The implications of PVR Cinemas signing up with BookMyShow to offer online ticketing of movies, are immense: while PVR Cinemas wasn’t quite the last-little-Gaulish-village holding out against the might of BookMyShow – it is probably the largest multiplex chain in India, not having PVR on board did prevent BookMyShow from claiming absolute dominance in the online movie ticketing space in India. The stand-off between PVR (387 screens, including Cinemax) and BookMyShow (1400 screens) is historic – PVR is among the largest movie theater companies in India, and it is the dominant player in the lucrative urban market. Some thoughts on the implications of this deal:

– For PVR: PVR is going to continue to retail tickets on its own website and apps, but the the integration with BookMyShow gives it access to a potentially larger set of customers. This means that it retains its loyal users, but also gets those who primarily search for movie tickets on BookMyShow (since it has a larger aggregation of theaters), and also more things to do;  BookMyShow also has other offerings like Plays, Music festivals, Cricket matches and the annual F1 Grand Prix. There might be a temptation, if traffic moves away from the PVR website and app entirely, to have them powered by BookMyShow, instead of bearing the cost of maintaining that platform.

– For Customers: For customers, this is a great deal. There is now a single site for booking movie tickets, and it means that customers don’t have to check two sites (PVR and BookMyShow), or download two apps. However, if there are problems with BookMyShow, what happens? I had issues booking tickets via BookMyShow for DT Cinemas in Delhi on Saturday, and after trying for hours (using both the application and BookMyShow’s website), I just gave up: sometimes there were issues connecting with the theater prior to selection of seats, and for me, the Citibank Payment Gateway failed twice. DT Cinema’s has its own website, but the ticketing is powered by BookMyShow, and so, as a customer, I don’t have a choice.

– For Theater owners: when an aggregator becomes the dominant force, it begins to put the squeeze on the margins for partners. It happens in e-commerce – books publishers complain about being squeezed for margins by online booksellers. In the US, Ticketmaster does it. In fact, Barnes & Noble came up with the Nook to counter a potential market dominance threat from Amazon’s Kindle. As online ticketing grows, theaters will realize that they are becoming increasingly dependent on BookMyShow, easily the single largest player in the space, because that is where they will source customers from. From a theater’s perspective, they need to tie up with more online ticketing sites, because an increased dependency on a single player will create a monopoly. Think about it this way – if BookMyShow (hypothetically) decides not to allow tickets for a theater, what will they do? Other ticketing sites have fairly limited offerings: for Kyazoonga, I noticed that tickets are only available in Pune (and Pimpri), and in case of TicketPlease, it had only two theaters in its list for Delhi.

For a customer, it’s all or nothing. We will gravitate towards the site with most options, and this is why BookMyShow will dominate.

Which begs the question: Why aren’t there more companies in the online movie ticketing space?

Update: Gaurav Jain suggests that it is unlikely that BookMyShow will be able to monopolise the market because of fewer players on the other side: PVR-Cinemax and INOX-FAME are both large players. Valid point.