The digital effect

Despite the evolution of home video entertainment, the audience is increasingly glued to the online world, to catch up on their favourite films and international shows through film - on demand services or downloads

Written by Priya Adivarekar | Mumbai | Published: July 11, 2014 1:00 am
Representational pic Representational pic

The ever evolving online world has constantly affected the home video market and how! After the death of video cassettes and video CDs rapidly phasing out, the internet boom’s latest victim are the DVDs. With no major development after the launch of Blu – Ray worldwide in 2006, it clearly means the home video market is under big threat from film – on demand services online, which officially stream new films with paid (or sometimes free) subscription in less than a month, a definitely faster way compared to hard copy titles, which are released only after two – three months of the film’s release.
The downfall began when a few companies, including Moser Baer, shut down their video division completely, leaving only the already available titles in the market. Pen India took a similar route last year, as they shifted to the digital space by partnering with different online websites and application developers on iTunes, thereby allowing consumers to stream or download their films. “There are people who might buy specific titles to improve their personal collections, but technology has been witnessing changes in every three to five years and today, you have got everything in your hand, thanks to specific applications on mobile phones and tablets. Besides, as a company there is not much difference between royalty as well. For example, if a VCD cost Rs. 100, post the charges for distribution, packaging, courier among others, our royalty would only be Rs. 20. It continues to be the same and will only increase in the time to come,” mentioned Jayantilal Gada, chairman – Pen India.
A few others like Reliance Entertainment and Shemaroo are steadily expanding their business online, with the former being one of the first companies in India to launch a movie-on-demand service online in 2008, with a diverse range of film titles in different languages, which can be viewed by applying for a monthly, quarterly or yearly subscription. But, the website does not offer free-to-watch content, that websites like Eros Now offer on specific titles. On the other hand, Shemaroo took the online model a notch above by uploading free full -length films on their official YouTube account titled Shemaroo Movies. Later in 2013, the two companies joined hands and the licensing agreement allowed BigFlix to stream a wide range of films owned by Shemaroo, on their movie-on -demand service.
In today’s fast paced life, where people can’t alter their busy schedule to come back home and enjoy a film on home video, movie – on-demand services and free streaming of films on official YouTube channels serve as a huge relief for those who want to get some entertainment while travelling from home to work and back. “No wonder, you will notice that most people are glued to their mobiles while travelling. If you have a good gadget, one doesn’t even have to worry about poor visuals or sounds anymore. The technology on digital space is much better than Blu-Ray these days,” added Gada.
The biggest testimony to the declining home video business have been the video rental libraries. Library owners like Kalpesh Kerawala, owner of Casablanca DVD club that opened shop in 1998 at Carmichael Road in Mumbai, who have witnessed how technology has been rapidly changing over the years, confess that it has become difficult for them to survive. “Hardly anyone likes to rent out a title, unless it’s a movie buff who wants an old title or someone who wants to catch up on a recently released film urgently. The business is not even 50 per cent compared to what it was a decade ago. In the past, we would see anywhere around 150 – 200 rentals during the weekdays and on the weekend, business would soar up to 400 rentals. Nowadays, even a good day sees just 70 rentals,” opines Kerawala. It’s the same story at the popular Abbas Library in Matunga, where the DVD rental average has gone down drastically. “The ever increasing choices available online are killing us. Piracy is another problem. Until five years back, we would rent out over a 100 titles in a day, but that number has dropped down to just 25 – 30. If you own the shop, you can still survive. But the ever rising estate rates and declining home video market has only made matters worse. That’s why, there are very few video libraries left in the city,” mentioned Subbaiya Terumal, DVD incharge at Abbas Library.
While the digital world seems to be the way to go for most companies, a few like Sony DADC beg to differ and maintain that international titles and television series continue to have a good market in India. “There is no doubt that domestic titles are seeing a de-growth, but the business for English titles have been stable in the last one year. The Robert Downey Jr. starrer Iron Man got the biggest home video release last year and the response in regional languages was also decent. The real reason behind this is the fact that content is far more affordable than before. While there is no doubt that the online world is a threat for the home video market, those who want a good large screen experience will always prefer owning a title. That is our target audience,” stated Rajat Kakar, Business head – Home Entertainment Services by Sony DADC. He further added that while there is a marginal decline in DVD sales, the Blu – Ray sales of international films is steady. The business for Hindi titles is very small. In a bid to woo back the audience that has strayed away to online streaming and downloads, Kakar mentioned that the company is coming up with new initiatives at regular intervals to promote the home video market. “This includes a Sunday screening in Mumbai called Movie Club, where people come together and watch films, buy titles and walk away with freebies. We also plan Independence Day, Diwali, Christmas and seasonal activities, keeping in mind the fact that shopping is at its peak during holidays,” said Kakar.
But despite the initiatives to lure the audience, the chances of survival are bleak according to Kerawala, who says that hardly anyone is interested in shelling out money, especially since the download or streaming is both less time consuming and free. He further attributes the decline to the audience, who according to him is becoming increasingly impatient and wants to watch a new film before their peers. “If they don’t have the time to go to the theatre and can’t wait for the official title, going online is their best bet. Moreover, one can’t ignore the DTH movie – on demand factor as well. With the digital sector coming up with new developments everyday, home video titles and libraries will soon become a thing of the past,” stated Kerawala.
priya.adivarekar@expressindia.com

 

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