EM2 seminar: Indian content producers need to look closer at digital delivery

MUMBAI: The third annual Entertainment, Media and Marketing (em2) forum organised by the Film and Television Producers Guild of India (FTPGI) was held in Mumbai today. One of the sessions looked at digital entertainment.

Among the panelists were Tata Sky MD Vikram Kaushik, Microsoft India head gaming Mohit Anand and founder and CEO Anil Wanvari.

Wanvari pointed to the internet as becoming increasingly important for Hollywood as an additional revenue source. Indian content producers should look more closely at their internet strategies and take a leaf from their counterparts in the West, Wanvari noted. He gave several examples. For instance Fox has started offering films and television shows for download through on its websites, and other Fox Interactive Websites. The playing is limited to to two computers, and a portable play device. Viacom earlier this month stitched together a deal wherein its video clips along with commercials will be served through Google's Ad sense network.

It had also announced it would pay $200 million acquire online gaming and entertainment company Atom Entertainment, which boasts two online video sites, and, and two casual gaming sites, and retails videos on Google. AOL has unveiled a video site. Some videos are offered for free while others one pays for.

Apple's online music store iTunes earned a billion dollars last year. It has now inked deals with several US broadcasters for paid download of shows.

In the UK Eros International has a deal with MovieFlix. Films that are offered for download offer possibilities for schemes like games, contests and alternative endings. Moreover the potential on the net extends to television channels as well Wanvari noted. JumpTV which has been aggregating TV channels from all over the world to offer to its subscribers in America. Today it has 200 channels on its network, and the most recent signees being Punjab Today, SET Asia, and Balle Balle.

It is early days in this business as yet. The studios are generating anywhere between $1.99 to $3.99 for a TV show to $9.99 to $19.99 for a movie. Or they have a fixed monthly subscription fee of $6.95 a month. The revenues are running into a few millions.

Wanvari adds, "Numbers are minuscule but technological change and a hungry for broadband content audience is pushing the pace. There were an estimated 194 million broadband households in 2005; this expected to more than double to 413 million worldwide by 2010, according to Instat research. Of this, 130 million will be accessing video content.

"In India, broadband penetration is minuscule: just 1.5-1.9 million, but this is going to balloon to 8 million plus by end 2010, according to Media Partners Asia, Hongkong numbers. Even if 10 per cent of this resorts to broadband video we are talking about a good 800,000 subscribers.

"These will be high net worth individuals who even if they buy 12 movies online every year at a cost of Rs 75 a movie or Rs 50 a TV episode, could end up generating Rs 125-150 crore in revenue. And if one looks at overseas sales: the figure can easily surpass Rs 150-200 crores per annum. It is probably this that has prompted Eros to partner with"

Kaushik pointed out the benefits of pay TV addressable service like DTH. Film producers he noted can use this as an additional revenue stream. Abroad within days of a films theatrical release it is made available on pay TV. This will also help curb piracy. There is a clear accountable mechanism in place in a DTH environment.

He noted that last year 10 million TV sets were sold in India. 75 per cent of these were colour television sets. He noted that in the current cable set up consumers suffer from poor service, not enough special interest channels and no choice in the service provider. Broadcasters suffer due to leakages on the distribution front. The government suffers as it does not get tax revenue.

Pay TV services like DTH will eliminate these problems. He added that the cable industry will not be hit in a major way by new technologies coming in. In the Tata Sky set up consumers get a 24 hour service. The set top box can be moved from one place to another. Also DTH can reach rural India which has been left out of the cable revolution. He added that since
1991 when the government allowed cable and satellite television there has been no significant change in terms of the mode of delivery.

Anand stressed the relationship between films and gaming. He noted that the global gaming business is worth over 24 billion dollars. It makes more money than Hollywood films. He gave an example of the film Pirates of the Carribean which made $136 million in its opening weekend. Microsoft released the game Halo 2 a couple of years ago, which made $125 million on its opening night.

Microsoft's Xbox 360 he says represents the start of the seventh generation of gaming. Sony and Nintendo will do something similar later this year. One main reason why he is optimistic about gaming in India is that India has a large population below the age of 18. They are equally if not more technologically savvy than previous generations.

Things have come full circle as far as films and gaming are concerned. Earlier companies would develop a game on a film if the film became a blockbuster. Today films like Resident Evil are based on video games.

He noted that in the future one could see film studios alter scripts to make them more game friendly. In fact a lot of studios have people on the look out for ventures that can be adapted into both films and games. In India so far film studios use games as a marketing gimmick. That is not the way forward if Indian film companies want to mine this source of revenue. Some games take three years to develop but if one thinks of the game along with the film the process will be easier. In fact one then has the opportunity to shoot for the game while one is shooting the film.

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