Jul 24, 2008

Business - Home video label takes alternate routes

MUMBAI: Ramdev Baba’s gut-wrenching exercises have a devout following. But these days, the yoga guru is facing competition from unusual quarters — actor Shilpa Shetty.The Bollywood star’s DVD title Shilpa’s Yoga — replete with a complete yoga workout session — is selling like hot cakes in the organised retail segment. Her asanas are also ringing in money for Shemaroo, which owns the title’s home video rights. Home video labels claim such alternative content videos, which are priced between Rs 50 and Rs 500, are fetching higher revenues for them.Crossword, a lifestyle bookstore, says videos with alternative content feature among its top 5 home video best-sellers titles. Shilpa’s Yoga, it says, is the second best-selling video. Moser Baer also claims that the company has sold around 1 lakh copies of the TV series Ramayana on home video. Call it lack of better buying options in the movie segment, but there’s no denying that audiences are now shopping for home video titles, beyond movies.Hiren Gada, director, Shemaroo Entertainment, says that by the end of this fiscal, home video sales of non-movie content should contribute about 15-20% to the company’s bottomline, up from the current 5-6%. Sensing a greater opportunity in the alternative content, Shemaroo recently sold the video-on-demand rights of Shilpa’s Yoga to BigFlix, the movie rental service from the Reliance ADA group. The company’s broadband website, catering to the burgeoning NRI audience, will now be able to download 35-minutes of Shilpa’s Yoga video at a price point of $4.49.For Excel Home Videos, this category grew by over 200% YoY from FY05. Muslim Kapasi, MD, Excel Productions Audio Visuals, said the company started to focus on this segment from FY05. “It contributed over 18% to our total topline in FY08. Though Excel may find the 200% growth rate unsustainable, but since the base is very small, it will continue to grow by at least 50% in the next three years,” he said.The company is focusing on this segment as core acquisitions have become too risky, Kapasi said. “Internationally, alternative content is a very strong segment and there are specialists catering to the genre. However, in India, the TV springs up such content constantly and repetitively into people’s homes for a lump-sum monthly subscription. This has been detrimental for such content to thrive/succeed in home video formats,” he said.However, organised movie rentals are helping people to sample such content. Also, increasing sales of DVD players and a greater demand for such content is slowly, but surely driving up sales.“Such products find it difficult to reach their target audience through physical channels. Yoga has caught the imagination of NRIs and international audiences. So, making it available on VOD is part of our strategy to diversify into different genres of entertainment,” Kamal Gianchandani, COO, BigFlix.com, said.Since the past six months, Shemaroo is aggressively pursuing acquisitions in this sphere. The company currently has over 100 titles in its kitty spread across different genres such as literature, music, sports, spiritual, self motivation, children’s interest, fitness, hobbies, travel and sex education. The company recently acquired home video rights of The Secret (Rhonda Byrne’s best-selling book) and several BBC productions of Shakespeare’s plays.“The cities are first to adapt to videos with alternative content. The challenge is to make it a mass phenomenon. In the Tier II cities, home video has become synonymous with movies,” Gada of Shemaroo said.G Dhananjayan, COO, Moser Baer Home Entertainment, said titles in this genre are produced/acquired for perpetuity, so there is a guarantee that the investment can be recovered over several years. “Movie titles, meanwhile, are offered only for 5-7 years to the home video market.”The grey market, however, continues to be a deterrent. Pirated copies of such content are hugely popular in some states. “Gujarati plays, music, stand-up comedy are a rage in the grey market. Pricing will not curb it. Original content for the time-being is for the premium segment of consumers,” Gada said.

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