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Streaming platforms vie for tent-pole film rights

With viewership of video streaming platforms projected to jump, foreign players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ Hotstar have intensified their bids for rights to big films once they release in theatres. Some of these films are likely to get picked up for ₹80 to ₹90 crore, higher than pre-pandemic rates of such films at around ₹60 crore.

Among the mainstream films these platforms are vying for are Ranveer Singh-starrer Cirkus, Shah Rukh Khan’s Pathan, Vijay’s Beast and Ranbir Kapoor’s Shamshera. Other than star value, these films will be censor board approved and unlikely to create any ripples for streaming services looking to play safe. Final rates, however, will be a combination of an upfront fee and based on the box office performance.

According to a report by independent transaction advisory RBSA, India’s video streaming market will touch $12.5 billion by 2030 and OTT user penetration will increase to 32% by 2025.

“The business is picking up now, so it is likely that streaming platforms will look at booking films,” film producer, trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar said adding that every VoD (video-on-demand) service wants the traction that comes with a mainstream, big-ticket film. However, following the trend that had begun pre-covid, final rates for movies will be decided based on a minimum base price plus how the film ultimately performs at the box office.

Yusuf Shaikh, business head, feature films at production and distribution company Percept Pictures, pointed out that big-ticket films were never available for cheap but with limited production having taken place over the past year-and-a-half, they are in an even better place to command good prices. “There is also much competition between networks on who can acquire the biggest titles and the greatest share of audience loyalty,” Shaikh said.

Platforms are also keen on these films as everyone is aligning content with new government regulations. “When a film has been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification, you aren’t hurting anybody,” another streaming platform executive had told Mint in an earlier interview.

Netflix declined to comment on acquisition plans for big films and whether rates for the same were seeing a spike. Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar did not respond to Mint’s queries.

A senior executive at a streaming platform said the fact that big films like Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi and sports drama ’83 still haven’t yet decided on direct-to-digital releases and have held on to their plans for a theatrical debut proves the faith filmmakers have in the medium, especially for big-ticket films. “There are only three big paymasters in the market,” the person said referring to Netflix, Amazon and Disney+, declining to be named. “And they too have begun rationing how much they invest,” the person added.

Many film experts feel that OTT services have burnt their fingers with titles like Laxmii and Coolie No.1 that didn’t lead to a significant increase in their subscriber base. These films, trade experts feel, were better suited for small-town audiences that aren’t the primary users of OTT platforms but would have definitely flocked to single screens in case they had been released in theatres. Platforms are instead, focusing more on commissioning their own original films now, like Netflix’s upcoming Karan Johar production, Meenakshi Sundareshwar and Tamil anthology Navarasa. Live Mint

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