Television

'Online consumption of content in India is more pervasive than we think it is' : Kamal Gianchandani - BigFlicks COO

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 BigFlicks, Reliance Entertainment's online film rental service, plans to invest $100 million over three years. The plan includes a strong offline presence as well. With 50 offline rental stores already dotting the landscape, the ramp up agenda includes 200 stores by the end of this year.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com's Ashwin Pinto, BigFlicks COO Kamal Gianchandani talks about the company's growth plans.

Excerpts:

What progress has BigFlicks made so far?

We have over 1000 films on our online library. We have acquired TV content that runs into thousands of hours. We also have short form content. So the content part has grown exponentially. In terms of registrations which are free, we have 400,000 customers.

We have done lakhs of streams. In terms of the rental business in India, we have reached 50 stores. We operate in 10 cities spread across Bangalore, Hyderabad, Indore, Ahmedabad and Pune.

BigFlicks is investing $100 million over three years. Where will this mostly go?

The key areas would be our rental service, followed by Video-on-Demand (VoD). We would also add community features as we go along. This will also take investments.

What is the revenue model for BigFlicks?

The model for the rental business is subscription. In VoD the model is two-fold. One can download films for a fee ranging from $2-$10. As we go along we will have ad revenue from free streaming. But it is too early to speak about revenue targets.

What is BigFlicks' USP vis-a-vis other film rental companies?

We offer convenience, multiple access points. We offer stores in combination with an online service. Most competitors offer either online or offline. We offer both as an integrated service. Our presence is more pervasive. We have a call centre with a common number. Customers can also reach us through SMS. Typical mom and pop stores do not offer these multiple access points.

What are the synergies that exist between Big Flicks and Reliance Entertainment's other verticals?

Some synergies are apparent. There is direct synergy with Big TV for instance. It offers VoD of limited titles. We have a broad spectrum of titles for VoD.

Then there are synergies that are not so apparent and which are diverse. For instance in Delhi and Mumbai, Reliance Energy has a huge base of consumers who use the power that they supply. This offers us bundling opportunities.

Which company in Reliance Entertainment acquires films for various platforms?

We have a central acquisition team. They acquire films for all platforms and also make sure that each department's interests are looked after. If, however, a title's rights are broken up, then we will acquire it for VoD directly from the producer.

Who are the major content owners that Big Flicks has deals with?

We have deals with several parties. Shemaroo is one of them. We also have deals with smaller players. On the television side, we have deals with the likes of NDTV, Raj Television, Zoom. Most of them are revenue sharing deals. Some of them are also fixed amount deals. In our VoD business, we have over a thousand titles. For rental we have 15,000 titles.

What strategy has BigFlicks followed to create awareness?

In India we will be doing a 360 degree marketing campaign. This will encompass television, print, online, radio, outdoor. We will also look at alliances as we move forward.

For the overseas markets, we have done a lot of search related marketing. We have done things like banner displays. We have also done alliances with services that target the same audience. We have tied up with Reliance India Calling Cards. They are big in the US which is also our main market abroad. We do a lot of marketing and promotional activities with them. On television, we have a tie up with below.tv. They are a broadband site that offers cricket subscription.

We recently did a deal with Willow TV for the IPL. We also have a deal with Remit2India which is a Times of India Group company. They target NRIs who send money to India.

When you talk about the online space, piracy is a big headache. How is Big Flicks approaching this challenge?

We monitor this actively. We keep a track of the rights we have and we are vigilant. If a site is offering downloads of a film illegally, then we inform the producers and right owners. We let them take action against the concerned parties. BigFlicks also has DRM software to prevent illegal downloads.

What trends have been noticed in terms of how films are consumed online?

Films are the dominant form of online media consumption. They also offer repeat value. While we offer new titles that are popular, the older titles like Golmaal also get consumed a lot.

What we are also seeing is that there is preference in consuming short form content which could be three minutes in duration. This is consumed when people are on the move or when they are in the home and wish to break the monotony. We have music videos and other kinds of short form content.

Is the TG mainly the net savvy youth or do older people also go online?

Our main TG is in the 18-35 year age bracket. People who are on the older side also visit, but they are a small portion.

Could you give me examples of unique promotions that BigFlicks does?

When we launched Jab We Met we had free streaming for 24 hours. We advertised this move. The reception was positive. We also did a Laughter Riot Week where comedies were showcased.

We have weeks where we focus on an actor and we pull out all his films and put it for our users. Going forward, we will be doing interactive initiatives involving film stars. This could be in the form of contests.

'If you want to have business of a certain scale in India, then you need to be offline as well'

How is BigFlicks leveraging the online social networking phenomenon?

We will be adding community features. The idea is to create more stickiness on the site. While consumers come to rent or watch streaming movies, they also have their need to express opinions.

Some elements like reviews and ratings given to movies are already present. But web 2.0 features like having a forum, tagging are being introduced so that consumers will not feel the urge to jump onto another site to express their viewpoints.

In terms of allowing people to transfer downloaded content to the mobile, what arrangement has been made to facilitate this?

We already have the backend to support this. We are looking at doing this in the next three months.
Why did Big Flicks feel the need for an offline presence in India?

At the current level if you want to have business of a certain scale in India, then you need to be offline. If you are only an online player, then you will target a smaller segment.

What were the logistical challenges faced in setting up stores?

The biggest challenge is the lack of an organised delivery mechanism. The postal service and courier companies deliver goods one way. The return path, though, is complicated for them. We have had to hire delivery boys on our own. They have to be trained. Inventory has to be managed. We do not have an efficient third party solution yet in the country.

We also have a customer relationship management (CRM) team that focusses on the consumer. They look at feedback, complaints and issues that customers raise. Our call centre is a part of it. In any case training is in the DNA of Reliance Entertainment. We constantly train our people and ensure that their skills get upgraded. This is an on-going process.

How many stores will there be by the end of the year?

We will have 200 stores by the end of the year. The first 50 stores are our own. The next 75 will be with Reliance World. We will do a shop-in-shop model.

The remaining 75 will come through franchisees. We have received a lot of queries in this regard but we have not formulated a franchise plan as of now.

The dynamics of the home video market are changing due to aggressive pricing. What is the strategy of BigFlicks in this regard?

Aggressive pricing is good for the market as it encourages consumers to buy DVD players and consume more content at home. It also fights piracy. We focus on our quality of service.

We want to aggregate as much content as possible. People want access to a huge catalogue in one place. Our monthly charge schemes are Rs 250, Rs 399 and Rs 499. There is no restriction on the number of DVDs one can take in a month and there is no time limit to return a DVD.

What would be more popular in India - downloads or rentals?

In the near to mid term, monthly rentals would be more popular. But the future lies in digital copies being downloaded.

Will offline or online be more important down the line?

Our main business will be online. The broadband bottleneck will have been broken by then. Already companies like Reliance and Tatas are working to achieve this goal.

The offline space will become more of a customer acquisition point and more about customer relationship management. But servicing and watching films will happen more online.

What have the learnings been from servicing consumers?

Indian consumers want a dependable service. They do not just want a cheap service. At the same time, price elasticity is less in our business. Online consumption of content in India is more pervasive than we think it is. Eighty per cent of our members use the online service.

Overseas, the phenomenon of the long tail is visible. People consume content that has been seen repeatedly. Niche content also has a lot of takers overseas.

What kind of tie ups and alliances are you looking at in India?

We are talking with DVD manufacturers. We are also talking with retail outlets for cross promotional tie ups. We will offer subscription as a bundle like when somebody buys DVDs or say a data card for the laptop which has a net connection, they get a monthly subscription. For a retail store if the customer's billing reaches a certain amount, then he/she gets a monthly subscription from BigFlicks.
Are you looking at acquiring companies operating in the home video space?

At the moment we have nothing on the table. But if a suitable opportunity comes, we will look at it. It would depend on the strategic value that the other company brings to the table.

In the US a film that does not fare too well in cinema halls, can recover the rest through home video, PPV and even make a profit. How far away are we from seeing this happen in India?

In developed markets like the US, the home video business is bigger than theatrical. The cinema route is used to set up a film and build a brand. The money comes from other avenues like VoD, television rights, etc.

In India we still depend heavily on theatrical revenues. I don't see the situation changing drastically in the near term. But the home video segment is growing. The amount of revenue a film gets from theatres has come down to around 60 per cent from 80 per cent earlier.

As entertainment economies get more mature, the trend globally is that people increasingly watch movies at home. A similar trend will happen in India.

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