Desperate times call for desperate measures. The pandemic forced cinephiles to give cinemas a miss and take to OTT platforms.
The new normal introduced digital content in a variety of ways, and the multi-release format pay-per-view is the latest model which has been introduced with Bollywood’s recent releases—Khaali Peeli and Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari.
While pay-per-view has been there with direct-to-home (DTH) services, Zee has launched the pay-per-view movie service by the name Zee Plex. Come to think of it it’s no different than buying a movie ticket, just that now you watch the movie at home. Or, like renting a VCR cassette in the good old days! But are people, who now have access to OTT on a yearly subscription, ready to pay for a film to watch it at home?
Shariq Patel, CEO, Zee Studios, says, “We are grateful to all those who came and enjoyed the film in theatres. However, there are audiences who are still not comfortable going to the cinemas. Keeping that in mind and continuing our promise of great content on Zee Plex, we are delighted to bring the family film of the year to the audiences at home. Amid the rising cases, if people can’t make it to the cinema, the cinema must find its way to them. We are looking forward to more and more people watching our film.” Suraj Pe Mangal Bhari released on Zee Plex on December 4.
Komal Nahta, a film trade analyst, says, “Since theatres are yet to see the regular footfall, pay-per-view is one option that people might avail. Things would change once people are back in theatres.”
But then he also feels that different platforms are here to co-exist. “It’s just like when TV came, people thought it would be the end for cinemas. But no, it only emerged as another source of revenue for the film industry.” Nahta says after a few months, films would be made for theatre viewing. “In the coming times we would see films being made for theatres and web series for OTT. Just like how cinema and television have co-existed, so would digital platforms find their space.”
However, the pay-per-view model doesn’t seem to be that successful at present. “In small cities, people still don’t have access to digital services. And to pay for a film to watch at home does not seem to be that appealing.”
While the pay-per-view model has existed in the West for the last 15 years or so, film director Kookie Gulati holds that it would never be a match for cinemas. “Give it a few months and people would be out enjoying movies in cinemas.” Just a few months of binge consumption on OTT isn’t going to change watching habits developed over the decades, he insists. As for pay-per-view, he says, “It’s a recent model. Give it time to win people on its side. At the moment OTT is lucrative where one has access to a lot more for lot less.”
“India is still not ready but we have to begin at some point,” says film trade analyst Atul Mohan. “India is a very price sensitive market. It all depends on how they price it. Had the pricing for Kaali Peeli been like Rs 49, things might have worked, but Rs 299 for a film with not that huge a star power may not work well.” While the format may not pick up instantly, a year or two down the line, he sees hope for it.
Well, looks like pay-per-view is the new beginning, while in the West, they usually work on the 24-hour format for one to watch it once or twice at one go or watch it in bits and parts, to begin with it’s a 12-hour window for Indian audience here, and as they say pricing, timing, adaptability is the name of the game!