DTH operators, film producers bet big on pay-per-view

Direct-to-home (DTH) service providers and film producers see pay-per-view (PPV) buying of movies emerging as a significant contributor to revenues, with the growing popularity and expanding subscriber base of satellite television.

Television viewers have received an fantastic option of PPV, which allows them to view movies or individual programmes for a nominal fee. Movies are seen as especially well-suited for the pay-TV model, allowing subscribers the option of viewing in the privacy and comfort of home at a time of their choice.

The major providers of PPV include the Essel Group-owned Dish TV, Tata Sky, a joint venture between the Tata group and Star TV, Reliance Communications’ Big TV and Bharti Airtel’s digital TV. Sun Direct still needs to capture this potential market.

DTH operators update the menu of movies on offer every fortnight and subscribers pay between Rs 25 and Rs 75, depending on whether it is a monthly rental or an a la carte offering. PPV rights for movies are sold for a fixed duration and on a non-exclusive basis, depending on the star cast, time of release and box-office ratings.

DTH firms have been experimenting with the PPV model for some time now. Earlier this year, Tata Sky offered its customers an option of viewing Slumdog Millionaire for Rs 25 a pop. The offer lasted for three days before the Academy Awards and some 1,50,000 viewers took it up.

UTV Motion Pictures will release its Phir Kabhi movie, which has been produced at a cost of Rs 3 crore, on all the platforms including Dish TV, Tata Sky, Big TV and digital TV. UTV and operators see the film as an experiment in the right direction for both producers of small-budget films and the platform itself.

“Generally, we buy satellite rights in a bundle, including conventional, DTH and Internet protocol TV. PPV rights are initially sold to DTH operators to give them the advantage of airing it in advance.” says Amrita Pandey, vice-president, international distribution and syndication, UTV Motion Pictures.

Airtel digital TV will premiere Hannah Montana: The Movie, ahead of its theatrical release in India. The movie, available from July 22 for PPV subscribers, is priced at Rs 75.

DTH operators are optimistic about such a trend catching on and are hoping pay-per-view emerges as a separate revenue stream. Currently, the PPV business contributes an insignificant amount to their revenues.

Rajesh Jain, research head, information, communications and entertainment, KPMG, an consulting and audit firm, says, “PPV is a step forward to increase stickiness for DTH services. Operators are still testing the waters in terms of viewer demand, just as producers are evaluating the market dynamics.”

A report by KPMG and industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) predicts that the number of DTH subscribers in India is at 13 million and estimates that the subscriber base will grow to 25-27 million by 2012.

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