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Focus shifts to online streaming for Eros

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Mumbai: Production and distribution company Eros International no longer wants to be a film studio but a digital content company.

Listed on the BSE as well as the NYSE, Eros is reducing its dependence on box office and is focussing on its online video streaming platform Eros Now instead. “Over the last two and a half years, Eros Now has tripled in growth. About 25% of our overall revenue comes from digital platform and in three years, digital will be three quarters of our revenue. We are moving on from being a film studio to a digital company,” said Jyoti Deshpande, group chief executive officer at Eros, which aims $260-270 million revenue this financial year.

Launched in 2014, Eros Now has 3.7 million paying subscribers, which the company expects to touch 6-8 million by March. Eros Now charges Rs 50 a month for streaming content and Rs 100 a month for downloading and watching the content offline. The company has commissioned six films which will be released directly on Eros Now.

As part of its strategy, Eros, which produced movies such as comedy drama Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Rajkumar Rao-starrer Newton and Amole Gupte-directed Sniff in 2017, is now only investing in films which are low cost, have a high return on investment and are suitable for digital platforms.

Although the platform is film-heavy with Eros’s library, the company is working on launching one or two digital series every month. “We are doing a series on human trafficking starring Radhika Apte. We are also working on a comedy one,” said Deshpande.

Revenue from domestic theatrical releases saw a 1.6% decline in 2016 to Rs9,980 crore, down from Rs10,140 crore in 2015, according to the Indian Media and Entertainment Report 2017 released by lobby group Ficci and consulting firm KPMG, in March. The number of movies that were able to record a positive return on investment also declined from 27 in 2014 to 18 in 2016.

“On an industry level, the charm of big budget films with star cast appeal is going away as no such project is making money. Even the films which have been declared hit, there is nothing in the profit and loss accounts, when you actually look there. We were one of the first companies to call the trend,” added Deshpande.

Earlier this year, Eros suffered a brief liquidity crisis ahead of the maturing of its $85 million revolving credit facility (RCF) on 31 March. Standard and Poor’s (S&P) had lowered its long-term corporate credit rating on Eros International to “B-” from “B+” and placed it on credit watch with negative implications. The company, however, won a last-minute reprieve from creditors by executing documentation to extend the maturity of the RCF by six months.

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