‘New ancillary rights of films can contribute a large sum to overall revenues’ – UTV Motion Pictures COO Siddharth Roy Kapur

UTV Software Communications’ motion picture brand UTV Motion Pictures is on a roll. The company listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternate Investment Market (AIM) on 2 July, 2007 and raised $70 million (around Rs 290 crores). The shares, which were listed at $2.90, climbed up to $3.075 on the first day of trading, thus marking up the company’s value to $320.22 million.


The new entity will be headed by UTV executive vice president marketing, distribution and syndication Siddharth Roy Kapur, who has now been promoted as the chief operating officer of UTV Motion Pictures.


After dabbling in various capacities in the FMCG and television sectors in companies like Procter & Gamble and Star TV, Kapur joined UTV in 2005. He has been responsible for the entire revenue chain for UTV Motion Pictures, which includes marketing, distribution and syndication for films.


The company’s movie slate is rich in content and all eyes are on the Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Bachchan starrer Jodhaa Akbar. Apart from this, there are another three movies lined up for release later this year.


In a chat with Businessofcinema.com, Kapur holds forth on the way forward for UTV Motion Pictures and its plans ahead.




What are the Hindi movies that are on floors at present and can you tell us the status of each and their release dates?

We have Vishal Bharadwaj’s The Blue Umbrella, which is scheduled for release on 10 August. We will be doing a limited release of the film under the UTV Classics banner.


Just a small interruption… The Blue Umbrella was scheduled for release in January this year. Why was it postponed?

We postponed the release of the film because we wanted it to do rounds of a few more film festivals. Also we were looking at an international partner on going forward with the film together. So that is something, which we are still looking at.


Coming to your other releases…

We have a thriller called Wednesday directed by Neeraj Pandey, which we are looking at releasing in September. It stars Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill, Amir Bashir and Deepal Shaw. September is a good window for an experimental film like this because there are not too many big releases around that time.


On 12 October we will be releasing Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Jodhaa Akbar, which stars Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Bachchan. The film will also see the comeback of Poonam Sinha (wife of actor-turned-MP Shatrughan Sinha) who is playing the role of Hrithik’s mother Hameeda Bano.


For Vivek Agnihotri’s Goal starring John Abraham, Bipasha Basu, Boman Irani and Arshad Warsi, we are looking at a November – December release.


Jodhaa Akbar and Goal are two films that we are really excited about and there will be a lot of marketing and promotion around them. The last quarter of the year is going to be really active.


In addition to that we have a film, which is tentatively titled Mumbai Meri Jaan directed by Nishikant Kamat (Dombivali Fast) and stars Paresh Rawal, Irffan Khan, R Madhavan and Kay Kay Menon amongst others. This film is about people whose lives were affected by the Mumbai train blasts. It’s not a political commentary but is about how people were impacted by the event.


Then we have Fashion, which is directed by Madhur Bhandarkar and stars Priyanka Chopra. The script is being worked upon and will be shot on the ramps of Europe like Milan, Paris. The film is scheduled to go on floors in September this year. We haven’t locked on the release date as yet but we will be looking at releasing it in the first half of next year.


Is Fashion included in the three film deal that UTV has inked with Priyanka Chopra?

If we are doing Fashion with Priyanka, then it will be a part of the three film deal that we have with her.


So has she been finalised for Fashion or talks are still on with her?

She’s pretty much locked in.


This is probably the first time that an actress has been signed on for a corporate deal. How did it come about?

No one has really signed on an actress for a film deal until now. The sort of profile and the kind of movies that Priyanka has done over the last three years has shown her commercial and creative potential.


We also share a like-minded vision on the projects that we want to do going forward. We have signed a three film deal with her and we will be closely evaluating the projects that we work on together. We will be jointly collaborating on the scripts, technicians etc. She will be involved in the creative process of the films.< Page Break >


What is the status on Dilli 6 and Rockstar?

We are not doing Imitiaz Ali’s film Rockstar. On the other hand, the pre-production and casting work for Dilli 6 is going on right now.


With so many films in your kitty now, how is UTV looking at exploiting the various revenue sources available?

We have a dedicated revenue team that works on tapping the various streams of revenue that can be exploited for a movie in terms of fine tuning each of the rights so that we can monetize each of them separately rather than license them in consolidated lots.


Whether it is satellite, Video-on-Demand (VoD), Pay-Per-View (PPV), Direct-To-Home DTH, mobile video-on-demand (MVOD), ringtones or music… we have a strategy for each of these rights.


Can you elaborate on the strategy?

The idea is to maximize revenues that we derive from each of these rights so there has to be a very compelling reason for us to license them as a package. What we would prefer is to be able to monetize them separately. I wouldn’t like to go into further details on this but all I can say is that we have identified the various new revenue streams that are coming into play now. They might be very negligible to start out with but going forward they will have a lot of potential. For example, internet downloads. We have taken the leap of faith and decided to look at day and date releases of some of our movies on the internet. We feel that the only way to assess if these revenue streams make sense is if we really give it a shot and try it. Right now, the new ancillary rights might form a very miniscule percentage of the overall revenues, but going forward the ratio will be higher.


Also when you look at the release windows for satellite and home video for movies; the only way to combat piracy is to be able to crash those release windows. That is one of the reasons why legal internet downloads make sense as you are catering to an audience who has either chosen not to go to the cinemas or doesn’t have access to a cinema hall. These are the people who are most susceptible to buying a pirated DVD/VCD.


The other way is to reduce the time lag between the theatrical and home video release of the film. We usually do a four week release of a movie in the overseas market on home video and six week in the domestic market post the theatrical release. But going forward we might actually look at crashing that window further.


But won’t that affect and limit your theatrical revenues?

We would take that call on a movie to movie basis. But just for the sake of sticking to a four or six week release window as that has been the norm, we are losing the opportunity to curb piracy, which is taking place at that point of time. At the same time, if you’re not losing out on theatrical revenue and your film has done its run, then why not come out with a DVD release?


Coming to your international productions, will I Think I Love My Wife have a home video release and not a theatrical one?

It is still having its theatrical releases across the world. At present we are not looking at a home video release in India. We might look at a theatrical release but we don’t have a specific plan for it at this point in time.


What about the other co-production ventures?

We have a deal with Will Smith and are at present exchanging a few scripts with him. We will know soon what the first of those two productions will be. The M Night Shyamalan movie is slated for release next year.


With Disney of course, we are in discussions about various things. They are stakeholders in UTV so there are on-going discussions.


The Yash Raj Films and Walt Disney animation JV came as a surprise because when UTV announced its partnership with Disney last year, it was said that the relationship will also be leveraged to movies and animation. Your comment?

The deal with Walt Disney was a non-exclusive one. It’s the same way that we’re working with Fox Searchlight, Will Smith’s Overbrook and Sony Pictures. We are free to work with any foreign studio and they are free to work with any Indian company.


Disney is a shareholder in our company and we are in discussions with them on opportunities to work together.< Page Break >


Can you justify the logistics of the Rs 2.80 billion (Rs 280 crores) deal for four films with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra?

The way that you should look at it is that we have announced a trilogy. Now a trilogy is only successful if the first part is successful. In our budget for the overall exercise, we are looking at the global markets for this so the scale of the projects will be big. There is a crossover potential as well and therefore the scalability of the film is such that we can look at higher budgets as we aren’t just targeting the diaspora audience.


So the budget might seem high when you compare them with the regular budgets of Indian films, which are made with a diaspora audience in mind and therefore the revenue mix has to be justified accordingly. But in the case of the trilogy, we are actually looking at a wider audience so the films have to be produced and marketed in that manner.


UTV Palador split within three months of coming together. Could you throw some light on what exactly happened and what happens to the movies that Palador brought to the table?

I wouldn’t really like to comment on that at this point in time. All I can say is that we are looking at resolving the matter amiably.


What kind of monies can we see UTV Motion Pictures pumping in for marketing of films like Jodhaa Akbar etc?

The marketing spends will be significant. I can’t give you numbers but I can give you a sense of it. On a movie like a Metro, for example, we had a P&A (prints and advertising) budget of almost the same as the cost of production of the movie. Metro was a smaller film made on a budget of Rs 70 million (Rs 7 crore) and the cost of production was kept tight. We’ve chosen to make films in a certain way and then go all out to publicise them.


Having said that obviously with Jodhaa Akbar and Goal, which have a higher COP (cost of production), we won’t be looking at marketing spends of 100 per cent of COP. In the case of Rang De Basanti, we had about 40 per cent COP spend on P&A.


What is the reason in setting up different brands like UTV Classics and Spot Boy Motion Pictures? Can you elaborate on the projects that are being undertaken by each?

We want to build a large slate of movies and that can be done in two ways. It can be done under one mother brand and the second is the way Walt Disney does it, wherein they have sub-brands like Buena Vista, Miramax etc. We have chosen to work with that model and that under UTV Classics we have films like The Blue Umbrella. Whereas Spot Boy Motion Pictures will pretty much be looking at the kind of movies that UTV Motion Pictures is doing. There isn’t any distinction. The idea is to enable us to broaden the slate and to have more resources working on different projects. I think you increase the overall brand value of the company if you develop more sub-brands.


At present we have The Blue Umbrella under UTV Classics. As far as Spot Boy is concerned, it’s still too early to talk about it as we are in the process of identifying a few projects for the same.


With the home video space heating up, how aggressive is UTV going to be in the space?

We ultimately want to mine revenues and make sure that our intellectual property does remain with us. But we are not caught up in saying that we have to retain all rights or sell all rights. It depends on a per deal basis but we do have a home video infrastructure, under which we release our movies. Having said that, there might be oneoff projects where we choose to work with other people depending on the commercial transactions. So we’re not locked into saying that we will only release our own movies ourselves.


But you’re not looking at acquiring content from content owners for home entertainment?

At this point in time we’re not looking at acquiring content from others. We are not looking at that as a separate business venture altogether but as a channel of distribution for our releases.


Apart from the traditional overseas markets like the US, UK and UAE, are there any other markets that you are looking at exploiting for theatrical releases?

I think South America has a lot of potential and we are looking to crack that market. We have not yet been able to break into that market from India. China has great potential as we share the same cultural sensibilities as them. If we can really take the right kind of product into that market, we might see a very good response there.


In Europe as well, there are smaller markets like Poland and Uzbekistan that are opening up apart from the traditional markets like France and Germany. I think even Italy is one market, which has a cultural sensibility that is quite similar to ours in terms of the passion and strong emotions in our social interactions. Certain movies do have the potential of doing well there. So far only Lagaan has had an Italian release.


So we are looking at non-traditional markets too apart from traditional markets like the US, UK, UAE, Australia, South Africa and Europe. In the traditional markets too we are looking at ways in which we can develop them further. So far the marketing efforts have not been that strong in these areas. There are some distributors there who have done their best but the support that they can get from producers here in terms of star visits, media promotions etc will definitely help to exploit these markets further.