Mumbai: Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire didn’t just garner rave reviews and worldwide acclaim, it also triggered a change in the way Indian movies are being distributed.
The film was one of the first to be shown on the direct-to-home (DTH) platform in January barely a few days after its release in India, and sold more than 150,000 pay-per-views within the first three days.
“Slumdog made the industry sit up and take notice that DTH was a platform that could be taken seriously,” says Vikram Mehra of Tata Sky, one of India’s leading DTH operators.
“After that, a lot of Bollywood films have hopped on to the bandwagon.”
So far Bollywood, the world’s largest film industry, has followed a very traditional distribution model, with hardly any focus on alternative platforms such as web streaming or mobile embedding.
Even though DTH reaches only 15% of India’s 220 million television-owning households, Bollywood is increasingly viewing it as the next big thing to launch movies.
“Home video sales are dropping, piracy is a threat to the industry and even a big movie doesn’t last for more than three weeks in theatres,” says Amrita Pandey, vice president of international distribution and syndication for UTV Motion Pictures, one of India’s biggest production houses.
“In such a situation, DTH seems like a platform that will have to be nurtured.”
Pandey, whose company released Main Aurr Mrs Khanna on DTH within three days of its release in October, says figures from DTH sales have been “very encouraging”.
Theatre owners had protested against the trend of releasing films on DTH so soon, complaining that it would affect their business.
But Mehra defended the platform, saying that it would serve a different audience.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is that the theatre audience is totally different from the ones who will order for a movie at home. Perhaps I will watch three films at the theatre in a month, but I will want to watch the fourth at home,” he said.
“Going to the theatre with your family is an expensive proposition and DTH makes it much easier.”
DTH subscribers in India are expected to reach 40 to 45 million by 2012, he said.