Even as rumors swirl thick that Eros is considering selling its vast catalogue of films and music to Apple, Netflix or Amazon, and as it battles a class action lawsuit filed in 2015 alleging that it inflated its subscriber count in press releases, the company claimed that it tripled its paid subscriber count to 2.9 million, from one million in early 2016. It had a target of 2 million paying subscribers by end of FY17. The company has set a target 6 to 8 million paid subscribers in Fiscal Year 2018 therefore driving the profitability and positive cash flows.
The total number of users, as opposed to paying subscribers, is 60 million, the company said. That means that 4.84% of Eros Now’s users are paying subscribers.
Shashi adds: Eros had defined what a paying user was during the December quarter:
Paying subscribers means any subscriber who has made a valid payment to subscribe to a service that includes the Eros Now service either as part of a bundle or on a standalone basis, either directly or indirectly through a telecom operator or OEM in any given month be it through a daily, weekly or monthly billing pack, as long as the validity of the pack is for at least one month.
For growth, Eros is relying on telecom operators for distribution. It is live on Airtel, Jio, Vodafone and Idea, and the company saw “six digit contributions” from Idea Cellular and Vodafone, “within weeks of launch”, with Idea going live only in January 2017. These deals with operators minimum guarantee payments, or subscriber guarantee and typically they are done for 5-9 years.
Despite demonetization, the company said it delivered ‘reasonably steady’ revenues, even as its stocks have been falling in the New York Stock Exchange, where it has been listed since 2013, for the last two years.
In the quarter ended March 31 2017, aggregate revenue from digital and ancillary decreased by 13% to $18.1 million from $20.8 million in the same quarter last year. In the year ended March 31, 2017, the aggregate revenues from digital and ancillary increased by 0.2% to $64 million from $63.9 million in the previous year.
Eros Now’s deals in India
Eros pointed out that several subscription video on demand (SVOD) players have been increasing their investment and bidding for new content “thus making the barriers to entry for new entrants in the Indian OTT landscape very high.”
The company said that “Peak investments in Eros Now like strengthening the catalogue have already taken place so now we can expect to reap from those investments with extraordinary growth ahead of us.”
Here are some of the main deals and tie-ups that Eros has signed in India.
— Eros has long-term contracts with Idea, Vodafone, BSNL, Jio and Airtel; these agreements usually include distribution of Eros Now content on the telcos’ respective streaming apps.
— Eros Now partnered with IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) to livestream their annual awards ceremony globally.
— Eros’s Indian subsidiary signed a television syndication multi‐film deal with Zee in Q4 FY17, locking in pre-sales for some of the film slate of FY 2018.
— Eros Now library of digital film rights stands at over 10,000 films, with nearly 50% owned in perpetuity (i.e., forever).
— In 2017, Eros Now concluded deals with Samsung and Micromax for pre-installing the Eros Now app in all their devices.
Eros is pursuing co-productions with studios based in Turkey and China. Eros has also partnered with Phars Film, the UAE’s largest film distribution network and theater chain, to jointly co-produce and distribute Malayalam films — Eros will handle distribution in India and Phars will do so for the UAE. The company has announced two bilingual Indo–Turkish films which it will co-produce with Turkey’s Pana Film.
Eros Now was also added on T-Mobile’s Binge-On program, which allows its video to be exempt of data caps for the carrier’s customers in the US.
Revenue from India decreased by 37.1% to $19.7 million in the three months ended March 31, 2017, compared to $31.3 million in the three months ended March 31, 2016. The company attributed the drop to demonetization causing a drop in theatrical footfall.
Revenue from Europe decreased by 7% to $10.6 million in the three months ended March 31, 2017, compared to $11.4 million in the three months ended March 31, 2016. In the twelve months ended March 31, 2017, revenue from Europe decreased by 24.9% to $25.7 million, compared to $34.2 million in the twelve months ended March 31, 2016.
Revenue from North America decreased by 83.3% to $0.1 million in the three months ended March 31, 2017, compared to $0.6 million in the three months ended March 31, 2017. In the twelve months ended March 31, 2016, revenue from North America decreased by 82.9% to $2.5 million, compared to $14.6 million in the twelve months ended March 2016. This was on account of relatively lower theatrical revenues from the film slate and lower catalogue revenues.