BookMyShow checks in to India's crowded streaming party with live events

Indians spent over four hours and fifteen minutes a day watching TV during the lockdown compared to three hours and forty minutes before Covid-19
In the streaming video rush comes a new creature this week: BookMyShow (BMS) Online is a streaming platform for live events. Sunburn Home Festival, the virtual edition of Asia’s biggest electronic dance music festival, is among the first events it will stream live on July 10-11. You can pay Rs 99 for a day or Rs 199 for both days.

BMS Online also conducts a virtual musical talent discovery show with Kailash Kher as judge. The finalé will be streamed live on July 7. Other upcoming events include the India shows of Doncaster (South Yorkshire) band Bang Bang Romeo and London-based band Electric Enemy. There are theatre workshops with veterans like Puneet Issar, Rohini Hattangadi, Rakesh Bedi, and Anant Mahadevan. These are among the first of many concerts, events, and workshops lined up by India’s largest ticketing portal in its bid to ride out the pandemic storm. 

In a normal year, BMS sells 200 million tickets of movies, plays, and other events. “We have always been the de-facto place for consumers to discover out-of-home,” says Albert Almeida, chief operating officer, Live Entertainment, BookMyShow. 

To stay connected with its user base during the lockdown, BMS began “delivering content and experiences at home”, says Almeida. It facilitated the discovery, registration, and reach for over 750 events, such as Live From HQ (music, comedy, spoken word), Theatre Live (drama, monologues, theatre, reading), Vodafone #RechargeForGood (music), among others. Close to 4 million people saw these events in the first month of the lockdown, claims the firm. Currently close to half a million viewers log into these virtual events every week. Note that all of these were free. “We saw great affinity for comedy, music, international artistes, and upskilling through master classes,” says Almeida.

Armed with these insights, BMS started moving some of these events to pay in the latter part of June. Now about two-thirds all such events are behind paywall. With BMS Online, everything is pay. 

Why stream

BMS makes a bulk of its undisclosed revenue from the estimated 8-10 per cent it gets on ticket sales. “With the pandemic, we hit pause,” says Almeida. 

There are no ticket sales happening and no clarity on when full-scale production, release, and exhibition of films, plays or other events will happen. Even when things open up, people might be reluctant to step out, say experts. This means the next six to 12 months, “offer a window of opportunity for live events to be delivered home. The venue changes to BMS. We can serve everyone from Gujarat and Bengaluru to Kanyakumari”, says Almeida.

The pricing depends on the genre, audience, value-additions, et al. For instance, a Naseeruddin Shah play could be streamed live from the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai for say Rs 100 each. This might attract thousands of enthusiasts. Of these, 25 could be platinum tickets for say Rs 1,000 each. These would give viewers the privilege of participating in a post-performance question-and-answer session with Shah. The price point could begin at Rs 50 and could go up to a few thousands for some categories.

Will this put BMS in conflict with films or theatrical firms? “We are working with theatres to digitise plays. We are collaborating with live event firms to put together events. The content is coming from those partners,” says Almeida. He also points out that BMS has been the co-producer on several large events, such as Ed Sheeran concert and the Disney musical, Aladdin. 

Roughly 40 per cent of its revenue comes from advertising and live events, the rest is commission on ticketing. “We are building this (the streaming business) not just for the intervening period but for later as well,” says Almeida.

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