Sony Pictures looking to release TV titles on DVD, VCD

MUMBAI: A little over a year has gone by since Sony Pictures Releasing of India set up its home video unit.

The company has put out around 200 films so far. It also has dubbed 80 films into Hindi for VCDs (the highest amongst any of the Hollywood players the company says) and 18 VCD Tamil titles.

Speaking to on the company's plans Sony Pictures Releasing of India Home Entertainment country head N Muthuram says, "We are currently launching some titles in Telugu and Bengali and exploring if there is a possibility to expand our business in these markets. We are also looking to release titles from the world of television.

" We are considering this option seriously. We are presently working on the operational aspects of this and will soon have some releases of our catalogue of TV shows. This should happen sometime next year. Our aim was to establish our film products first which we have been able to do." 

Muthuram adds that each month Sony releases about 10 -12 titles and this generally amounts to about 25 SKU's. "The major titles coming up are Open Season for family and Kids, Monster House, Click - Adam Sandlers most successful film. Next year Casino Royale, Ghost Rider with Nicholas Cage will be released. We also release titles that go straight to video. They bypass the theatres. We have Robert Ludlum's Hades Factor, Final Fantasy VI as well as action titles with Steven Segal, Cuba Gooding Jr, Wisley Snipes and Van Damme. Of course for a few premium theatrical titles like The White Countess we only release the DVD."

When asked as to whether classics also sell or if the demand is mainly for oven fresh titles he points out that India is a great catalogue market and classics sell well here for all studios. "In our case Makenna's Gold, Bridge on the River Kwai, Guns of Navarone etc do very well and these are steady sellers. Fresh titles do contribute to the business in a big way. But the key is to work on the catalogue and push sales in this category."

He reiterates the point that dubbed products are an important part of the business. Hindi is a mainstay now. "We have actually dubbed titles in Hindi that were not done theatrically and met with good sales. And we have also dubbed products like Fun with Dick and Jane and released in Hindi.

"The other focus dubbed markets are Tamil and we are working on cracking the Telugu market. More languages are being considered and we will explore possibilities from a business point of view. As a studio we will continue to focus on the dubbed market and expand the business."

When asked as to whether Sony is also talking to other film companies both from India and abroad to distribute their products in India he says that having had a good first year there are plans of expanding and growing the business. "We are looking at various options to do so."

In terms of manufacturing the products he says that Sony has had its manufacturing plant for a while in India. They operate as a separate company and replicate audio CD's, VCDs and for the last year DVD's also. This plant is in the same class as the world wide Sony manufacturing plants.

"We are the only studio who replicate all our DVD titles and most of the titles are locally authored. By this we customise the product to suit our markets and a lot of our titles on DVD have the Hindi, Tamil, Telugu dubs on the DVD (not sub titles but language dubs)."

Distribution and marketing: Distribution of course is the key to this business. Sony has a strategic tie up with Sony BMG to use their supply chain infrastructure and systems. This gives a nation wide network with warehouses across 12 locations. Muthuram says that Sony has a focussed sales team that work out of the metros and service the regions to ensure supply and sales from the regions. "We also do ties ups with the likes of planet M, Crossroads. However we do not plan to set up our own retail outlets. This is not a core business area for us. The logistics are very different."

One area that Sony has worked hard on to push its DVDs and VCDs has been in marketing. Sony Pictures Releasing of India Home Entertainment marketing head Anupam Sengupta says that the firm has aimed at setting benchmarks in marketing video products.

" For starters we have been able to differentiate our packaging from the competition. The colours , the genre bands , the graphic icons all contribute to excellent visibility at the retail level. Secondly we have been aggressive in visual merchandising and have given it a new dimension, which our competitors now follow.

" We have done inovations like the 500+ product standee at landmark or Lama standees for The Da Vinci Code, Flex vinyls , Translites , Sunpack mini stands, innovative counter tops etc,. window displays at Music world Delhi , Music Land Delhi , Landmark Bangalore and Chennai. All these are now being copied by our competitors."

He goes on to add that Sony does not use television blindly to push home entertainment products. Television gives great reach but the effective reach may not be that good for home entertainment which is more niche compared to theatrical releases.

He elaborates further saying, "Contrary to TV advertising our focussed advertising approach has yielded better deliveries in our media spends. Full Page Press advertising across key publications like Mumbai Mirror, Hindustan Times, Deccan Chronicle, Internet buys, localised radio campaigns on stations like Power Fm, Radio One and focussed outdoor campaigns like having a presence in multiplexes and mall branding are new trends set by us."

He goes on to add that at a time when piracy is a serious threat it is important to give the consumer a solid reason to buy a product that will cost more. For instance it offered a bonus disk with The Da vinci Code. It also offers merchandise, price benefits on the catalogue. "This way there is always a compelling reason to purchase a so called 'second hand product'. We had The Da Vinci code bonus disk of never-before-seen features , Spiderman Animated series came with the Stuart Little 3 DVD, Kate Beckinsale Pin-Up posters came with with Underworld DVD/VCD" he adds.

Sony also ties up with different parties to push products. "On our local dubbed products we innovate in packaging so as to suit local tastes and local media like Navbharat Times, Punjab kesri, Daily thanthi etc are used to drive awareness and media weights" says Sengupta.

Television is used is when kids/family films have to be pushed. Ads are done on kids channels. Radio spots on the other hand give parents a reason why the product is good for their children. Ads are also carried in kids specific medias like Tinkle, Champak,Chutti Vikatan along with packaging and merchandise. 

The internet is used a lot. Sony has done tie ups with MSN, Yahoo! and Sify. For instance for The Da Vinci Code Sony had given an exclusive bonus video feature to MSN to use as a platform to push the home video release of the film. With Yahoo! it did a contest for the film. Content is also given to these sites like interviews. It also did an initiative with Cafe Coffee Day where visitors could see posters of trhe film. The net result is that Planet M alone has sold 2500 DVD copies of The Da Vinci Code in two weeks he says.

It also helps that Sony goes a step further by positioning films differently for the home video release. For instance for The Da Vinci Code it used ' Get inside the code' as a strategic positioning stmt rather than unlock the code. The aim was to get the message across that the DVD is offereing more dope about the film. Then for the Jim Carrey comedy Fun with Dick and Jane Sony gave it a local spin with the tagline ' Move over Bunty and Babli',

Sony also has its website which Sengupta says logs more than 5000 hits per day. "We create exciting rich media content, sweepstakes, trivia to drive traffic and plug our url in all possible advertising."

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