This made in India streaming platform allows filmmakers and consumers to meet on an even footing

ABC Talkies is a filmtech platform that acts as a marketplace for independent films. Filmmakers can upload their work, find willing viewers, and eventually buyers from larger OTT platforms.

The recent cinematic revolution driven by OTT platforms has changed the nature of film viewing tremendously. This has led to niche players like ABC Talkies, an independent streaming and sale platform launched in 2021, enjoying their moment in the sun.

Founded by CEO Shalibhadra Shah and CCO Siddharth Sinha, Gurugram-based ABC Talkies is described as the “world’s first cinema marketplace”.

“ABC Talkies is a filmtech platform and not just another OTT platform. We do not simply use technology to stream films; we combine films and technology to offer an extremely unique experience to the audience.

"We do not restrict any films from being uploaded on our platform as long as they conform to government guidelines. Hence, every filmmaker can find an audience for their work, without any cost to them for uploading the content,” explain the founders.

The idea

Siddharth began his professional journey with the Indian film industry in Mumbai in 1999 when he worked as an Assistant Director for prominent television serials, before moving to CNBC and ETV Urdu. He then joined Sound & Vision, India’s biggest dubbing studio, and relocated to Delhi. Here, he shifted to the events and entertainment industry, by launching ShowBoat, an event management company, in 2018.

His expertise in this field, combined with his past experience in the film industry, led to him conceptualising ABC Talkies in early 2020.

Shalibhadra is a strategist with experience in strategic business operations, business transformation, branding and creative communication. He has experience in developing a range of hardware and software products based on artificial intelligence and AR/VR technologies, and has also worked on the launch of the Digital India campaign for the Government of India. These skills aided him in devising the ABC Talkies platform.

The beta version of their web portal was launched in February 2021 and work is ongoing on the mobile app intended for launch in October.

The name, suggested by Siddharth, was an easy one for the team to narrow in on. As the idea focussed on films and cinema, All ‘bout Cinema (ABC) combined with the traditional word for cinematic offerings, ‘Talkies’, fit well as a brand name.

Growth and more

“On the face of it, the pandemic seems to have brought the film industry to a standstill, yet it opened up many interesting opportunities as well. The industry as a whole is undergoing a transformation.

"The large-scale acceptance of OTT platforms is clear proof of the transformation and the opportunity that lies ahead. Digital content consumption has grown exponentially post pandemic, and whetted consumer appetite. Indie cinema is gaining acceptance and there could not be a more opportune time for indie filmmakers to find their footing and grow,” Siddharth shares.

ABC Talkies is a self-funded platform – the founders invested Rs 1.5 crore themselves and raised Rs 2 crore through their network of friends and family.

Currently, the platform is in the testing and beta phase where the focus is on attracting filmmakers and building the content library.

So far, ABC Talkies has been able to attract more than 220 filmmakers who have uploaded more than 170 films across 12 languages.

They have almost 20 channel partners on board from across the country, and their viewer acquisition programme is set to begin in October 2021.  

They get the word out through social media, their filmmaker network, PR activities, and online interactions with film communities. Digital marketing and viewer outreach is set to begin from the next quarter.

How it works

Working primarily on a pay-per-view basis, ABC Talkies also operates on multiple revenue streams. Shalibhadra highlights,

“We are not an OTT platform and our streams include pay-per-view ticket sales, ad sales, commercially viable movie sales to OTT platforms, as well as selling the rights to re-produce/remake films showcased on our platform.”

Though the company is based in Gurugram, their tech team is in Ahmedabad and the content acquisition team is in Mumbai.

As India’s first filmtech platform creating a unique marketplace for cinema that caters to a ‘glocal’ audience of filmmakers and consumers, ABC Talkies stands apart from anything else in this space in India.

“While we have a few global competitors in this space, we are the first in India. Our proprietary process also sets us apart from global competition. We want to become the trusted digital library where OTT platforms can buy commercially viable indie films directly from the creator,” they explain.

ABC Talkies caters to a pan-India audience and is open to filmmakers from across the country. They also have a smattering of films from a few African countries, Nepal, and Pakistan, and are working on opening up to other international filmmakers and viewers soon.

Currently working on a B2B and D2C model catering to filmmakers, end buyers, and consumers, the platform invites all categories of filmmakers with any kind of content - short films, feature films, documentaries, and cine plays. The filmmaker has the freedom to choose the amount they earn as revenue on ticket sales.

An array of film reviewers watches each film, rates it, and offers feedback. Based on this, a few good films are picked every month; the filmmakers are spotlighted through various marketing and PR initiatives. Free dubbing in any other language — regional or international — is also offered to the filmmaker when they reach a certain milestone of viewership on the platform.

ABC Talkies' CEO Shalibhadra Shah and CCO Siddharth Sinha aim to combine films and technology to offer a unique experience to the audience

Siddharth adds, “Certain films have great stories but are not shot well because of a monetary crunch. We help filmmakers recreate those films through sponsorships from corporate clients.”

Once films reach a certain viewership milestone on the platform, they are open to be picked up by other OTT platforms or independent distributors to preview and buy, after gaining the assent of the filmmaker.

Future plans

Shalibhadra shares, “The Indian audience is opening up to indie cinema gradually. A platform such as ABC Talkies will certainly push independent cinema as these filmmakers now have a way of monetising their work, which in turn will lead to more good cinema being added in this category.

"The task is definitely uphill and will require us to sustain ourselves for the long haul, but we are very positive about the future of indie cinema based on our business plans.”

With a clear seven-year expansion plan charted out, ABC Talkies is aiming for industry-wide disruptions. Currently following an approach focused on cementing their pan-Indian presence, they plan to move to global markets eventually, beginning with the leads they have in Africa, Canada and the US.

ABC Talkies has already been recognised by Start Up India and got a DIPP certificate. The founders end by saying, “We can proudly say that we are a made in India platform with even the technology being built here from scratch.”

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Edited by Teja Lele Desai


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