Ever since the internet became a whole lot more accessible in the last few years’ entertainment, specifically movies and music has been one of the most searched, accessed and experienced aspects online. So with an increased interest among people in wanting to hear the latest album and watching the new release in town, so much so that one is not interested in waiting to hit the music store or theatre/multiplex, it was just time that people realized there was a business potential behind the same, both legally and illegally. While there are many theories of why one cannot do away with piracy and as to why it is something we have to learn to live with, there are some players who are indeed showing us the right way.
So while we have iTunes from Apple for music for example, we do have players like Cinemas of India (an NFDC venture), Eros Live, Rajshri etc who have been allowing their library of films to be seen by people online, some for free and others by paying by a nominal amount. There are newer players like Fliqvine and Half Ticket TV who are now in the fray and trying to bring up all sort of video content-films-features, shorts and documentaries online. But there are some problems which continue to plague all the players in the market, most of whom ideally want to be releasing films on their platform on a day & date format (same day release online along with theatrical), sadly that is something which is yet to be cracked. A player like Dingora (now defunct) had made some progress by achieving the same with Bengali Cinema to a large extent, only to find the going tough eventually.
Tamil Cinema is probably next only to Bollywood in terms of content being hit by piracy. Almost all Tamil films are available online these days on the very day of release, thanks to Torrents and some illegal streaming sites. But there are players now who are trying to bring in some change and these players include HeroTalkies.com which in a relatively short span of time has already built up an impressive library of over 500 + films, releasing a minimum of 2 new titles every week.
So what’s the present scenario when it comes to Tamil Cinema in particular and how does the way forward look like?
Close to 300 movies gets produced and certified every year in Tamil cinema but of this only 170 to 180 movies get released. Of these 170 odd movies, except for the big budget movies others get limited theatrical release and the shelf life of these movies are getting shortened. The situation is more acute in the overseas market where majority of the small & mid budget movies do not get a theatrical release. Hence there is an issue of last mile connectivity for the movies in which producers are not able to reach out to the customers. Even in Tamil Nadu sometimes multiple films release the same Friday, hence in the process a few genuinely good films also do not remain long enough in theatres for the audience to see.
Currently this gap is being addressed by pirates and some of them make good money out of this business. This gap can be addressed only by Internet by bringing movies directly to the home of customers across various devices. Also, internet medium could become a direct digital release platform for new movies that are certified but doesn’t get released. Take for example the case of acclaimed actor-writer-director Cheran’s new film, JK Enum Nanbanin Vaazhkai. Frustrated with the way the theatrical release was getting delayed, Cheran went on to release the film via DVD and online through his new venture called C2H (Cinema to Home).
Predecessor and a Model to Look at
This situation is not something new. When Netflix started the streaming business, there was rampant piracy in the US markets. The overall internet data share in the US then was
a- Torrents – 33 %
b- Netflix – 6%
but in 2014, the situation has completely changed and Netflix enjoys 34% while share of torrents share has reduced considerably. The major reason is customer choice and convenience which Netflix brought.
Tamil Movie Industry
There is lot of negativity surrounding the Internet market due the existing piracy. However, stakeholders are becoming increasingly aware of this. The internet rights of a movie are split for India and overseas market. The internet rights for Indian market goes to the Satellite Channels which get it along with the satellite T.V rights while the overseas Internet rights are acquired by the overseas movie distributors. Satellite channels acquire these rights to prevent new players from entering into Indian market. However the overseas market rights can be exploited as the internet penetration is higher in countries such as US, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia, Singapore and UAE. The cost of rights depends upon the cast and crew of the movie.
There is a perception as to why do we need to pay when the same thing can be watched for free. However players like HeroTalkies.com are differentiating with impeccable quality on 1080p HD and 5.1 Audio thus recreating the Cinema Hall experience within your homes. People are gradually adopting legal platforms like these and the major contributor has been the US market. These platforms have customers spread across 36 countries.
Though there had been bigflix, spuul, boxtv earlier, the major players in Tamil Industry right now are HeroTalkies.com and Tentkotta.com. The focus is not only to build a movie library but also to release new movies week on week basis. It has been seen that people are ready to pay for a new movie but not for an old movie.
Comparison with other Indian Film Industries
As of now it’s good to know that Tamil is the first language in which new movies gets released legally on the Internet within a month of theatrical release, at least for overseas audience. The Kannada film Lucia was released in Hometalkies.com but that was a onetime affair. Boxtv and spuul have not achieved this in Bollywood or any other language so far.
There have been a lot of challenges right from the start. Be it convincing producers to give away content without M.G (minimum guarantee) and agreeing for revenue sharing, be it reducing their fear of aiding piracy, or even tackling intervention of distributors and other players at times. With better technology and resources, we can reduce piracy. With consequent reduction in piracy, there will be a huge increase in legal market. Being a start-up a player like HeroTalkies.com finds it difficult as of now to curb piracy. But they are confident that people will certainly pay if we package a good product for them. Earlier there was the challenge of good quality (fast broadband) internet connectivity in India, but that’s an area which is seeing a lot of improvement in India.
Things are looking promising as of now and hopefully more and more studios and producers will realize the merit of going in for legally releasing their films online and exploiting the same commercially as well. While consumers overseas have so far been receptive to this, the challenge will be ideally felt when these services will be available in India as well, which should be shortly.
But it promises to be an exciting road ahead indeed.
Note-Thanks to Pradeep Somu, CEO of HeroTalkies.com for his valuable inputs.