Can Reliance Jio Change How Indians Watch Movies on the First Day?

When Mukesh Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries, on 12 August announced that its JioFiber users will get a chance to watch first-day, first-show movies from their living rooms, a lot of eyebrows were raised.

And before we realised, movie multiplex giants like PVR were sending out press releases looking to calm a bunch of anxious people. It was fairly clear that Jio did catch everyone by surprise.

But now that the dust has settled, it’s time to revisit the prospect of having new movies streamed on your TV screens. This will not only save you the time of going to a movie hall, it also saves you money on travel to the theatre and also on buying food and beverage as well.

However, the question we’re asking is, can Jio turn all of this into reality?

According to the company, JioFiber, its broadband network, will offer this service from mid-2020 onwards.

We still don’t know how much the user will be asked to pay to avail this feature, but the thought itself has generated excitement among people. Nobody likes additional expenses, and truthfully speaking, watching movies on a big screen can end up costing a lot.

Movies in Theatre – Costly Affair

For instance, booking a movie ticket costs Rs 180 for a person on average, add to that, if you’re booking online, then you pay another Rs 70 to 80 as internet convenience charges. Lets say you’re booking for three people, that’s Rs 540 + 80 = Rs 620.

But hang on, you need to grab a bite, which adds another Rs 230 for regular burger/popcorn, and Rs 250 for a regular Coke/Pepsi as well. All this implies, you’re spending over Rs 900 to watch a movie.

If JioFiber can offer movie shows for up to Rs 1,200 which is the amount paid for its monthly data plan, customers might just let go off the luxuries of watching movies on the big screen regularly.

According to the FICCI-EY numbers released in March this year, there are now 9,601 multiplex screens in India, though single screens continue to reduce. Does this imply movie halls are in danger of becoming obscure? Too early to make such assessments.

Building the Content

Which is why it’s interesting to see how Reliance has built its content partnerships over the past few years.

The company has joined hands with content creators like Alt Balaji and Eros Now, which will be used to produce and acquire Indian films and digital originals across all languages, as mentioned in a statement by Reliance.

"Reliance and Eros Now will equally invest up to Rs 1,000 crores in aggregate to produce and acquire Indian films and digital originals across all languages." - Reliance Industries and Eros International Statement

In addition to Eros Now, RIL’s existing media investments such as Viacom and Balaji Telefilms will be utilised to build, scale and consolidate the fragmented $20 billion Indian Media &Entertainment sector.

Could these be the production houses that offer first-day, first-show movies to JioFiber users next year? But what about the bigger media houses, and English movies like Avengers: The End Game, will they make it to your screen as well? This is probably where PVR has the upper hand when it says this:

"For decades, theatrical release window has been a valuable model for exhibitors and producers alike. In India and globally, producers have respected the release windows and kept a sacrosanct gap between the theatrical release date and the date of release on all other platforms, i.e. DVD, DTH, TV, OTT etc" - Kamal Gianchandani, CEO – PVR Pictures & Chief of Strategy, PVR Ltd.

We’ve already seen a lot of people have started adopting the "will wait for xxx movie to come on Amazon Prime or Netflix" and eventually, this might start hitting the coffers of PVR, Inox and the 9,000 other cinema multiplexes spread across the country.

"Theatrical and at-home are two completely different experiences and each has their own places. Both experiences have co-existed and prospered for decades and will continue to do so in the future." - Kamal Gianchandani, CEO – PVR Pictures & Chief of Strategy, PVR Ltd.

Granted, your TV (affordable or high-end) won’t match up to the audio or video experience of watching in a movie hall, but time has probably come for the consumer to ask what’s their spending limit on it? Let’s hope cinema brands realise what’s going to hit them.

Reliance has already changed the dynamics of the Indian telecom space with cheap data plans, and now the company is eyeing multiple strikes with one arrow, that is JioFiber, and we’re keen to see if the company can succeed where so many before them haven’t delivered on their promises.

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