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By Kaushik.L.M

The Vishwaroopam DTH premiere is well and truly ON. The publicity and promotional machinery has started in the form of big ads in newspapers and advertisements through the various DTH players in their respective eco-systems. It makes sense to spend some time now to understand the nitty-gritty of this plan. We shall do a quick SWOT analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) of Vishwaroopam’s DTH premiere which is scheduled for January 10th 9:30 pm.

All the six major players – Tata Sky, Airtel, Sun, Reliance, Videocon and Dish have signed up for this deal and a potential 48.8 million subscribers are set to be covered. The number of active subscribers is just 29.8 million though. Assuming that around 5 % of this subscriber base pay 1000 Rupees each for the Tamil version of Vishwaroopam (it is 500 rupees for the Hindi version), the potential revenue, even after tax cuts and revenue sharing with the DTH players, could be handsome for Kamal Haasan. But some analysts feel that given the high pricing, not many would be interested in signing up for this feed. We have to see how it goes.

Now coming to the strengths of this initiative, being a highly hyped film, the DTH premiere of Vishwaroopam would attract a lot of potential viewers who would not have otherwise gone to theaters. For example the Tamil folk living in cities like Delhi, Pune and Mumbai would be interested in seeing the Tamil version of the movie atleast through DTH as there is no guarantee that the movie would be hitting screens nearby their home. Spending 1000 Rupees and seeing the movie with the entire family is a reasonable bet for such Tamils even if the theatrical experience can’t be matched.

This DTH premiere also comes with the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) option disabled and therefore the feed can’t be recorded, as feared by many. Commercial establishments will not get this feed and any doubts that places like pubs and clubs can make a killing by charging a hefty amount per head for the feed, have been dispelled.

This entire DTH episode has also given tremendous amount of goodwill and positive hype for Kamal as well as the movie. Not to mention, the pride and bragging rights that would be invested in a person who actually watches the movie on his DTH a day prior to the theatrical release. Their FB walls and tweets would be totally devoted to how they are among the privileged few to have experienced this ‘first in the history of mainstream cinema’ occurrence. All this translates to more buzz for the movie. 

As part of the weaknesses, the DTH experience can never come near a theatrical experience. And with Kamal using Auro 3D surround sound and state-of-the-art explosion mechanisms in his movie, such phenomena can’t be perceived through the DTH feed, even with big home theaters around in many houses. Not to mention, the theatrical ambience, the dark and other acoustics. The pricing also could be too high for the average man to view the feed with his family. The penetration of this DTH premiere in rural areas is questionable, even considering the dominant presence of Sun DTH in rural markets. This plan seems to be clearly targeted at the urban well-to-do families. Does it also point to the movie’s target audience as a whole?

If by a remote chance, the movie doesn’t live up to the expectations, word of mouth about the movie would spread fast thanks to social media and the movie’s theatrical opening in the first weekend might take a beating.

Given the fickle power scenario in Tamil Nadu, what if there is a power cut when the feed is happening? Hard to imagine the angst that the head of the family will experience when his 1000 Rupees is compromised by a power cut.

Also, being a ‘first’, there might be some scope for technical concerns and blips. Until the premiere happens successfully, fears of such issues cropping up will loom large.

Now, let’s look at the opportunities created by Vishwaroopam’s DTH idea. Already, thanks to Kamal’s trendsetting move, other biggies in the near future are being trumped for similar DTH premieres. The entire Indian film industry must be watching this ‘pilot’ episode closely for the very many possibilities and outcomes. This is yet another technological progression made by cinema and it opens up another distribution avenue for filmmakers. Not to mention, the crores of money that is potentially up for grabs.

Smaller films in particular, will now be looking at the DTH avenue closely. Given, the tight crunch for theaters, smaller movies can now eye the DTH platform in addition to a quick TV premiere. Wider genres of movies can also be made now with an eye on the DTH platform. 

Finally, the threats posed by piracy are in focus yet again. Despite talks of the DVR being disabled, commercial establishments being left out and the easy tracking and identification mechanisms in DTH, there are always some loopholes in technology. Don’t be surprised if you notice a DTH CAM Rip of Vishwaroopam doing the rounds in the net on January 11th.

Theater owners’ fears of DTH luring the audience away from theaters aren’t without reason either. If in future, a proper pricing model is worked out and if Vishwaroopam’s DTH premiere is a big success without any technical blips and issues, there is no stopping DTH. All future movies will hop on to the DTH bandwagon and the opening weekend might be affected. Given the nature of the current day business, when the opening weekend is of prime importance, theater owners won’t appreciate such a competitor.

All in all, the DTH premiere of Vishwaroopam opens up a whole lot of possibilities and debate. As always, Kamal Haasan has set the ball rolling and has blazed a trend. We wish him all success on this path-breaking venture and also for a grand box-office success.

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