In September last year, Ranbir Kapoor shot an exclusive promo with the news channel Aaj Tak to promote his film Barfi!, just before its theatrical release. It wasn't just another promo. Kapoor, in his Barfi! avatar, was inserted in the frames of various historic moments across politics, sports and entertainment. So, there was this Barfi character waving during the Anna Hazare movement, when India won the Cricket World Cup, when A.R. Rahman received the Oscar, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee met Pervez Musharraf, and at the F1 race in India where he nearly got run over. The promo did two things: It made Ranbir Kapoor establish himself as the sweet innocent Barfi!; simultaneously it was a Bollywood superstar's testimony for a leading news channel.
In March this year, Ekta Kapoor partnered with Life OK to launch the 16-episode TV series, EK Thhi Naayka, as part of the promo plan for Ek Thi Dayan, which released on April 18. The show was a collection of eight stories where each episode showcased one "maha nayika" waging war with the demons. It featured television superstars Smriti Irani, Sakshi Tanwar, Shweta Tiwari, Ankita Lokhande, Kritika Kamra and Aamna Sharif in lead roles. It also featured the characters from Ek Thi Daayan. Therefore, while Ek Thhi Naayka clearly stood up to push the viewers of Life OK into theatres to watch the movie, it also provided original content to the channel.
Even as Bollywood continues to use the medium extensively, TV too has started to increase its dependence on the film business. Sony, Zee and Colors are steadily increasing their movie library. Star TV India recently closed a Rs. 400-crore deal with Ajay Devgan and a similar Rs. 500 crore deal with Salman Khan for exclusive satellite rights of all their upcoming releases until 2017. Hindi movie content makes up 20 per cent of the fare in the GEC space. Even in news channels, celluloid content takes up a tenth of the time.
There is enough evidence to suggest that the relationship between the television and film business is getting even closer than before. Each is looking at innovative ways in which to use - and benefit - the other.
Ajit Thakur, GM, Life OK, thinks that television today is a far more powerful medium than film. It is viewed daily and its reach is far greater than cinema. "We also understand that the popularity of the big stars of cinema is much greater than that of the big stars of TV. Hence, television has started using the power of Bollywood to take its content to the next level," he says.
Bollywood has been using TV extensively to promote itself and it is no longer about just buying promo slots. Whether film makers or actors, they consciously seek to be present on every reality TV show - in addition to being visible on youth and music channels, to promote the launch of music. And now they are working with general entertainment channels (GECs) as well. Remember the famous Talaash-CID integration in November last year? Aamir Khan was seen in the TV crime serial as inspector Shekhawat (the character he played in the film Talaash), who helped the CID team (on Sony) solve the case of the 'Red Suitcase Murderer'.
People in the film business say that the cost of marketing a movie is just too large to pay for in cold cash. Saving money apart, integration on TV gives the kind of mileage money can rarely buy. "With TV, you would be reaching out to every household. And because the channel has an interest in promoting these shows, they market them well, which helps us. And then a dual thing happens: the show gets the ratings while the movie gets the promotions. In the long run, it's beneficial for both," says Yusuf M Shaikh, head - distribution & IPR (Consultant), Percept Pictures.
If a producer had to buy time on, say, Big Boss (Colors), a 10-second spot could cost him anywhere between Rs. 2-5 lakh. However, if his promo was integrated into the show, with the movie stars walking onstage and announcing the release date of the movie, together with host Salman Khan - well, that's the kind of mileage money can't buy.
Equally, the cost of not integrating the film with other media in an interesting way, can be expensive too. Take a movie like Zila Ghaziabad, a political action thriller starring Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi and Vivek Oberoi, which was released across 2,000 screens, earlier this year. It was an entertaining masala film which was expected to do reasonably well. However, none of the actors could spare the time to market the movie on any of the fiction or reality shows and be a part of any TV promotions. Result? Potential viewers who could have come to watch the movie, did not even get to know about its release, leading to low box office collections.
According to the FICCI-KPMG 2013 report, revenue of the Hindi film business from cable and satellite (C&S) rights grew by 20 per cent in 2012. The C&S rights for an average high budget Bollywood movie were sold for about Rs. 30-40 crore with a few exceptions: Ek Tha Tiger was bought for approximately Rs. 75 crore (the highest till date) while Student Of The Year (SOTY) and Dabangg2 were sold for Rs. 50 crore each. Talk about their box office collections and the numbers stand at about Rs. 200 crore for Ek Tha Tiger, Rs. 70 crore for SOTY and Rs. 155 crore for Dabangg 2. Clearly, the C&S rights, which typically last for seven years, are now a major revenue stream for film makers. In these examples, the rights accounted for about 30 per cent of the total revenue from a film.
Now let's talk about the film's performance on TV. Ek Tha Tiger, which had a double world television premiere in November 2012, on Sony rated 4.6 TVR (8 pm) and 3.3 TVR (12 noon). SOTY, which premiered on January 26 on Sony, notched a TVR of 4.2, contributing around 29 GRPs to the total of 203 GRPs that the channel collected that week. Dabangg 2's premiere on Star Plus on March 31 garnered a TVR of 4.8 TVR.
Hindi GECs have a lot at stake in ensuring that their ratings remain stable or above a certain level. Hindi films are useful vehicles to prop up the figures especially at times when ratings are running lower than anticipated. For a movie, it is the box office performance and the genre (comedy and action) that decide its sponsorship worthiness on TV. That's why Agneepath, which had an opening record of Rs. 21.8 crore at the box office on the first day of its release, earned Zee Cinema about Rs. 8.7 crore for its first world television premiere. The channel got on-board eight brands to be associated with the movie.
Rafiq Gangjee, VP, marketing & communications at Yash Raj Films (YRF) says, "With the entertainment lines blurring, the two have started looking more and more like strange bedfellows. In real terms, the two are the strongest competitors for the same mind-space, but inextricably dependent on each other. But then we are a country full of paradoxes!"
The added advantage
Television wins out as a medium for advertisers as feature films will always be the second option. Bollywood is more attractive on TV for them since, unlike 400-500 people in the cinema hall watching their product, on TV the audience is mass. Therefore, even as in-film placements are gaining popularity, there are still restrictions as to how far the movie product can go with the 'in your face integration'. Nevertheless, YRF did take the idea to a fresh level with its last release, Mere Dad Ki Maruti, in which the integration was inherent in the plot-line.
"Advertisers are less concerned with films, as their ad spend in cinema is only a small fraction of their TV spend. However, film tie-ups and co-branded campaigns have managed to become popular in recent years. But these campaigns run on TV anyway," says Shailesh Kapoor, CEO, Ormax Media.
Despite the reach and therefore, the advertiser on its side, television still cannot attract a movie to become its first launching spot. Remember how Kamal Haasan's plan to release Vishwaroopam on direct-to-home (DTH) so angered theatre owners and distributors in Tamil Nadu, that they threatened to boycott the film in theatres?
"You had a Sholay which ran for two years and then became a TV product because it took that much time for the film to create traction and reach the masses through the cinematic route. Today, with so many theatres and screens, the theatrical life of a movie is more often than not, just a week. Despite that, films need to be in theatres first, because they are the original product of theatres," says P M Balakrishna, COO, Allied Media.
Both television and Bollywood play the game of visibility. With a huge population sitting out there to be tapped, the relationship between the two will only get stronger. However, with so much competition, channels will try to corner the bigger stars, thereby giving in to its tendency to chase only the top class brands of Bollywood (a shortcut), instead of creating its own brand ambassadors such as a Ram Kapoor or a Sushant Singh Rajput. The game is bound to get more and more expensive.
A Note From the Editor
Every now and then, it strikes me with fresh force just how peculiar a market India is. Many conditions that we take for granted simply don't exist in other countries.
Take the subject of this fortnight's cover, the increasingly intense and baffling relationship between Hindi films and TV. Here are two mediums competing directly for a viewer's time and money. And yet, they can't seem to get enough of each other.
Surely other countries live with this paradox, you might wonder. Actually, not.
Few markets in the world have as many languages or TV channels as does India. Plus there is the press freedom that allows any sort of programming. Naturally, then, the variety and extent of television content in India is unparalleled. And when it comes to feature films, India occupies a special place in terms of the sheer volume of work. No country other than the US is in the same league. So, when we talk of how films and television feed off each other, there are hardly any markets to take an example from.
The two make a lethal combination. The big screen oozes glamour and glows with star power. In contrast, the TV screen has the advantage of enormous reach coupled with a high frequency of viewing. So, when film stars appear on the small screen, they light it up. TV broadcasters love that because films and film-related entertainment have become a staple of television content. Stars, in turn, get extraordinary reach inbetween films.
I am impressed by the innovative ways in which the two businesses work together. Among all the examples, I especially enjoyed the way in which Ranbir Kapoor's Barfi! character was incorporated in the clips of various historical moments - a la Forrest Gump - on Aaj Tak as the news channel and film cross promoted each other.
The Indian media business has grown rapidly in such a super cluttered scenario that companies are willing to work with anyone to get ahead. For all its failings, one great thing about the Indian media business is that it is never afraid to experiment.