Cable Sankar



The business of Bollywood & DTH, Slumdog Millionaire, UTV


Hindi film industry is different in many ways. Hindi producers, though were selling the rights as cheap as we do, they fixed that mistake much earlier. As the reach of Hindi movies is pan-India and their movies enjoy worldwide business, they became clever and assertive in selling the rights pretty soon.

It is Hindi producers who pioneered the culture of releasing videocassette rights very soon after the film’s theatrical release.  It is undeniable that the producers earned good revenue through this process in the times when video was still famous. After the fall of videos and rise of satellite channels, Zee, India’s first Hindi satellite channel started to garner most of the Hindi film satellite rights. Immediately, fellow Hindi channels jumped in the arena and thus competition set in much earlier. Thus having realized their movies’ value, producers demanded and obtained fair prices for them. After the arrival of big names like Sony and Star, there was a massive demand generated for software related to Hindi film industry. The producers encashed that demand without skipping a beat. Hindi films reaped huge collections almost immediately after the release through nationwide release and global level sales. Due to this advantage, since the beginning, Hindi film industry was selling domestic satellite rights within a year and overseas satellite rights within a few months from theatrical release.

Thus within three weeks of theatrical release, their satellite rights were sold for good prices. Later one time broadcasting rights, which allows the channel to air the film only for one day within very few days of release, also started to earn good income for Hindi producers. Further income was generated when the same movie’s rights was sold to some other channel for 5 years or ten years tenure. It is important to note that this kind of income is not gifted for all Hindi movies. Films of Superstars or surprise hits only have this beneficial reception.

Hindi films have immense business due to their worldwide reach. Within a couple of weeks from the release date, they could even collect huge amounts like Rs. 100 – 150 Crore. Aamir Khan’s Gajini collected Rs.120 Crore within ten days of release. Similarly, Akshay Kumar’s Kambakth Ishq, which is widely proclaimed as an average grosser, has collected about 100 Crores.

Again due to the phenomenal reach, Hindi films’ satellite rights can be sold throughout the world. Now, Tamil and Telugu films have achieved this status as well. As many Tamil and Telugu people are spread across the globe on business and software profession, Tamil and Telugu language movies have respectable size of worldwide market now; not to mention global presence of Sri Lankan Tamils.

Direct To Home (DTH)

Direct to Home (DTH) is the next phase of technological evolution order of Video cassette, Cable network and Satellite television. It is the technological advancement, which does without wire or cable, and by means of a tiny dish of approximately one-meter in diameter, fetches in multiple channels to households.  DTH easily reached the places where the cable networks could not even think of. As DTH gained popularity, in addition to Doordharshan’s free of charge DTH, Zee television started ‘Dish TV’ for which the customer must pay the subscription. However, the subscription was justified with additional channels it came with. Meanwhile, the competition cannot be sleeping; Tata group and Star network have joined hands to start Tata Sky. Now Indian DTH market is present with brands of Dish TV, Tata Sky, Reliance’s BIG TV, Sun DTH, Airtel DTH and Videocon DTH.

All these companies were airing only channels in the period of inception. Later, with the advantage of addressability feature available in DTH technology, they brought in the facility to view a movie only for a day, paying certain amount. This was called as ‘Pay-per-view’. Zee TV took the lead in this as well. In their DTH service, it created few channels exclusively for Pay-per-view and started collecting money for viewing a movie only for one day.

In the beginning the satellite rights were inclusive of DTH rights - so all movies, which were aired in Satellite, were broadcasted in DTH as well. However, since there are around one million DTH connections in our country now, producers started selling satellite and DTH rights independently. Hence, just like M.G in film distribution, DTH networks started buying Satellite and DTH rights together for a certain rate. In present days, like foreign countries, movies are being released in DTH.

DTH Pay-per-view

Pay-per-view was first started in Zee network’s DishTV. Zee TV, which was involved in film production, was first releasing those films in DTH and later in its prime channel, Zee.  Later, as multiple ventures arrived in DTH, competition started between them.

In pay-per-view, a DTH provider would dedicatedly allot about 10 channels in its DTH service. They would also have the rights of brand new films, which have not been released in satellite channels yet. Pay-per-view rate would be fixed depending upon the quality and demand of the film and generally ranges between Rs. 25 to 100. The viewers are benefited with the low cost, digital quality viewing experience with entire family at the convenience of their own home.

Sometime back UTV decided to release their production Phir Kabhi directly in DTH. Overseas, it is very common for small budget movies to be released directly like this. The income generated through this DTH Pay-per-view would be equally shared between the producer and the DTH Company. Incidentally, Phir Kabhi’s budget was small as well (three crores).

Before Oscar fame, Slumdog Millionaire was released exclusively by Tata Sky in its pay-per-view frequency namely Showtime, at the rate of Rs. 25. The viewer ship counted was 175,000. Do the math and you could easily see how 25 X 175,000 = Rs. 437,500 was collected in a time span of three days! Beside theatrical collections, worldwide pay-per-view collections for Slumdog Millionaire are way higher too. Before the original movie reached Indian shores, pirated DVDs of Slumdog Millionaire were available in the market for dime a dozen. Against all these odds, this film has garnered huge loss through satellite rights and pay-per-view, with a relatively unpopular status.

Later, Tata Sky released movies like Kaminey, Agyaat and What is your Raashee? within two weeks of their respective releases in its Showtime pay-per-view channels. Viewership of Kaminey and What is your Raashee? stood at 100,000 and 20,000 respectively. Kaminey’s Pay-per-view rate was fixed as Rs. 75. Thus, in a single day, the movie grossed 75 Lakhs through pay-per-view alone. After this, overseas satellite rights, inland satellite rights, overseas and inland DVD rights and many more rights are still remaining to be sold. BIG TV too, has released Main aurr Mrs. Khanna through pay-per-view on the third day of its theatrical release. The viewing charges collected were @ Rs.75-100.

These days, same film is broadcast in multiple DTH networks in pay-per-view mode. This earns sizeable income for the DTH house and at the same time, when the production house divides and sells the film rights to multiple DTH companies, it earns excellent revenue. This is one of the reasons why film industry alone is buzzing with activity, even at this time of slowdown.

By screening a film like this, certain amount of collection that is not channeled to the theaters (read pirated CDs) could be collected by the production house. Also, with present economy, a family of four must spend at least Rs. 400 for movie tickets plus a few more hundreds for transport and hotel expenses. When compared, watching a new movie at home at Rs. 75 to 100 with digital quality feels great to the public.

Hindi film industry was just like Tamil industry, where the satellite and DTH rights are sold together. However, it has mastered in profit making and money extracting techniques such as individual sales of DTH rights and DTH rights sales to multiple companies. Tamil industry on the other hand, is sandwiched and struggling between two big names in the media, backed up by politics. Hence, it could not even think about such novel sales practices. The actual scenario is that the satellite channels here determine the price. Sad!

More than this, the real potential demand for Tamil films is yet to be realized and generated. The famous DTH network in Tamil Nadu, Sun Direct, is yet to start dedicated channel for pay-per-view. In Tamil Nadu only, except Chennai, there is virtually no market for other language movie. Perhaps that is the reason why DTH networks are not paying attention to Tamil movies, which a relatively small pay-per-view market.

[to be continued…

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