Fishing in troubled waters – Business Standard article- 270409
Abhilasha Ojha & Priyanka Joshi
As the doors to the Planet M store at Lokhandwala in Mumbai open for business, customers mill about the shelves wondering what DVD to take home. Thanks to the ongoing dispute between multiplex owners and film producers, which has deprived movie aficionados across the country of their regular dose of movies, the Rs 980 crore home video market has picked up steam. Expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 14 per cent to an estimated Rs 1,600 crore by 2013, players in this market are already cashing in on the opportunity that has presented itself. For starters, UTV World Movies has agreed to share its library with Shemaroo and release internationally acclaimed titles like House Of Flying Daggers, A Room With A View, Phantom Lover, A Tale of Two Sisters and La Zona. Priced at Rs 349, UTV’s inaugural titles include Korean, Mandarin, Spanish and English languages.
According to available data, the Indian market consumes over six crore CDs, DVDs and VCDs every year, of which alternate content like world cinema accounts for nearly 5 per cent. Advertisement Shantonu Aditya, Executive Director, UTV Global Broadcasting, is confident that lack of popular content at multiplexes would make consumers look at international cinema titles like never before. “We will release about 60 titles this year as home video entertainment,” says Aditya. So confident is the company that it is estimating to sell about 60,000 units, or 1,000 units of each movie, this year. Seventymm, an online DVD rental company, too is not complaining. Its Chief Operating Officer (COO) Subhanker Sarker says, “The home video market and organised movie rental players are seeing a surge in demand. We are seeing a growth in subscriber acquisition and service usage (number of movies rented per subscriber).” BigFlix.com, another online DVD rental portal, is reporting a rise in numbers. Kamal Gianchandani, COO, BIGFlix.com, says, “There is a visible growth of around 15 per cent in DVD rentals since the beginning of the multiplex-distributor strike… .” As per a PwC report, the penetration of home video is set to rise from 15 per cent of pay-TV homes in 2008 to 25 per cent in 2012.
This rise will translate into an additional 41 million subscribers over the next five years. This is perhaps what makes Sunil Doshi, Director, NDTV Lumiere, more optimistic. “Every challenge,” he says, “presents an equal opportunity”. “Prices of good quality DVDs and VCDs have come down for the benefit of the consumer and we’ll obviously see an opportunity emerge through the current crisis (multiplex-producer stand-off) too,” he says. No one, he believes, is missing out on movies. “Yes, a number of films that were to release now have been pushed back indefinitely. But the contemporary cinema in India has created communities who might like Karan Johar and equally give thumbs up to Anurag Kashyap. Simply put, consumers can choose from a wide range of films that the home video segment offers.” To add value to its offering, Palador Pictures has come out with DVDs which combine world cinema titles with short features from Indian directors. At an affordable price of Rs 399, Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man also has an added feature — director Kundan Shah’s Bonga, a short film that he’d directed at Pune’s IIFT as a student.
Then there are players such as Moser Baer, who aren’t willing to give the current face-off between multiplexes and producers much credit for the growth. “In fact, 95 per cent of consumers pick up pirated DVDs, so this stand-off may increase our volumes only marginally,” says Harish Dayani of Moser Baer. However, Doshi begs to differ. Pointing to Aa Dekhen Zara, a Neil Nitin Mukesh and Bipasha Basu-starrer that was released through the pay-per-view medium as well as through DVDs within a week of its theatrical release, Doshi reasons, “My own film Siddharth-The Prisoner, which obviously couldn’t have garnered too many audiences in multiplexes, will now be released on Star TV.” In fact, the result of this stand-off will ensure that films are released on DVD and Direct-to-Home platforms within weeks of their theatrical release. Meanwhile, Hiren Gada, director, Shemaroo Entertainment, is making sure that no movie-goer is left without a legal access to home video titles. Shemaroo is distributing UTV World Movies’ DVDs through 7,000 retail outlets across the country. “International titles don’t get pirated as much as Bollywood ones, hence we are expecting good results from our recent tie-up with UTV World Movies,” he says. Within three weeks of the strike by multiplexes, Shemaroo has seen a 15-20 per cent rise in its titles and is hopeful of a jolly ride through the summer season.