It’s a year since BIGFlix.com launched its online streaming business, and 10 months since the video rental business was soft launched. The full fledged launch of the rental business, particularly the retail stores, took place in May 2008. Still, the online business accounts for only 20 percent of revenues. so is the Video on Demand business struggling? MediaNama gleaned this from an interview with Kamal Gianchandani, COO of BIGFlix. We also spoke to him about targets, and content consumption trends, but he was rather reticent offering revenue numbers:

Video on Demand Business (Vod)
Revenues & Revenue Share

VoD accounts for 20 percent of current revenues, mostly through downloads since advertising was launched hardly a month ago. “We’ve just launched advertising from VDOpia, 15 days to a month ago, so its too early to talk numbers, but we knew this is an advertising dependent business, so have had to build pageviews. We’ve refrained from going out and securing advertisements until now.” BIGFlix has set an advertising-sales target of Rs. 10 crores by March 2009. For content downloads, they share 25-40 percent of revenue with content providers.
Isn’t that lower than Rajshri’s – which is at around 50 percent?

“In some cases we might extend it to 50 percent, in case of some titles. Each player will have a different take on this.”
Traffic
BIGFlix claims 50 million pageviews banner impressions (see update below)/month, and 3 million unique visitors….(ED: 17 pageviews per unique visitor is rather high, isn’t it?). They’re targeting 100 million pageviews/month by March 2009
Marketing Spends
BIGFlix intends to spend Rs. 5 Crores on advertising in the overseas market, with ads in 200 multiplexes.
Catalog
We have 1350 films, out of which 500 are regional. 25-30 percent of that is Malayalam. Hindi and Bollywood dominate. We’re planning to add 5000 films by the end of the financial year, of which 50-60 percent will be Hindi, tmayhe rest regional. Also looking to add Gujarati, Bengali and Oriya content.

More on content consumption trends and the Rental business –

Long Form vs Short Form Content
People still prefer to watch 3 hour movies on TV, not on the PC. While watching full movies online, they tend to jump – fast forward parts of the movie. They’re mostly consuming short form content – interviews, filmi masala, trailers, behind-the-scenes content. However, BIGFlix is not planning to produce its own content – they’re an aggregator, and will continue to source it from Independent producters. 75 percent of the films have been successful for us, while 25 percent have been duds. In case of downloads, adding a download manager have made it easier for users to download films, instead of starting from scratch.
Long Tail Content
We went into this business thinking only new movies would work, and the split of views would be 85-15 in favour of new movies. However, it’s more like 70-30, so older content is being watched.
Regional Content
It is star driven. Offline, Tamil and Telugu accounts for 80 percent of the market, while Malayalam and Kannad accounts for 20 percent. But perhaps because Malayalam Cinema struggles to get a proper release overseas, its working well for us – it alone accounts for 20 percent, while Tamil and Telugu are 50 percent of regional content views.
TV Shows
BIGFlix has 100 odd TV serials, and Astitva is getting a lot of views;* TV content is being viewed mostly by international viewers. Film content still dominates, but TV is good for stickiness.

Rental

Rental accounts for 80 percent of the business. BIGFlix has around 115 outlets and an online mail-order presence in 10 cities. They’ve launched the second phase of the rental business in May, and though the response, they say, has been “overwhelming”, they’re not willing to talk any numbers. BIGFlix has a catalog of 17000 titles, with 3000-4000 titles in each store, and the rest can be queued up online, whether from home or using the kiosks in stores.

They’ll roll out stores in B&C class towns next fiscal year. Gianchandani says that the difference between them at Showtime (Nimbus) and SeventyMM is that Showtime is only offline, while SeventyMM is an online-only mail-order service. BIGFlix is looking at scale, and both offline and online. They intend to spend Rs. 20 crores on advertising the domestic rental business.

Won’t having the offline presence have an effect on the break-even for the service?
“We’ve been conscious about the size of the retail space. It’s also the question of scale. If you do only online mail order service, you’re targeting a smaller segment. By the end of this financial year, we’ll be at 200 outlets. Around 50 of these outlets are inside Reliance WebWorlds”

Update from BIGFlix:

“We apologise for the miscommunication from our end with regards to the 50 million page views on BIGFlix.com. As per industry norms, we, at BIGFlix.com follow the refresh technique for serving of banners and advertising impressions. Hence these are 50 million banner advertisement impressions per month and not page views over a period of time.”

* – Update: BIGFlix does not stream Astitva, and we erroneously asked Gianchandani about it. I had both BIGFlix and competitor Rajshri.com open on the PC, and Rajshri has Astitva. Apologies for the error.