Audio Cinema is fast catching up in India and already has 1.5 million subscribers across operators in India. With approximately 500 million mobile phone users in India, there is sort of a re-birth for entertainment in audio format – ‘audio cinema’.
UTV New Media, the digital arm of UTV, had launched ‘audio cinema’ in mid-2009, wherein a listener is narrated a full-fledged movie in about 90 minutes, which includes popular dialogues in the actors’ voices. The films range from classics to the recent ones, which are available in various Indian languages. Currently, the product is available in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Bhojpuri languages. Marathi and Gujarati languages are in the pipeline. Audio cinema is accessible through operators like Airtel, Reliance and Idea. Aircel, Vodafone and TATA are also said to have it available on their short code.
While the consumer has to just dial in a particular number for a movie on their phone and enjoy two movies, which is a bi-weekly feature, in each language. Audio cinema is slated to be the next big thing after CRBTs (Caller Ringback Tones), primarily because of the growth of this product in terms of the users in a matter of few months. Audio cinema today claims to have nearly 1.5 million users across all operators.
Speaking to exchange4media, Manish Agarwal, CEO, UTV New Media said, “At UTV New Media, we are in a business of offering innovative products across towns and cities and audio cinema comes as an extension. It strengthens our credentials, which from revenue point of view helps us shore up so many subscribers. We are now planning to launch the product in Marathi and Gujarati soon.”
“The movies available are a combination of both new and old, in fact, the old ones are doing better than the new ones. Voice audience recognises those dialogues and that is why the movies, old or new, do better in the audio cinema format. The challenge, however, is to remind our consumers to come again, since this is not a visual format, hence reminder messaging becomes a difficulty. Clarity of audio rights or clearing rights of audio cinemas to understand who has the rights has not been looked into,” he added.
According to Viren Popli, Head - TV and Digital Initiatives, Mumbai Mantra (Mahindra & Mahindra), “The scope of audio cinema is large in a market like India and fundamentally, the long audio format will work, in fact, it is an opportunity, however, pricing of the product, delivery, packaging is certainly a challenge. I believe that this is not a product meant for urban audience, but rural. The future of audio itself is very big and audio cinema is one more product offering that will help incremental opportunities.”
Pradeep Shrivastava, Chief Marketing Officer, Idea Cellular, explained, “Cinema has been a religion in this country and mobile as a technology that is powerful in delivering audio content, take for instance the success of music on mobile hence audio is extremely suitable today. Right now audio cinema is still in an experimental stage, however a new format may emerge going forward. Audio cinema is not consumed the way cinema on television or in the theatres are consumed it is different in audio format and we see a bright future of audio cinema in India.”
Audio cinema is still at an experimental stage in India, it has nearly 1.5 million users across operators, and while industry experts see a bright future for audio cinema, there is one school of thought that it will be more popular and more relevant to rural India as compared urban areas. The challenge, however, remains in packaging and delivery, apart from creating awareness and reminding the consumers about cinema in an audio format.