The $53-billion Walt Disney Company’s Disney India is on a roll. The Jungle Book grossed Rs 40 crore at the Indian box office in the first weekend ($103.6 million globally). Its new show, Gaju Bhai Sabka Bhai, starts airing this week. Beauty and the Beast, a locally-produced musical, has opened a new revenue stream. Siddharth Roy-Kapur,managing director of Disney India, talks to Vanita Kohli-Khandekar about the Indian business. Edited excerpts.
It has been two years since you took over from Ronnie Srewvala (founder of UTV, acquired by Disney). What are the big learnings?
The ability of a 90-year company that has been able to create IP (intellectual property) and take it all over and institutionalise it. It is one thing to create content. The other is creating a corporate structure that can take it to that level. Also, it tells you how critical ownership of IP is for building a long-term, sustainable model.
Where do you stand on the composition of your businesses?
On the film side, we have had some big hits with PK and now The Jungle Book. This year, we have Dangal and Jagga Jasoos coming up. We entered the live entertainment business with Beauty and the Beast. In gaming, Indiagames is the biggest online gaming platform. In TV, we have the No 1 kids’ network and we’re doing a lot of local animation now. TV and films contribute roughly equally to our topline. The rest comes from Disney consumer products and others.
Live events is a difficult business in India. What was the Beauty and the Beast experience like?
We just decided to go out there on a limb and do it. We had 8,000 auditions for a principal cast of 18 (total cast 100). Our experience in the film business helped – we knew how to get the right technicians and talent. We knew B&B could never be on the same scale as films, but it is profitable. (Tickets for the show are sold for Rs 1,500-7,500 each). We did 22 shows and got over 90 per cent occupancy in both the cities it was played in – Delhi (2,300 capacity venue) and Mumbai (1,650 capacity venue). There is The Lion King, Aladdin, a virtual treasure trove which we can bring here. The idea is to do a new show every 12-18 months and play the existing one in as many places as possible. The second season of B&B will open in Mumbai in May. The next show we will do is Aladdin.
Why is kids TV so under-monetised in India, in spite of having a bigger share of the audience than news?
Monetisation depends on the nature of the audience. Pester power is the reason to advertise (on kids channels). Advertisers may decide to reach out to women directly instead of through kids channels. But, we have seen (through research) the amount of influence kids have over purchase decisions.
Will video apps help in reaching kids directly and therefore monetising?
This is not about the platform but about the advertiser figuring out the importance of kids. In OTT (over-the-top or video apps), content is there but there is no monetisation. In fact, as a policy we don’t syndicate content to A-VoD (advertising-led video on demand) platforms. There is no question that people will gravitate towards digital, but TV is not going anywhere. Digital will augment TV viewing. The idea (in digital) is ‘let us drive habit to viewership and earn advertising’. The danger is when you start charging for content and they won’t need to keep you on. The moment you devalue content by saying, ‘since you are paying for data, the content is free,’ it is dangerous for IP owners.
What is Disney doing in the OTT space?
Disney Live houses all things Disney – shows, films, tickets for live events, merchandise and so on. It also offers an S-VoD (subscription-driven video on demand) service. We are working at taking it around the world. Being a first mover here won’t give us any compelling advantage. The family (content) service we offer cannot be replicated.
Your film business seems to be at the same scale as three years ago (8-10 Indian films a year).
We have become more circumspect about greenlighting projects. The cost of talent is still hurting this business. Our focus is on content-driven films. Bahubali (not a Disney film) did more than Rs 100 crore in Hindi in spite of having no known stars. If you give good stories, people will come to watch it, whether there is a star in it or not. The first ABCD made Rs 45 crore (at the box office) and the sequel did Rs 100 crore and it had no stars.
Your Hollywood films?
The Jungle Book was released a week before the US market and has had a great opening weekend, the biggest ever for a Hollywood film at Rs 40 crore. With it, we are leveraging our relationships in the (Indian) film industry with a voice cast that includes Nana Patekar, Priyanka Chopra (in the Hindi version), and Varun Dhawan is doing the voice for Captain America (releasing next month).