After testing the waters for nearly four years, the country’s premier English movie channel, HBO, finally took the plunge and aired three of its recent most-watched movies dubbed in Hindi.
The Independence Day weekend saw Superman (Superman Returns), Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible III) and Egyptian mummies (The Mummy) rattle out their dialogues in Hindi on the channel.
On its part, the company says it was a one-off exercise to expand its existing reach of about 28 million cable and satellite homes in the country.
“We have neither aired these dubbed movies during prime time (8 pm to 11 pm) nor have we sold the spots to advertisers separately,” says HBO Country Manager (South Asia) Shruti Bajpai, adding: “This move was linked to the long Independence Day weekend and we wanted to reach out to a wider audience. We will continue to be the premium-quality English movie channel in India.”
However, industry sources say that HBO in India has been looking to dipstick the dubbed-language market for English movies for nearly four years—much before some of the existing channels like Bindas Movies and Firangii, which specialise in such films, were conceived.
According to these sources, HBO had lined up The Mummy, The Mummy Returns and the Scorpion King as the three movies to be aired in Hindi nearly four years ago.
The market for dubbed-in-Hindi films, for sure, has picked up in recent times. “The top-five Hindi movie channels generate annual advertising revenue of a little over Rs 600 crore, of which the dubbed movie channels now account for over 12 per cent. No doubt it is an additional revenue stream for any English movie channel,” a Delhi-based media planner said.
Currently, Star Gold, Set Max, and Bindaas Movies, among others are some of the channels that are regular in adding a Hindi voice to some of the popular Hollywood flicks.
According to industry estimates, nearly 40-hours of dubbed-content get aired on television every day, of which about 20 per cent is accounted for by the dubbed-movies. “If ratings are the benchmark for measuring the success of dubbed-content then definitely viewers like to watch foreign content which sounds desi,” says an ad-sales executive working for a leading English movie channel.
That is the prime reason that some time back leading lifestyle and entertainment channel Discovery India decided to air Animal Planet in Hindi.
Then isn’t the dubbed-in-Hindi-movies market a lucrative option for HBO? “We have not taken a decision as to when we will show the dubbed content on our channel next. But we definitely want even more viewers to see HBO,” Bajpai says.
6 months ago