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Somethings are a'changing (IANS Column: B-Town)
India is a huge consumer market and, if you can't sell your wear here, you are a failure. Everybody and every marketer and vendor is out to woo the massive Indian consumer base. If you have failed initially, hold out some more and try again. It is not as if tempting an Indian consumer is hard, especially since the purchasing power of the population is on the rise.
So many startups are springing up in the country and many of them reaching unicorn status, yet why are some others failing?
When one looks mainly at the entertainment industry, all does not seem to be right. The entertainment industry, as in films, television, stage, and now OTT, all have a captive customer base in India. So, why are some of them, the big ones, lagging behind?
The reason for some is that they are asking for too much for nothing in return. An example is Netflix. This OTT platform expects to thrive in India mainly on the strength of its international catalogue. The Covid-19 lockdown period was the time when other OTT platforms mushroomed, and many more were launched. Only Netflix failed to cash in. There were limited takers for its international content and the platform, somehow, did not bother to add Indian content sufficiently.
Some very illogical explanations were offered. One being that Indians share their passwords. Is that so? If so, why only Netflix? There are so many other OTT platforms around!
Why do Hollywood films do so well in India compared to some years back? That is because they now reach a wider audience with their multiple-language dubbed versions. The Hollywood films on television channels also added to their viewership while they lasted. Also, now the Hollywood films release in India simultaneously with their release all over. Unlike earlier when they came months later and found audiences only in metros.
Now, India is an equal market for foreign films. How can one expect an OTT platform to survive and get an Indian viewership addicted to local content based entirely on its international content?
Netflix and Amazon Prime entered the Indian market almost simultaneously in 2016. As of today, while Amazon claims a subscription base of 18 million, the Netflix figures hover around 6 million and the platform is struggling to hold it.
In a rather uncanny move, according to media reports, Netflix has now decided to get hold of all Indian available in the market, controversial or not. It is reported to have told its staff to do so, whether they like it or not.
Good content would meet with success on any platform. But the Netflix mandate does not seem to be about good content. It is about content that makes news and doesn't necessarily have any merit!
One thing that may have been a deterrent is the subscription fee charged by Netflix. It varies from Rs 199 to Rs 649 per month and its picture quality varies according to the price. For those who can afford only the Rs 199 subscription, this can be quite humiliating. For Rs 199, you get 'good video quality' at 480 pixels, but for Rs 649 you are entitled to what Netflix describes as 'best quality' with 4K+HDR. Sounds like discrimination, doesn't it?
If any content is good for Netflix acquisition, it is time for India to also introduce censorship for OTT content like they have in England and Australia.
Netflix is trying to find a firm footing in India, but Amazon Prime is having a good run. Instead of sharing the success with customers by reducing subscription rates and adding to the viewer base, it is getting greedy. It has come up with what the filmmakers and cinemas called Paid Preview whereby you get to watch a new film at special rates, a day or two before it is made available to all.
Prime Video now offers a new film post theatrical release 15 days before its regular subscribers can watch it. All it will cost is Rs 199 (as against Rs 179, which is Prime's monthly subscription!). Recently, Prime Video added the latest hit, 'RRR', for this Rs 199 preview. Indians are crazy about their films, fine, but not stupid.
Many cinemas in India still charge Rs 100+ ticket rates for a new film with the promise of a cinema screen experience. By the way, the paid preview scheme for films flopped. It destroyed, rather than augment, the prospects of films because negative reports filtered out from these paid previews.
Bhool Bhulaiya Made Affordable!
With this week's new release, 'Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2', multiplex managements have decided to be a little generous towards their patrons. The admission rates have been reduced for the early shows of the film by about 30 per cent.
Earlier, too, a number of cinemas in second-rung cities have followed the practice of keeping the admission rates low for early shows so that they could attract college students and young people who like to boast of having attended the first day, first show. These shows drew full houses and gave a positive start to a film.
Actually, it is not the cinema managements that have shown this generosity, but the film's backer, Bhushan Kumar, who wants the rates to be low. He tried the same experiment with his earlier project, 'Kabir Singh', and the results were positive. So, he would rather find the initial audience who carry a positive word of mouth after seeing the film on the first day.
Makes sense, because, nowadays, even films with big stars don't find much of an audience on the opening day to say good or bad things about a film. Viewers just don't turn up. And, that is bad publicity enough for a new release.
Only if the cinemas took cues from the likes of Internet and mobile services, and airlines, would they realise that it is not the high tariff but volume that guarantees an unlimited revenue stream.
Mobile services started with Rs 16 a minute per call, with both sides, the call maker and the receiver, paying! Now, the use of a cell phone is so cheap that you don't even care to check how much you are charged. That is besides the data use, which is as good as free and has added millions of data users. Similar is the case with airlines.
The result is the mushrooming of airlines as well as their users. In most cases, if you work on the airline fare per kilometer, it is cheaper than a cab you hire!
At Cannes 2022
And then, the entire media, especially the print media, seems to be sold on Cannes and Deepika Padukone, who is one of the jury members this year. It does not seem to matter that Cannes and Independent India's are both 75 years old now, that India has been declared the Country of Honour at Cannes, and that Satyajit Ray's 1970 Bengali film 'Pratidwandi' is slated to be screened at the Cannes Classics Section, besides G. Aravindan's 1978 Malayalam film, 'Thampu'.
Deepika Padukone is one of the nine jury members and hogging all the media limelight in India, but the other Indian celebrities attending the film festival include Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, A.R. Rahman, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Pooja Hegde, Tamannah Bhatia, Urvashi Rautela, Hina Khan and Helly Shah.
India, incidentally, has been the flavour of the season since the opening up of the economy in the 1990s. The country promised a huge potential market and, suddenly, we had Indian beauties bettering beauties from all over the world! It wouldn't have been possible were it not for the cosmetics and fashion market that India had promised to be! Apart from fashion brands, diplomacy now seems to be more at work.
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