The rise of TVOD in the Indian OTT market

Industry players discuss the fast-emerging TVOD model as not only a recurring revenue stream for OTT platforms but also a way to ensure customer retention

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Apr 29, 2021 9:43 AM

The fast-growing Indian over the top (OTT) sector is largely dominated by Advertising VOD (AVOD) and Subscription VOD (SVOD) players. Now the third set of players have emerged on the scene with Transaction VOD (TVOD) as their revenue model. TVOD model allows viewers the flexibility to pay only for content that they want to watch.

According to FICCI-EY 2021 report, the TVOD model had made a strong beginning in 2020 with several films releasing through this method when cinema halls were shut. The TVOD model is currently in its infancy with players like ZEEL-owned ZEEPlex, BookMyShow Stream, Shemaroo Entertainment's ShemarooMe Box Office, FanCode, and Epic On among others trying their luck.

ZEEPlex and ShemarooMe Box Office came into existence during the pandemic as film producers struggled to release their films due to the shutdown of cinema halls. OTT players like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, and ZEE5 had also seized the opportunity by pivoting to direct-to-digital film releases.

With live events taking a big hit during the pandemic, online ticketing platform BookMyShow ventured into video streaming with BookMyShow Stream. Recently, IN10 Media's OTT platform EpicON enabled the TVOD model on its platform to widen its subscriber base.

BookMyShow COO – Cinemas Ashish Saksena said that the TVOD model has been untapped in India at scale so far. He added that BookMyShow Stream follows the global traditional window where TVOD comes after a theatrical window for a film and precedes the window for the subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platforms.

"BookMyShow Stream empowers users to pay only for the content that they watch - a prevalent trend in other global cinema markets. The content library of BookMyShow Stream has been specially curated, with handpicked titles from across the world. With this, we have brought forth a neutral hosting platform that gives equal visibility to content creators and production houses in a model that has been unutilised and unavailable in India at such a massive scale of targeted consumer reach," Saksena stated.

Zee Studios Chief Business Officer Shariq Patel said that the idea behind launching ZEEPlex was to enable cinema lovers to view the latest blockbusters from the comfort of their homes, at one price point across the country while providing one of the widest platforms to filmmakers to showcase their stories. "We launched in October 2020 and since then, we’ve been witnessing encouraging signs. So far, the response has been overwhelming and just goes to prove that ‘content is king’. While the urban response has been predictably great, the platform’s growth is coming from smaller towns."

In line with the changing business dynamics, the film studio has devised a simultaneous multiplatform release strategy for Salman Khan-starrer 'Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai'. The movie will release on 13th May in theatres worldwide and on ZEEPlex.

EpicON COO Sourjya Mohanty said that the platform decided to adopt the TVOD pricing model due to consumer demand. The platform is offering handpicked movies, new TV Shows like Paapnisini Ganga, and top podcasts across 20+ genres on a TVOD basis.
"With the current immaculate growth trajectory of EPIC ON with 17+ Million MAUs across all the partners' platforms, we have had immense learning about our audience wherein users are interested in paying for a particular title of a movie/TV Shows for consumption. I consider is it very much as a counterpart of SVOD service wherein pay-per-use helps monetising content with better efficiency and scale," he stated.
According to BookMyShow's Saksena, the platform crossed over 100,000 streams (including pre-booked streams) for Zack Snyder’s Justice League within just 3 days of the film's release. "With this, BookMyShow Stream became the fastest TVOD platform in India to cross this mark within just 45 days of its launch. Movie-lovers have used BookMyShow Stream as their preferred TVOD movie streaming platform to get access to some of the most popular and critically acclaimed films from around the world since it has been rolled out, with over 1,75,000 streams in less than 3 months."
Dream Sports-promoted digital sports destination FanCode is looking at the TVOD model to grow its business. The idea behind a transaction-led model is to provide flexibility to users by not forcing them into taking long-term subscriptions. “We are in the early stages of monetisation. We are experimenting. If you see our app we are experimenting with microtransactions. We are not forcing users to commit to long-term subscriptions. We are giving them an opportunity to view an individual match,” FanCode co-founder Prasana Krishnan had told exchange4media in an earlier interaction.

Krishnan had cited the example of Bundesliga where football fans have the opportunity to view even a single match. “In Bundesliga, we are offering fans an opportunity to subscribe to a series or an opportunity to subscribe to an individual match.” The idea is to take the price barrier out of consumers' minds. “We will run a lot of such experiments before we zero in on a long-term business model. We are looking at a transaction-led model.”
TVOD pricing strategy

OTT players that have adopted the TVOD model have come up with multiple pricing options to cater to diverse audience sets.

BookMyShow Stream gives users the option to rent a movie for a finite duration or buy it for unlimited access with prices for movies suitable for all pockets, starting from Rs 40 to Rs 700, depending on the recency and scale of the movie on the platform.

EpicOn is experimenting with a unique pricing strategy for Podcast, video, and E-books content wherein users can select any content of their choice at pay - per - use model to be consumed within 48 hours of selection. "Some top titles will be available at a minimum of Rs 10 per season or movie which gives users the flexibility to binge-watch as per their ease and leisure," Mohanty said.

Patel noted that ZEEPlex has a dynamic pricing model, but the movie rent starts from as low as Rs 99 and varies from thereon.

Digital payment infrastructure

If there is one thing that has encouraged industry players to experiment with the TVOD model, it is the growing penetration of digital payments thanks to the availability of affordable smartphones and mobile data coupled with the mushrooming of digital payments companies. TVOD players have tied up with digital payment partners to facilitate smooth transactions for consumers.

Saksena noted that BookMyShow Stream has incorporated all the digital payment modes in its infrastructure, with the options available on BookMyShow being replicated for BookMyShow Stream as well. "To enhance our customer experience, we closely work with RuPay and LazyPay as our digital payment partners, giving special offers to consumers using these payment modes. UPI continues to be a preferred choice of transaction for BookMyShow Stream users, with the platform allowing transactions to be made through all existing UPI service providers."

Patel said that the payment infra is very much capable of enabling microtransactions, especially when almost everyone uses at least one or more digital payment methods. Digital payments, he said, have become the most convenient method of payment.

"We have partnered with distribution players like Dish D2H, Tata Sky, and Airtel Digital TV – they have their own payment & booking modules – making it very easy for audiences to access. Apart from these, it is also available on ZEE5," he added.

EpicON's Mohanty pointed out that the overall payment system and subscription management systems have evolved with time. "We are able to offer personalized payment options to users based on their past transaction methods with the help of AI and Big Data. With the current payment partners like PayU and PayTM, with whom we have rolled our various sachets packs and complimentary bunding offers - HT E-Paper, Student packs along with EPIC ON subscription. On the other hand, we have Cons-Cent, which we have partnered for micro-payments wherein users can take the option."

Are the Indian consumers ready for the TVOD model?

Saksena observed that consumers are willing to pay for content that they like. "Based on the TVOD model, the platform is an extension in the way we create value for our content partners as also our customers."

Patel noted that the TVOD format might be new to India but ‘buying a ticket to watch a film’ isn’t. "Going to the theatres for films has always been one of the most preferred leisure activities and with ZEEPlex, we have provided similar offering at home. India wasn't ready for subscription-based OTT platforms as well, but now, we are one of the largest consumers of various platforms. It's giving power to the people."

Offering his take, Mohanty said, "With millennials and GenX debating continually on owning vs subscription, we have seen during Covid 19 lockdown with subscription services growing > 40%. The subscription economy is on the rise globally. Hence it's encouraging for platforms like us to offer various bespoke products around subscription-like monthly auto-renewal, pay-per-use, complete access with and without ads, and other formats. Marketers should look at wooing the millennials to join the platforms and innovate ways to increase the lifetime value and MRR."

Will TVOD expand the OTT subscriber base?

Patel feels that the TVOD model does have a multiplier effect. "For starters, with the Indian subscriber base already growing, the TVOD model will help in adding to it. And unmatched entertainment with cost-effective prices at the consumer's convenient time and the place is exactly what the future is."

Saksena said that content will continue to play a key differentiator in attracting audiences to streaming services and be the tipping point in converting TVOD as a commercially viable format in getting more and more consumers adopting the online movie-watching experience in a pay-per-view format.

"In just 2 months since its launch, BookMyShow Stream has added 33% new transacting users to BookMyShow, showcasing the strength of the platform backed by a highly curated library of compelling content, which has been personalised and delivered as per consumers’ preferences and past behaviour on the platform. We have also observed that users from markets beyond the metros such as Pune, Kochi, Vizag, Thiruvananthapuram, and Jaipur are choosing BookMyShow Stream as their preferred movie streaming platform. This has exposed the audiences that have as yet not fully tapped the rising online movie watching experience to the TVOD format, making them an extremely valuable consumer base and thus expanding the overall market," he added.

Mohanty reckons that the TVOD model will create an agile, recurring revenue stream for OTT platforms. He also notes that the model will provide impetus to ongoing revenue streams through innovative pricing, packaging, bundling, campaigns and promotions. He added that the TVOD model will also enable and encourage the retention of customers longer by implementing frictionless payment strategies that reduce subscriber churn.

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