“This is the question that we are faced with very often and not just in India but also globally,” Kamal Gianchandani, CEO of PVR Pictures and Chief Business Planning and Strategy PVR Ltd said on the company’s earnings conference call. The question: whether there has been a change in audience preferences because of the advent of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Gianchandani pointed towards the increase in admissions in the US, despite the dominance of Netflix in that market, saying that “…in the USA the admissions have consistently breached the 1.3 billion mark over the last five to six years. This year will be down to maybe about 1.25 billion, a drop of about 4-4.5% but that is mainly because of the cyclical nature of our business.”

“…Netflix, Amazon Prime, with full credit to them, have coexisted, and in fact, helped the overall increase in content consumption and overall increase in revenues that go back to the content creators. India is going to be no exception. The big difference being that most of the western entrainment markets are saturated, there is absolutely no growth in theatrical circuits. US has been 40,000 screens for the last five or six years,” he added, saying “India which has been at about 8,500 and 9,000 screens, we would continue to lose single screen to dilapidated traditional screen but we continue to add multiplex screens, the good quality experiential, premium-ised, when use for being entertained. So India is a growth market.”

“We felt no impact of Netflix. There is no evidence to suggest that the consumer trend is changing because every quarter you look at this quarter of course a lot of things happened, which is the reason that we have our same-store drop, but do not forget that 1Q of this year was a record 1Q, and considering that the last year 1Q was a record one”

“All we would like to say that cinema business is extremely robust and continues to remain robust and India being a growth market we are absolutely no challenge for Netflix or any other alternate source of entertainment,” he said. Famous last words? Time will tell.

Change in the theatrical window, because of online film releases?

An analyst on the earnings call also asked about whether the theatrical window – the time-gap between the theatrical and online release – is being impacted, and whether, like in the US, the studios and the industry are negotiating with Amazon, perhaps for compensation when studios release their movies online.

Gianchandani responded by saying that the discussion in the US is not with substantiated information. “No studio, no exhibitor has come out and given an official statement in this context so it is hard to comment what is really happening back in the US but in India, we are constantly engaged with our content partners. They are extremely respectful and mindful of what we bring to the table, a very appreciative of the efforts that the exhibitors put into this business. The revenue that comes into the film business as a result of more number of multiplexes, increase in average ticket prices is something which is helping the entire film business and everyone is extremely respectful and careful about protecting his revenue stream going forward. Windows, in that context, we have full confidence that our content partners will respect this sacrosanct model which has been in existence for very long duration, which has basically benefited all stakeholders in, film business. Beyond that, the discussions we had with them are sensitive in nature and I would not like to put them out in public domain.”

On the last call, responding to a similar question on the theatrical window, Nitin Sood, CFO of PVR Ltd, had said that “…you have to remember that if you have to watch a film legally on day one, first weekend, first week, second week, the only place that you can go and watch a film is at a theater. So, the windows between theatrical release and release on any other platform will be sacrosanct”…”If they offer big monies to acquire a film, we believe is good for the industry because it goes into investments of bigger and better films which eventually will come back to theatres when they meet and they will benefit the entire industry, the entire value chain.”

50% of ticket sales are online

Around 50% of ticket sales, in terms of admissions, is through online platforms, PVR disclosed. These are not only through PVRs direct platforms but also through partners like “Bookmyshow, PayTM, Ticketnew and a few others.”

Loyalty program is platform agnostic: to launch on BookMyShow, Paytm and TicketNew

PVR launched a loyalty program recently, called PVR Privilege. Sood said that this is owed to a shift in consumer behavior, and purchases via mobile phones and online (50% of their sales). PVR Privilege will be platform agnostic: “It would be consumers buying PVR ticket would be able to earn privilege points on Paytm, Ticketnew, Bookmyshow and all other platforms we work with.” At this point, it is being offered via PVRs physical box office, their mobile app, and pvrcinemas.com. The points will be in addition to the benefits that the partners offer consumers. 

Gianchandani added that “Loyalty has to be seen with this vision that it is an initiative which will give us a competitive advantage”, in terms of stickiness and spending on F&B (Food and Beverages). “But I think the real advantage of loyalty programme is that on a very long-term basis”, he said, “it will give us a direct link with our best customers, our ability to engage with them in a meaningful precise manner if something, which would become the competitive advantage that I spoke about.” Gautam Datta, CEO PVR Ltd, added that the idea is to get one more visitation from a user to the cinema to watch a film. “The whole idea is that there is a discount sitting on your mobile, which is waiting to get burnt and you can only burn it when you get to PVR and either buy a ticket or get to eating more. So that is the way, I think the whole focus is if this spring-board called, privilege can get consumers to come one extra time, eat one extra item.”

Source: PVR earnings call Q2-FY18, Q1-FY18, PVR Privilege presentation