Theatres and OTT will co-exist: Vinod Bhanushali
President of Media, Marketing, Publish (TV) and Music Acquisition of T-series, Vinod Bhanushali, has worked with T-Series head honcho Bhushan Kumar for over 26 years. Being an integral part of Kumar’s T-Series, Bhanushali has worked closely in buying, marketing, promoting the music acquired or produced by T-Series. Before he worked with Bhushan Kumar, he had worked with his father, late Gulshan Kumar.
In conversation with Adgully, Vinod Bhanushali speaks about the pandemic effect on the film and content production industry, the growth of OTT platforms, and much more.
The pandemic has disrupted the film industry and it will take a long time for it to come back on track. What kind of losses has the industry suffered in the last 6-7 months?
Yes, it’s true there will be huge losses once the pandemic is over. We will have a clearer picture once we have a look at the P&L accounts and analyse as to what the losses are. But to my estimate, the kind of Box Office business that come from ticket sales of Hindi films right now would be approximately Rs 4,000 crore plus loss and in another three quarters there would be a massive loss of ticket sales, F&B services and advertising revenues. On top of that, there will be the operational charges loss as well.
Besides, F&B was a sizeable amount which used to come through the sale of that service and would always add up to the final profits.
Though multiplexes and cinema halls have been allowed to reopen in some states, people are seen to mostly stay away from the movie theatres. Will OTT be the future for new movie releases as they are building a substantial reach? With huge mobile penetration will the rural audience also shift to OTT viewing?
The total number of cinema goers and reach of the total population was not more than 10 per cent, which could cover the total expense amount and was generated from the entire theatre business. OTT is definitely growing, but we cannot ignore theatres, because they play a primary role. Actors will become superstars and stars only in theatres, so we will require theatres. However, OTT films are a different ballgame, especially in this COVID situation. Once theatres are normalised and open, there will be a need of a lot of films to be directed for both the mediums. So, I feel theatres and OTT will co-exist soon. OTT does not depend only on films as they have other content as well in other languages and international web shows, TV shows, and old sitcoms like ‘Friends’. The content is on demand and you can watch it anytime. So, if you compare films and OTT, then OTT is a different ballgame altogether.
Content has been a challenge, especially during the lockdown? How did you navigate and plan your content strategy? What kind of content do you focus to meet the demand of the digital players, who are always on the lookout for something fresh and new to engage their audience?
Firstly, as a label we definitely wanted films to release and every film made, it goes to the theatres with us. Before the film releases in theatres, we have song releases – every film has at least 4 to 5 songs. It could be a T-Series production or the films that we have bought music rights for; for instance we have the music rights for the upcoming film ‘Sooryavanshi’, which is not a T-Series production. Unfortunately, we could release neither the films nor their songs during the lockdown period. But having said that, we have planned a lot of singles for artist like YoYo Honey Singh, Neha Kakkar, Guru Randhawa, Dhvani Bhanushali, Tulsi Kumar, Jubin Nautiyal, and Sachet Tandon. We started making singles with some of our singers, which was made available to the listeners on various platforms such as music streaming sites and on our YouTube channel.
As far as films were concerned, what we did during the lockdown was conducting a lot of narrations via Zoom calls and readied ourselves for a definite reopening phase by planning production schedules, and as you know, we have already started shooting. Abhishek Kapoor has already started shooting for a film with Ayushmann Khurrana and Vaani Kapoor. We shot some part of ‘Mumbai Saga’, a song with YoYo Honey Singh and John. We shot a film in film from NA, starring Arjun Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh. We started shooting for ‘Satyamev Jayate 2’ from October 19.
I think anybody can engage the audience with their content. It’s not about the platform, but about the content that people want. Despite so many films being made, there is a constant research for good script and content. We have many writers and creative partners; it is the team who basically decides and zeroes in on the product. Of course, we have data and information about the theatrical release from now or earlier times, requirement of the platforms, what is our requirement and what people actually want. That’s how we keep addressing the issues or decide what people might like. We also have a feeling that at times the consumer might not be fully aware about what he/ she wants. But if you give they something good, they will definitely take it. Last year, there were two films – ‘Tanhaji’ and ‘Kabir Singh’ that crossed Rs 300 crore, which is not a small feat. We have given lot of good films like ‘Pati Patni Aur Woh’, ‘Satyamev Jayate’, ‘Batla House’, all of which have different kind of content and have worked well in catering to the audiences’ palates.