It's a way to beat piracy and it's a treat for small screen audiences. Direct To Home (DTH) television has started a new trend by showing big Bollywood movies at a nominal price within a few days of their release in the theatres.
The latest offering is the Salman Khan- Kareena Kapoor-starrer "Main Aurr Mrs. Khanna" that goes on air on Tata Sky from Tuesday, barely four days after hitting the big screen.
"Today Tata Sky has become one of the most preferred DTH platforms in the country for broadcasters to premiere their latest blockbusters as it offers them a much wider reach and, most importantly, enables them to kill privacy," said Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer of Tata Sky Ltd.
In the last few months, Tata Sky has premiered "Slumdog Millionaire", "Kaminey", "Agyaat" and "What's Your Raashee?".
"What's Your Raashee?" was available on Tata Sky within two weeks of its release. It was also released on other DTH platforms -- Airtel Digital TV, Dish TV and Big TV - while the Shahid Kapoor-starrer "Kaminey", a box office hit, was made available on Tata Sky about a month after its release at a pay rate of Rs.75 a day.
The consumer reaction has been overwhelming. While Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire" was seen by 150,000 people on Tata Sky in three days, "Kaminey" saw close to 100,000. "What's Your Raashee?", on the other hand, crossed 20,000 on Tata Sky in the first two days.
"All the blockbusters have been widely appreciated by our subscribers across the country, including smaller towns and we expect movie-watching on DTH to increase," said Mehra.
DTH players share revenues with the producers.
Tata Sky has also had simultaneous premieres of "Chintuji" and "Vaada Raha...I Promise" on its Pay Per View (PPV) service 'Showcase' along with their theatrical releases Sep 4 and Sep 11 for Rs.75 and Rs.100 respectively.
Vikram Kaushik, managing director and CEO of Tata Sky Ltd, said the company is trying to popularise the concept of simultaneous release on DTH.
"I have been talking to some forward- looking producers like Aamir Khan and Ronnie Screwvala and suggesting to them to have a same day release on Tata Sky as in the theatres. It's a very positive thing to do and I hope the producers will have the courage to actually participate and come forward and think about it," Kaushik told IANS in an interview.
But won't release on the same day dent the multiplex business?
"It will not affect either of the two markets. It will kill piracy because if it releases on DTH, you collect legitimate revenue and pay for it. As a result the producers get paid, the distribution platform gets its share and piracy is eliminated," said Kaushik.
"This will also change the nature of distribution. Addressable platforms are about getting real value - 100 percent declaration and genuine revenue sharing."
Tata Sky's new avatar Tata Sky Plus offers a Private Video Recorder (PVR) facility for its consumers and it curbs piracy too.
Movies like "Phir Kabhi", which didn't get a theatrical release, went directly on DTH.
"Releasing 'Phir Kabhi' directly on our platform may start a new trend of films being made specifically for DTH audiences," Salil Kapoor, COO of Dish TV, had said.
Kaushik said: "We are experimenting right now. A whole series of options will find a pattern and each one of them will also come with their respective pricing."
Kaushik also hinted that a same-day release will possibly exceed the current pay per view price that varies from Rs.25-100 across various DTH platforms.
"We'll have to do a bit of market research and test the waters in terms of what is the right price. But if you get to watch it (a movie) with five of your family members for Rs.400, it's cheaper than going to the multiplex and you can save money on fuel and help global warming. All of it works," he said.
Tata Sky, a joint venture between Tata Group and STAR, has become the leading DTH player in the country with a subscriber base of close to 4.5 million since it was launched in August 2006.
Currently, there are six main DTH operators -- Tata Sky, Dish TV, Reliance Big TV, Airtel Digital TV, Sun Direct DTH and the recently launched Videocon D2H.