New Delhi: Zee Network acquired the satellite television rights of Rajinikanth’s upcoming science fiction film 2.0 for a huge Rs110 crore earlier this week, becoming the single-biggest movie acquisition deal by a network.
The astronomical figure beat the satellite price record held by other recent big-ticket movies. Aamir Khan’s latest blockbuster Dangal was acquired by Zee for Rs75 crore, including the Hindi and dubbed Tamil and Telugu versions, while Yash Raj Films’ 2013 action hit Dhoom 3 had been sold to Sony Entertainment Television for Rs65 crore.
The high-profile purchase by the Zee network, which will hold on to the film for 15 years, comes as a surprise since it does not include digital rights to the Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar-starrer.
The move comes at a time when digital platforms in India are looking to invest over a billion dollars per year for a mix of exclusive and non-exclusive content, as reported by Mint on 24 February. Commitment to a satellite channel today ensures visibility on its online streaming platform besides the opportunity already provided by independent video streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix, which are also in talks with the 2.0 team for the film’s digital rights.
“Zee does not have a very strong digital presence, they only have two platforms, OZEE and DittoTV, that they are in the process of merging and that is the reason they may not have picked up the digital rights,” said Utpal Acharya, founder of film production, distribution and marketing company Indian Film Studios.
Zee declined to comment on the story.
The purchase also comes as a surprise because the satellite rights market has consistently shown a decline. While Mint reported a 40% drop in the acquisition rates of Hindi films in 2016 as compared to 2015, independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai estimates a 50% fall in the satellite prices of south Indian films in the last two years. Even the Tamil satellite rights of Rajinikanth’s last film Kabali remain unsold (the Hindi and Telugu rights have been sold though).
However, the 2.0 deal may make sense for some other reasons. First, the film has a pan-India appeal. Robot, the so-called prequel released in 2010, had made more than Rs23 crore in box-office collections with its Hindi version alone. This time around, while Rajinikanth maintains his stronghold over the Tamil and other south Indian markets, Akshay Kumar makes an equally valuable addition to the cast.
“I think Akshay Kumar’s presence has made a difference and the Hindi rights definitely had a big push because of him and the fact that for the audience in the north, he is virtually the hero of the film,” Pillai said. “With just Rajinikanth, the satellite rate would have been worth around Rs50 crore but with the two coming together, I think Hindi rights alone would be worth around Rs40 crore besides another Rs35 crore for the Tamil version.”
Plus, there is Zee with its own efforts to consolidate in the regional market where its television channels are relatively new players.
“Zee is on a buying spree. It wants big titles and has got some of the best Bollywood ones of late, including Dangal,” Pillai said. “But it also has to feed its Tamil and Telugu channels which are virtually third or fourth in their respective markets. They’ve got smaller, medium movies (in the past) but never a Rajinikanth film. If you want to announce yourself, you have to have big movies and this is their first big south Indian deal.”
While an attractive library also ensures the channel a better positioning while negotiating with brands and advertisers, the ultimate benefit in this case if for the 2.0 team that has already earned 25% of its Rs400 crore budget more than six months before release.
“I think Zee is very lucky for this deal to have been struck. You will see unprecedented buzz for the film when it releases,” said Raju Mahalingam, creative head at Lyca Productions, which has produced the movie.