The American Dream Factory is doing what it does best: business. Distributors of Hollywood movies are wooing video rental firms, who normally use copies of movies strictly meant for home use, to instead use legit copies for renting out.
Sony Pictures recently rolled out the ‘Rental Express’ in Indian metros. Rental companies can pay an annual licence fee that will legally allow them to buy Sony’s movies for rental in India. The fee ranges from Rs 7,500 per year to Rs 50,000, depending on the reach of the companies. So while small DVD rental kiosks will pay the lower end, online movie-hire companies will pay the higher end.
According to Chander Lall, a lawyer representing the Motion Pictures Association of America, Hollywood movie companies lose around $80 million every year on illegal rentals by an estimated 20,000 video outlets in India. And it is very difficult to stop this, feels Anupam Sengupta, head of marketing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “So we decided to make them partners.” Sony has hired an agency to get 500 such rental firms to sign up in the first year.
Around 3 million Indian households have DVD players. By 2010, says PricewaterhouseCoopers, that will go up to 13 million. And the home video market will grow four-fold to Rs 2,100 crore — from Rs 550 crore currently.
Excel Home Entertainment, India distributor for 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney, says it started a licensing programme last October and has, so far, signed up 80 outlets in Mumbai and 140 in New Delhi. It released the DVDs of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest to partner video outlets two weeks before the retail launch.
The move worked. “Many of them came forward to be part of it,” says George Anthony Joseph, assistant sales manager for Excel.
Saregama is working on a similar model. Saregama distributes DVDs for Warner Brothers, Universal and Paramount.