Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD), or pay per movie viewed, has been a largely untapped model for Indian audiences across DTH and OTT platforms, is now beginning to see traction with players such as BookMyShow Stream and Zee experimenting with this model.

Ashish Saksena, Chief Operating Officer, Cinema, BookMyShow, believes that the evidence indicates pay per view has promising untapped potential, which the company is capitalising. “There has been a 33 per cent increase in transacting viewers on BookMyShow Stream since launch. We have also clocked in 200,000 streams in the span of three months. With over 100,000 streams within 3 days of the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League itself, we became the fastest TVOD platform to cross such numbers within the first 45 days of our launch” said Saksena in an exclusive interaction with Business Line.

However, industry experts remain pessimistic regarding the scale of viewers pay per view streaming is likely to attain in a country like India. Shailesh Kapoor, Founder and CEO of the media consulting firm Ormax Media, says that these numbers represent a very tiny portion of the Indian market. “A typical film released in theaters, especially if it is a big Hindi marquee, led by a big name will be seeing viewership in the order of millions, even for a big international name viewership in India will be 1 million at least and that is for just one movie,” said Kapoor. For Kapoor, numbers like 200,000 are minimal compared to the overall OTT market, which is at 59 million according to the latest FICCI-EY 2021 Media Report, with players such as Disney Hotstar or Netflix enjoying a subscriber base in the order of millions.

In the past, TVOD has incited conflicting sentiments amongst experts stating that TVOD or pay per view has not reached mass scale for a good reason, while others remain uncertain regarding its future. The year 2021 has seen some change in this segment, with players like Zee experimenting with new models of pay-per-view releases with their hybridised release of Salman Khan starrer Radhe.

TVOD model’s key appeal

The key appeal of a TVOD model, according to BookMyShow’s Saksena is that it releases movies in a window before the film is available on any other platform. “This is a critical advantage in a country like India, where fans want to watch a film as soon as they can, and not when it is easier or cheaper to watch, weeks later. This is the key factor that powers theatrical revenues in India to remain so strong, forming about 65% of a film’s overall revenue cycle with fans wanting to watch films quickly,” said Saksena.

According to Saksena BookMyShow, Stream helps the churn of that cycle by enabling movies to come right after their theatrical releases or showcase films that miss a theatrical release and make them available at the earliest. With back-to-back lockdowns and social distancing norms, it is clear to experts that BookMyShow has been able to tap into that demand to an extent.

However, film critic Taran Adarsh believes that for an Indian consumer, nothing can replicate the experience of going to a cinema hall to watch the latest release. Moreover, Ormax CEO Kapoor adds that in general Indian consumers are used to getting a wide variety of content directly to their home for free or at a limited cost; therefore shelling out extra money to see a movie as soon as possible is likely reserved for the movie halls. “Pay per view is a model that succeeds for a mature market where consumers are already used to the idea of paying subscription fees. For now the key aim for digital players is to at least enable the SVOD model to successfully take off” said Kapoor.

Kapoor still finds BookMyShow’s foray into pay per view to be quite intelligent. “BookMyShow doesn't have an OTT vertical, so it is only natural for it to directly move into the TVOD space. It is likely to complement their revenue stream from the movie ticketing business and generate income in the present paradigm where multiplexes are either closed or hold limited occupancy.” Kapoor said.

Saksena said, “While BookMyShow Stream is an extension of our cinemas business complementing it effectively, it remains independent of the movie ticketing vertical at BookMyShow. BookMyShow Stream will continue to observe the globally followed window format for each dedicated segment (theatrical, TVOD, SVOD), which is pre-decided by the production houses.” For now, according to Saksena, the aim for BookMyShow Stream is to make highly personalised propositions to its viewers based on the years of data collected on customer behaviour by the platform.

OTTs too experiment

Subscription-based OTTs are also experimenting with the pay per view format, for instance, Zee’s pay per view offering, Zee Plex. Kapoor thinks that it is unlikely that these platforms will push extensively into the pay per view space, with a vast library of content. “It would mean cannibalising on the SVOD model. What is more likely to happen is either they offer something premium to their subscribers through pay per view or offer some of their more popular marquees to the general audience who might not want to subscribe to their platform”. Salman Khan starrer Radhe was one such hybrid release that was released directly on Zee’s OTT platform Zee5 and streamed on their pay-per-view platform Zee Plex. Based on Radhe’s performance Shariq Patel, Chief Business Officer at Zee Studios, also echoes Kapoor’s sentiments, “Hybrid releases are going to be a new reality, and while theatres are not going anywhere, the idea was never to compete with the experience, because it is impossible. However, ZEEPlex is supposed to open up more avenues for those who are consuming content The pay-per-view format is meant to enable the audiences to make the choice as to where and when they want to consume the content that is available to them.”

“Any new idea takes time to settle in, most of the past efforts have failed due to lack of continued & focused approach.” said Patel from Zee Studio. “Across the globe, similar models have become the norm, and much like subscription-based viewing was not very popular in the country once but has become a widely accepted viewing experience now, the pay-per-view model will also catch up” Patel said