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NEW DELHI : Salman Khan’s Radhe may ultimately prove a loss-making deal for Zee Studios that had paid nearly 230 crore to acquire it along with a few other films in a bundle deal. With the film unavailable in theatres in the domestic market, Zee’s gamble to recoup costs from the pay-per-view model hasn’t exactly set the cash registers ringing, nor has the film impressed the diaspora in international markets.

Released in markets such as the US, UK, UAE, Australia and New Zealand, Radhe made $1.875 million over its first weekend overseas. In contrast, Khan's previous films, Dabangg 3 and Bharat, both released in 2019, had earned $4 million and $6.25 million respectively on their opening days alone.

The pay-per-view strategy, too, hasn’t paid off. Zee said Radhe had garnered 4.2 million views across online and DTH platforms on its opening day and that unprecedented traffic had brought servers down temporarily on the first day. Radhe is available for a one-time watch for 249 on ZeePlex. Existing Zee5 subscribers can also watch the film by paying an extra 249, while Zee introduced a special "Radhe Combo Offer", giving viewers the opportunity to watch the film along with a one-year subscription to ZEE5 for a price of 499.

Two media analysts, however, pointed out that 4.2 million views do not actually translate into an equal number of purchases of the film online. Industry standards presume that a family of four or five or even friends could watch the film on one purchase and that actual tickets sold for the film online could be around 1.05 million (one-fourth of it) or 0.84 million (one-fifth), they said, declining to be named. The overall weekend purchases of the film are unlikely to have exceeded 2.5 million, they added.

Around 40% of all views on day one came from DTH (direct-to-home) services while existing subscribers drove viewership on the streaming platform ZEE5. “The film has not seen too much traction online. In fact, most views have come from existing ZEE5 subscribers, failing to drive any new users to the service," Karan Taurani, research analyst at Elara Capital Ltd said adding that opening weekend collections, in this case, are assumed to hover around 20 crore- 25 crore, resulting in extremely low realizations for a tent-pole film. In contrast, Khan’s previous Eid releases, Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) and Sultan (2016), had both earned over 100 crore at the box office over their opening weekends.

“You have to give Zee credit for being the first to truly try and exploit the potential of the hybrid release model with a big-ticket Bollywood film, but it has proven an expensive buy for them and there are no two ways about the fact that there will be losses," said one of the media analyst mentioned above.

Given that the deal was signed months ago when theatres in India were expected to gradually start functioning normally, Khan’s company is said to have agreed to renegotiate terms to offset Zee’s losses by around 20 crore.

However, back of the envelope calculations show that it’s still not a profitable deal for Zee. Sure, it could earn up to 10 crore from overseas collections in the coming days, approximately 20 crore from music rights and 30 crore from long-term digital views and online purchases of the film. “Plus it’s a mass-market film so there is likely to be a big satellite television premiere with lots of advertising, that could bring in Rs. 50-60 crore. But the company is still looking at a shortfall of Rs. 70-80 crore," the analyst pointed out.

Zee, however, remains bullish on the film’s prospects. “Radhe has experienced a positive response from viewers right from the first day of its release, wherein it clocked 4.2 million views across platforms. The film has also received encouraging box office collections in the overseas markets. It has reinforced the fact that viewers in India are ready for the pay-per-view model and ZEE has been at the forefront of this change," a company spokesperson said without responding to queries on losses and clarity on online views numbers.

“Through its innovative distribution strategy, the company ensured the widest possible reach for the film, considering the current scenario," the Zee spokesperson said. “The company believes that the hybrid release model introduces a new window for content creators to connect with consumers at a large scale, unlocking value for various stakeholders involved in the process of creating entertainment experiences," the person added.

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