Your favourite flick is now just a few clicks away. With Bollywood production houses streaming movies through YouTube or their own web portals, you no longer need to worry about bad prints or viruses that come with illegal downloads.
It’s already drawing in viewers. The last eight months, in particular, have seen a sharp growth, says Manu Kaushish, senior vice-president at Eros, one of the first studios with Rajshri to go online in 2006. In 2007, Reliance BIG Entertainment launched BigFlix and this July came NyooTV.
There have been some unexpected gains from this trend. Like for the largest e-bookseller Amazon, backlists have come back to life on the Net. The viewer has a choice between movies old and new, though the charges vary. And independent filmmakers can look at low-cost, online releases.
But not all of it is making money yet. Kaushish says, “Most of our viewers prefer short film trailers, interviews and clips.” Blame it on the expectation of getting things for free on the Net, or the Indian knack for sniffing out the paisa-vasool. So, for now, most of the income is from online ads, though no one is revealing the figures yet.
As it’s growing, the viewership is changing too. Till now, most visitors on these portals were NRIs. Delhi-based techie Sumit Saxena, 32, first came across such portals last year while working in New Jersey. “When checking Bollywood numbers on YouTube I saw ads for the ‘legal portals’ and was blown away by their quality.”
Gradually, many Indian netizens are taking to it. Mumbai student Shusheel Shetty, 21, goes mostly to BigFlix for regional movies. His biggest concern is safety: “Those who download from illegal sites have to deal with viruses.”
In this tech world, it’s innovation that will make or break future business. Rajshri Media managing director Rajjat Barjatya says the “the big push” will come when mobile phones come with faster Internet.
Others, too, are betting on this. Next quarter, Viacom’s Studio 18 will launch its content online. Hemant Bhardwaj, senior vice-president at Studio 18, says, “With the broadband revolution, the online viewing experience will improve drastically and new revenue models crop up.”
To you, the viewer, that will be a Net gain.