Amazon, Viacom, Reliance Jio in race for ‘Padmavati’ rights

Buyers eyeing its digital and satellite TV rights are already making a beeline to the Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh-starrer, scheduled for release on 17 November


Padmavati is being produced by Bhansali Productions and Viacom18 Motion Pictures, the film production arm of the Viacom18 group.
Padmavati is being produced by Bhansali Productions and Viacom18 Motion Pictures, the film production arm of the Viacom18 group.

New Delhi: Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s period saga Padmavati has more going for it than its massive Rs180 crore budget. Buyers eyeing its digital and satellite TV rights are already making a beeline to the Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh-starrer, scheduled for release on 17 November.

First in the race is popular American online streaming platform Amazon Prime Video, which is interested in purchasing both for Rs75 crore, said three people familiar with the development on condition of anonymity.

Since Amazon doesn’t own or have a stake in a broadcast network in India, it is likely to sell the satellite TV rights of the film to a movie channel. Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. already spends billions of dollars a year to offer TV shows and movies on demand and has been exploring the possibility of creating a live online pay TV service since late 2015.

Amazon has been joined in the race for the television satellite rights by Viacom18, which owns a bouquet of Hindi entertainment channels including Colors and Rishtey.

Padmavati is being produced by Bhansali Productions and Viacom18 Motion Pictures, the film production arm of the Viacom18 group.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd is also in the running for the same property, likely to be a traffic spinner in the digital space, said one of the three people cited. A company spokesperson declined to comment.

Viacom18 is a joint venture between Viacom Inc. and Network18 Media & Investments Ltd, also owned by Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd.

Viacom18 declined to comment. Bhansali wasn’t available to comment.

Padmavati is based on the fictional tale of a Rajput princess written by 16th century Sufi poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. In January, members of the Rajput Karni Sena stormed and vandalized the sets of the film in Rajasthan, alleging that it was distorting historical facts.

Bhansali sold the digital rights of his last two films—Bajirao Mastani and Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela—to Eros Now, the digital platform owned by Eros International Media, also the producers of both the movies, which turned out to be money spinners.

If the deal is sealed, the Rs75 crore amount will probably be the highest paid by a digital platform for a single movie. The figure is a reflection of online streaming platforms aggressively looking to pick exclusive rights for upcoming movie releases to drive traffic to their platforms.

The move is in line with Amazon’s aggressive strategy of acquiring content in India. The video platform, which was launched in India in December, has been building its content library by signing exclusive deals with producers of feature films and web originals. It has a Rs2,000 crore budget for content in India, of which Rs500 crore has been earmarked for original web series, The Economic Times reported last month.

“We have nothing to announce at the moment and do not comment on speculation. Amazon Prime Video remains committed to bringing the latest and exclusive movies and TV shows to our Prime members,” said an Amazon spokesperson.

In the past, film producers had only two sources of revenue: proceeds from the theatrical release and satellite TV rights. The latter also included syndication rights, which allowed the winning broadcaster to lend the movie for telecast on other channels after screening it first on its own.

“With the arrival of a bunch of over-the-top video streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, VOOT, Spuul, HOOQ and others in India, film producers have now split the digital and satellite TV rights and sell them separately,” said one of the three persons mentioned above.

The arrival of online video streaming platforms has been a boon for filmmakers grappling with a 40% decline in rates to acquire satellite rights between 2015 and 2016, according to television industry experts.

On 24 February, Mint reported that all digital platforms operating in India are looking to invest $1 billion a year collectively for a mix of exclusive and non-exclusive content.

lata.j@livemint.com

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