Why Amazon Prime Video India leads the market in acquisition for direct digital premiere of South Indian films
Amazon Prime Video India has recently acquired South biggies like Suriya's Soorarai Pottru, Fahadh Faasil's C U Soon, and Nani's V.
The coronavirus pandemic situation has caused havoc among film producers, exhibitors, and actors. The film industry across the globe is looking for possible alternative platforms to market their products. In India, streaming platforms like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, and ZEE5 are procuring the direct streaming rights of several films. But among these platforms, Amazon Prime Video leads the race in the South whereas Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, and ZEE5 are concentrating more on the direct digital premiere of Hindi-language films.
When Firstpost asked the industry insiders to know the reason behind the upper hand of Amazon Prime Video in South, we came to know a lot of interesting facts. The producers in Tamil and Telugu film industries prefer Amazon Prime as the streaming platform buys biggies for an outright price. Before getting into the details, let us see how each platform picks films in South.
Amazon Prime Video
A senior producer in the industry tells us that Amazon Prime picks films based on the popularity of the cast and crew. Their first and foremost point is whether the said film is eligible for a full-page paper advertisement or not. As we all know, Amazon Prime markets their platforms and films well through newspaper advertisements, television commercials, and digital advertisements so they procure films which are worth to publicise in the above-said mediums.
If you look at the list of films bought by Amazon Prime during this pandemic, it would give a clear idea that the platform is looking for films featuring popular stars or familiar faces.
Why do South Producers prefer Amazon Prime?
Producers from South are happy to sell their films to Amazon because the platform pays the entire amount within 30 days of the premiere, just like the theatrical distribution model. Also, the procuring price is high compared to the other competitors so the deal is lucrative for the producers.
However, not all producers get a chance to ink a deal with Prime Video. Small film producers are forced to sign up with the platform for the pay-per-view model but only a few films like Draupathi and V1: Murder Case benefitted through this revenue system. The rest of the films did not yield good revenue for the producers.
Unlike Amazon Prime, Netflix could not shine big in South, and they are least bothered about it. The number of global subscribers for Netflix is humongous so they are not in an urge to immediately capture the South India market.
Globally, Netflix's policy is to pay the producers in multiple instalments. "For example, if Netflix buys a film in Tamil or Telugu, the producer would get the full amount in one year or even more," says a producer on the condition of anonymity.
But most of the producers fund their films by borrowing money from private financiers so this multiple installment payment model would not help them much. That does not mean Netflix is not concentrating enough on South. They have bought a few biggies like Mersal, Sarkar, Super Deluxe, and Petta. They are bankrolling an original anthology, which is being directed by four leading Tamil directors Sudha Kongara, Vetrimaaran, Gautham Menon, and Vignesh Shivan. They are also remaking Lust Stories in Telugu.
Disney+ Hotstar has invested a huge sum of money, and snapped the direct streaming rights of many biggies in Hindi but they are yet to open their account in the South. Producers say that Disney+ Hostar procured many Hindi films because they buy projects as a combo pack (both digital and satellite rights). As Star Network is the market leader in North, they are ready to invest a large sum on satellite rights. But in Tamil, Sun TV is the market leader so the budget available for Star Vijay is quite less.
For example, the satellite rights of many big films in Tamil go to Sun TV for a massive price and the television network buys biggies prior to theatrical release. Now, if a producer wants to bypass theatrical release and ink a deal with Disney+ Hostar, he would expect Star Vijay to offer them a price at par with Sun TV so that he can cancel the existing agreement.
While Disney+ Hotstar is ready to buy films in Tamil, Star Vijay could not invest much. But we hear that they have agreed to increase the satellite rights budget of Tamil films in the coming days, and are in talks to acquire the direct streaming rights of a biggie.
ZEE5 does not have the budget to buy the direct streaming rights of biggies in South and North. They have not locked any fancy deals in Hindi during this pandemic. To be precise, the platform is lagging behind because of budget constraints.
Besides these four platforms, Sun NXT, the OTT version of the leading satellite channel Sun TV, is also a big player in South. But they are not showing interest in the direct digital streaming model because they themselves are into the movie production business. Their upcoming films with Vijay and Rajinikanth will be affected if they encourage direct digital premieres.
Another reason cited by the industry insiders is that their subscribers base is very less. Hence, they are selling their own production ventures like Petta and Sarkar to Netflix. Though Sun TV is the market leader among South TV networks, they are yet to conquer the OTT market.
Not all the producers are happy
Only the producers of big films are happy with this direct streaming business model. Many small-budget film producers are still waiting for theaters to reopen so that they can at least get back a percentage of their investments. A few dejected producers like J Satish Kumar of Taramani-fame and CV Kumar of Pizza- and Soodhu Kavvum-fame have started their own streaming platforms to premiere their films and other projects bankrolled by small producers.
People in the trade also tell us that the revenue in theatrical business is huge and it is unfair to compare it with the current direct premiere scenario. The producers are selling their films to these streaming platforms only to save themselves from the temporary losses caused by the pandemic. Once theaters get reopened, they will release their films there, and subsequently, sell the digital and satellite rights.
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