Jio’s First Day First Show, slated for a release sometime next year, may have caused some heartburn in exhibition circles, but as Ajay Gupta, partner, AT Kearney, points out, what’s happened to TV is now happening to cinema. “Consumers are increasingly watching shows or films on the go and at times that suit them. Besides, shows in theatres are becoming expensive,” Gupta pointed out.
Indeed, as Ashish Pherwani, partner at EY, said First Day First Show is a concept already in play in a small way given how shows are now streamed before they hit other platforms. “The windows will keep evolving and given it’s the age of the democratised consumer, ample content will be available on every platform,” Pherwani said.
The proliferation of cheap data has significantly altered the way consumers consume content; OTT (over-the-top) platforms are churning out diverse content and consumers have options beyond cinema to socialise. “Ultimately, producers of content, distributors of content have to respond to consumer habits, it cannot be the other way around,” said Gupta.
To be sure, audiences continue to flock to the theatres and as Rajib Basu, partner at PwC, says there are those who do not mind paying for big-budget special-effects-filled movies — a la Avatar or our own Bahubali. But, as AT Kearney’s Gupta cautioned, film exhibitors must come up with differentiated experiences for film-goers if they’re to keep the footfalls coming.
“Film theatres have alienated the masses with high ticket prices. They need to bring in new elements — perhaps the presence of the cast — to excite audiences,” he observed.
While exhibitors are currently protected by the exclusive eight-week window — a “sacrosanct” gap between the theatrical release date of a film and the release on all other platforms— this cover could soon be blown away. As Jehil Thakkar, partner at Deloitte, points out producers may be tempted to produce exclusively for Jio at the right price. “Economics transcends it all, whether producers like it or not,” is Thakkar’s view.
PWC’s Basu reckons producers might well prefer a theatrical release for a big budget film. Or for films made for screen audiences. “While there are now more options, the returns from a multiplex screening would in all probability be higher than those from a first release on a digital platform,” Basu said.
That might well be true. While no one doubts Jio’s deep pockets nor its ability to create quality content exhibitors must read the writing on the wall. If consumers are more tuned in to OTT platforms, that’s where the advertisement and subscription revenues will move. Slowly perhaps,but surely.