In a highly fragmented market where digital media-based advertising is the latest entrant, UTV New Media is working towards selling its ‘Audio Cinema’ format as a marketing tool.
Audio cinema provides abridged versions of Indian films on a voice platform and is accessible on mobile phones. Cinema buffs residing in small towns end up paying Rs 30 a month to listen to Sholay, Wake Up Sid, and episodes of popular soaps such as Ramayan.
Audio cinema does not fall under the traditional mode of advertising — not yet — and for it to become one it needs scale. In the last eight months, UTV New Media, part of Ronnie Screwvala-led UTV Group, saw 1.3 million new subscribers and is contributing around Rs 5 crore at the operator level. The company expects to touch Rs 10 crore by the year-end.
“For quite some time the Audio Cinema is seeing high traction from tier-II & III cities. There is still a long way before the demand reaches maturity. As a business proposition it is a lower margin, higher volume game, and has the potential of being seen as a media,” said Manish Agarwal, CEO, UTV New Media.
Besides UTV New Media, Short Format is the only other player in the segment.
In a bid to scale up subscriber volume there will be more regional content — Malayalam, Telugu, Bhojpuri and Tamil — and short format projects including TV soaps and cricket matches.
At present UTV New Media has 300 movies in its database, which is regularly updated. The company is in talks with producers to include audio cinema as part of their marketing strategies and release audio cinema simultaneously with new movies.
Anticipating the advent of 3G technology the company is also working on providing video format advertisements.
“IPL was monetised in many different ways. Producers (films and soaps) need to look at multiple ways to monetise and promote their work. The audio cinema subscriber is a completely different audience. In small towns, the visual imagery for a lot of films and soaps is quite high,” said Punitha Armugam, Group CEO, Madison Media.