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Rajshri buys digital rights of Mahabharat, to show the epic TV series on its entertainment portal

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MUMBAI: For one of the oldest film production and distribution houses, taking a leap into the new digital era is a big challenge. Rajjat A Barjatya knows it is a slow brick-by-brick building process, quite different from the 60-year-old journey that Rajshri group had made in the Bollywood world.

He is lining up content for the broadband and entertainment portal that his company has launched. Up his sleeve is the latest catch: acquiring digital rights of India's epic TV serial Mahabharat which he will stream and offer for download on his portal, www.rajshri.com.

"I am bullish on this property. It was a high TV-rated show and will build heavy traffic on our website which is predominantly for the non resident Indians," he says.

On offer will be 94 episodes of 45 minutes, refreshed each day. While no charge will be levied on consumers who can watch the streaming content, Barjatya tells Indiantelevision.com that he will charge $1.99 on downloads per episode. "We will only make downloads available after 10 days. We want to first attract consumers and are rolling the series out daily like on TV," says the managing director of Rajshri Media, the digital entertainment and new media arm of Rajshri group.

For those who want to download the entire Mahabharat series, the rate will work out cheaper. "We haven't yet firmed up on the pricing of this. But the problem is that it will take 72 hours of download," says Barjatya.

The revenue streams will, thus, be advertising and transaction based. Having acquired the mobile rights as well, Barjatya has tied up with Reliance Mobile. "Subscribers of reliance can watch the episodes on mobile TV. They can also download short video clips of Mahabharat and games," he says.

Rajshri Media has also acquired digital rights for several other TV series across multiple genres. "We will be rolling them out in due course," says Barjatya.

Mahabharat will be available in multiple language versions: original Hindi, Hindi with English subtitles and Tamil. The TV series will be available for both, free streaming and paid downloads, to a global audience on PCs and other broadband enabled devices, on demand 24X7.

Speaking on the launch of Mahabharat on Rajshri.com, producer-director of Mahabharat Ravi Chopra says, “While directing Mahabharat, I became convinced that this epic is not for us Indians alone – but for the whole wide world. Its timeless message can restore the eternal values of peace and harmony in the strife torn world of today. I am delighted at the initiative taken by Rajshri.com to make this memorable piece of work available to viewers worldwide”.

Rajshri also offers streaming of close to 100 Hindi movies on its website. Its latest movie, Vivah, was premiered on the portal simultaneously along with its theatrical release. This was the first time in India that a film was being made available on the internet at the day of its release.

The downloading of Vivah was at a payment of $9.99 through an international credit card.

Now Vivah can be downloaded to own the content. "We have removed the digital rights management rights on Vivah from today. It is almost like buying a DVD. Earlier nobody who subscribed for it could watch it outside 72 hours. Nor could they copy it because of a special software that was used," Barjatya says.

Anil Ambani's Adlabs has just released the DVDs of Vivah in overseas markets, he adds. "We haven't given the home video rights to anybody yet for the India territory. We haven't also sold the satellite rights."

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