Indian films need new distribution platforms

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media | March 24, 2011
On the first day of FICCI Frames 2011, experts discussed the issue of film marketing, distribution and other innovative trends.

At the FICCI Frames 2011, held at the Renaissance Powai in Mumbai, a panel of experts discussed the issue of film marketing, distribution and a range of innovative trends. The topic focussed on overseas film marketing via platforms of the wired-world variety and how best to promote celluloid.

The panel comprised Siddharth Roy Kapur, chief executive officer, Motion Pictures, UTV, Shailesh Rao, head, media and platform, Japan and Asia-Pacific, Google, and Michael E Ward, film producer, UK. Colin Burrows, managing director, Specialtreats Production Company, moderated the session.

Kapur initiated the discussion by raising the issue of international distribution of films for audiences beyond South Asia. "We have not been able to reach out to the non-South Asian diaspora," he stated.

The main reason for this problem is the fact that the filmmakers in question have not been able to take the distribution beyond South Asian regions. Despite tremendous growth in market reach, piracy - specifically, internet piracy -- poses an obstacle. A solution, perhaps, is to shorten the release window of the film, that is, the time period between its theatrical release and its release across other platforms (television, internet).

Kapur added, "Today, paid marketing is least effective. There is general disdain amongst the audience, therefore the role of public relations and non-paid advertising, such as social media and word-of-mouth, has increased."

Kapur went on to explain that in order to build traction, identification of one's audience and effective marketing is crucial. "Windows of exploitation must be identified," he said.

Ward addressed the point regarding independent producers and their need to engage with third party financers. "Money rests on the value of the scripts," he asserted. In general, demographics are changing and people residing overseas are very interested in watching what comes from India.

"Thus, even a small budget film has ROI (returns on investment), owing to the time and level of craft that has gone into its making," opined Ward.

Rao contributed to the discussion by reiterating how movies are all about content today. He underscored the fact that today internet users crave good content. "But," he said, "The present (traditional) distribution system cannot match up to the huge creative explosion that is currently underway in India."

Rao however added that as of today,, a website that is suited for all sorts of content, can serve to fill the gap. Rao also brought to the table the point that since most producers cannot afford to buy space in theatres located in the heartland of the USA, internet piracy grows.

"The online space could be utilised to help reach this audience through cheaper models such as subscription models and paid page views," he said. The general sense was that the traditional industry set up is preventing the industry from scaling up. Apparently, YouTube helps identify and promote content online. Global online partnerships that make content available online on a global scale might improve things.

"And, with monetisation, content makers will get their fair due," Rao said.

Being realistic, Kapur reminded the panel that people are used to watching films online free of cost. "You need to work through the monetary issues. Exhibitors are also cautious. But yes, it is only through experimentation that the answers will be found."

This experimentation includes venturing into terrestrial TV and VOD (value-on-demand); once the right audience is located, better marketing can be done. Media channels such as radio, OOH (out-of-home) and social media can be used as discussion platforms. Public relations, it was additionally concluded, is an important tool when it comes to create conversation around movies.

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