Well known film director and producer Vikram Bhatt is the true Indian entertainer. His thrillers have excited us not only on films (Kasoor, Raaz and 1920 etc) but also on the tube (Haunted Nights and Ishq Kills etc) and now web. He latest digital offering Hadh on Sony Liv is the talk of the town.
“Web is the future. The first whiff I got about the online space being the place to be was when I saw iconic Brick and Mortar music stores shift online; books were the next genre to fall to the online wave. Soon films will also shift to digital; audiences will troop in to cinema only for very big films like Bahubali etc, and for the rest they will wait for it to come online. And for general entertainment, they will snack content on various online channels like VB On The Web (You Tube),” says Vikram who’s next directorial venture 1921 starring Zarine Khan and Karan Kundra is on the floor.
Here Vikram makes a big declaration that, “Subscription won’t work in India for there is no sustained trust in Indian entertainment. You might like one show on a particular online channel but there is no guarantee that you will like other shows on offer as well right!.”
“Apps are like theaters, you will not buy a multiplex pass for you are not sure whether you will like most films which will screen there. Viewers will prefer to pay only for particular content, no matter how expensive it may be.”
He does not think that web is only sex, “That is not true, while my You Tube series Twisted had lots of oomph elements there were lot of thrills as well. Similarly Maaya also spoke of other issues as well. Sex can help sell you a short film, but not a series. You can use it to emphasise a particular episode but not all, unless backed by a strong story line.”
Talking about the performance of his 7 months old channel VB On The Web Vikram says, “We have done remarkably well, picking up over 4 lacs subscribers. We have been uploading fresh content on a weekly basis. Launching 6 films like quality shows Gehraiyaan, Spotlight and Rain etc) is no mean task.”
Will end users continue to pay for pipe and content? “Today major Telcos like Jio have changed the entertainment landscape by making data dirt cheap. Why do you think that sex films are not making money any more? For the simple reason when you can watch the real stuff on your devices, why will you pay ticket money to watch half baked porn,” Bhatt questions.
“The biggest challenge is to find a sustainable revenue model, which we have not yet been able to crack. It will eventually happen.”
Since you are a film producer and director, how is digital helping B- Town, “Today digital revenues are higher than satellite, for biggies like Amazon and Netflix are paying top dollars for rights of popular films. Plus as there is no censorship, you can also air adult films online. Today films’ monies can be recovered on basis of digital sales alone. Having said this, all that one needs is that a film should be eventually hailed a hit only at the BO.”
Here Vikram adds another caveat, “You can’t compare Indian OTT platforms to international biggies (Amazon and Netflix), “For most of our desi players (Voot, Sony Liv and Hotstar are subsidiaries of satellite channels. So there is no separate deal for satellite and digital. This is something which needs to be worked out.”
Has Indian TV changed to face web onslaught? “No TV has forgotten the youth; it continues to focus on ladies and mass audiences. Leaving Bigg Boss or few dance reality shows, no content is made for 14-25 age group, a group that watches say a Game of Thrones. The web on the other hand is purely youth specific. So we are looking at completely different demographics.”
In closing we ask him his view on the big argument of Binge vs weekly upload? “Binge on You Tube won’t happen. As you are putting out quality stuff for free, we need time to make money. So if you want faster then weekly, please be ready to cough up.”