Praveen Kumar, the President of the Kannada Film Producers Association (KFPA) has been very proactive in his tenure. His latest announcement when the film industry is trying to re-launch itself has however caught the audience by surprise. He does not want new films released till the Digital Service Providers (DSPs) like Qube and UFO do away with their fees. The DSPs have not yet relented. So audiences in Bengaluru and Karnataka will have to do with reruns of old films till the issue is resolved. Kumar spoke to S Shyam Prasad on the issue and the stand taken by the KFPA.
Q: Is the decision not to release new films still in place?
A: UFO and Qube are not supportive to our cause. They want to make profits at all costs. They have made money all these years. It is time for them to have a sustainable policy now. Our decision not to release new films continues. The service providers make money from advertisements which they never shared with the producers. They can keep that money for now and do away with the service charges.
Q: Qube announced that it would reduce service charges by 50 per cent. Is that not good enough?
A: This offer is only for two months. We cannot accept that offer. They charge Rs 14,000 per week for a movie per screen if it is in 4k format and Rs 12,000 per week for a screen if it is in 2k format. Producers in this situation are unable to bear this burden. Service providers will not lose money. They make money out of advertisements as I said. Without a producer making a movie, there is no business for theatres, actors, technicians or even content for the audience. But why does everyone want to make money out of the producer?
Q: But how long are you willing to wait?
A: We are seeking service providers to waive off the fees for at least two years. But let them start and we can discuss the issue as soon as things get back to normal. Let them enjoy the advertisement money till then.
Q: Won’t Kannada film makers be affected due to this stand?
A: Even Tamil Nadu film bodies are seeking the same benefit. But we could not meet due to COVID and put up a joint demand. Producers are suffering everywhere.
Q: How long will it be before normalcy returns?
A: It will take at least a year. We are only asking for a give and take policy. All these years DSPs enjoyed both advertisement revenue and fees from producers. It is time they paid back to the industry so that it gets back on its feet.
Q: How much money do they make from advertisements? Can it compensate for their loss?
A: They do not suffer any loss. We asked for shares in advertisements that they never agreed to. They can run their business profitably from advertisements alone. It is not an insignificant amount. They are making crores from ads alone.
Q: Two years ago you made similar demands but backed down.
A: We were cheated by someone inside. Film bodies from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and the Telugu states met in Bengaluru and pressed this demand. We also sought additional share from Book My Show. BMS charges extra service charges from the audience but it does not reach producers. DSPs are making money out of our products and not sharing it with us. This time we are very strict with our demands. Producers cannot be made scapegoats any longer.
Q: Film bodies were planning their own DSP operation.
A: We had planned. But as I said, an insider worked against our interests.
Q: A standoff will be a loss for everyone.
A: We give the content, let the theatres pay the service providers. Earlier we used to give celluloid reels. Theatres had their machines to project them. Now these guys have cropped up in between and sucking money out of producers. If theatres want new films let them pay the DSPs or get a new DSP who does not charge.
Here let me appreciate the theatres and exhibitors. They understood the problems of the producers and are not charging rents. Let the industry revive and we shall see later, they said. That is how cooperation works. But the DSPs are not even willing to listen. They are adamant. It is their problem now.
Q: What if some of the producers go ahead and release their films paying the DSPs?
A: It is their fate and they will be responsible for the outcome. Let us wait for 2-3 months and see how they run the show without new movies. We have waited for seven months. We can wait two more months.