CV Kumar: Producers get only five rupees per view with OTT releases
The producer-director talks about his latest venture, the pay-per-view platform Regal Talkies, which is getting launched this Friday
Producer CV Kumar, who introduced the cream of top Tamil cinema talent including directors likes Pa Ranjith, Karthik Subbaraj and Nalan Kumarasamy, has come up with a pay-per-view platform called Regal Talkies that will commence service from July 17. "I wanted to do this back in 2015, but I felt that a streaming platform was too soon for that time. We were not sure if people would welcome such a service back then. But now, because of the lockdown and the uncertainty around film releases, I feel this is the perfect time.”
Excerpts from the conversation:
How will Regal Talkies be different from other OTT platforms?
While other platforms charge you for monthly/yearly subscription, here, you will pay for just the film you wish to watch. Films will be priced between Rs20 and Rs100, and people will also get the choice of watching them on an Android TV or Apple TV. Those films that get premiered here will offer a similar experience like when you go to the theatres. They will begin at a pre-decided time, they cannot be paused, and they will even have an intermission. A few days after their premiere, these films get made available for watching at your convenience.
We are also trying to include group viewing (similar to Watch Party) where you can watch a film with friends and talk to each other while viewing it. While the focus is to be on South Indian films, we are beginning with Tamil films now. The platform will also have a collection of films that have already had a theatrical release.
What were the challenges in coming up with such a platform?
Data cost is the biggest one. If watching a film online costs you two GB of data, the website that you are watching it on also spends the same, to deliver the content to you. So imagine a million people using the platform. If someone in the USA wants to watch a video that is on an Indian server, we have to use the Content Delivery Network (CDN) that bounces the content via different servers in between. The more time it takes to retrieve that content from the data traffic, the more a video buffers. Maintaining these CDNs are expensive and when a two GB film reaches a user after jumping across four servers, we have to pay for eight GB. Of course, we can own our servers, but that's expensive too.
Another challenge is how much traffic a site can handle at any given time. A normal site will crash if a couple of hundred people use it. For an app, site and server to handle about 50,000 users at the same time, we must have the necessary bandwidth.
Pay-per-view format is common in countries like the USA. How do you see this model working here?
Nobody was used to such an idea here. The present reach of OTT platforms is because of the lockdown. Those platforms invest a lot, so only a subscription model can make it a viable business for them. Our model, however, follows the revenue sharing methodology. If a producer prices a film at Rs 100 per viewing, our site will take 20 per cent as the service providing cost and the remaining goes straight to the producer. We don't own the content and even the decision about the duration of the content in our site is left to the makers. If another platform is ready to buy the film, they can always take it from us.
Usually, if a film makes one crore in its theatrical run, the producer will only get somewhere between Rs 25-30 lakh. OTT providers get the producers about Rs 7-8 per view, but since there are taxes and a content curator who takes a 20 per cent cut, the producer ends up getting only Rs 5 per view. So even if a lakh people view the film, the producer gets only five lakh. In our platform, the same view count will get the producer Rs 80 lakh.
As a producer yourself, what are your thoughts on the film industry’s plan for a revival in a post-pandemic world?
Many producers are clueless about how to get back on their feet. Once theatres reopen, we trust that audiences will flock to it. We think that larger-than-life films will always command a market. We cannot, however, say the same about smaller films.
There were reports that your production house is planning to come up with sequels to all of its major hits.
We have four films in production which are almost on the verge of completion. One film stars Ashwin Kakamanu and Kaali Venkat, while another is a female-centric film starring Sshivada and Ramya Pandian. As for the sequels, Ravikumar has completed the script for the Indru Netru Naalai sequel. The film will star Vishnu Vishal, and Ravikumar's associate, Karthik, will direct the sequel. Nalan had given us a one-liner for Soodhu Kavvum 2 and based on that, we have completed a screenplay. For Thegidi, we have got a couple of scripts, but we haven’t yet taken a call on which one we are going with.
You also turned director with Maayavan and the Hindi dubbed version of it on YouTube has garnered close to 30 million views.
With everything that’s happening now, it's impossible to think of directing a film now. Once everything is sorted, I will return to direction. A lot of people, even from America, are messaging me saying that they watched Maayavan recently and felt bad about missing it in theatres. I’m glad about the recognition even if it's delayed.