget and Khan’s previous track record of touching the 100 crore mark at the box office. Zee did not respond to Mint’s queries on its TVoD plans and lessons from Radhe.

“Monetization has proven pretty low with the pay-per-view strategy and India still has a long way to go given that first the SVoD (subscription video-on-demand) model, which itself is in early days, needs to reach a respectable stage," Karan Taurani, senior vice-president (media, Internet, QSR and Alcobev sector) at Elara Capital adding that the strategy had only played out because pandemic-induced restrictions had made theatrical releases impossible.

“India doesn’t have the technology required to support TVoD releases like the US, which can definitely test the waters with more films in the coming months," film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said. He pointed out that while there have been some attempts at the pay-per-view model apart from ZeePlex, BMS and Shemaroo in India, these have been few and far between.

For instance, last July, filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma had released a title called Powerstar on his own OTT platform RGV World Theatre for an initial price of 150 per view. In the US, on the other hand, Hollywood studios have been more consistent with the TVoD model, releasing even animated, family flicks like Raya and the Last Dragon on pay-per-view.

“Unlike the USA, where the TVoD window occupies a key place in the revenue cycle of any film, it has gone unexploited in India since it has never existed at such a scale previously here," Ashish Saksena, chief operating officer, cinemas, BookMyShow said. However, Saksena was quick to point out that the TVoD model should not be misunderstood as a replacement to the theatrical window but a revenue stream that comes after it.

“As a country whose movie ecosystem is driven by the theatrical revenue model, there is no question of advocacy towards infringing that window for any other. But if a window exists between a theatrical run and the SVoD model that makes economic room for all stakeholders, there is no reason why leading filmmakers and Indian studios shouldn’t make use of, like their Hollywood counterparts," Saksena said.

It can also be an avenue for films that do not release theatrically. For instance, all major recent films like Tenet and Wonder Woman were released theatrically, then came to BookMyShow Stream as part of the TVoD window and after completing a run of 8-10 weeks on the model, moved to subscription platforms, he said.

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