Nithya Subramanian

New Delhi, Aug. 25

IT'S action time for movie channels. Broadcasters are increasingly getting aggressive in acquiring not only hit Bollywood flicks but are also buying out libraries of well-known film production companies.

While Sahara India Mass Communication Ltd has the rights to movies produced by its motion pictures division, it has recently acquired the satellite and pay TV broadcast rights worldwide to the entire library of Boney Kapoor's films. These include the yet unreleased multi-starrer No Entry and Paanch.

Star India is learnt to be in talks to buy out producer Vashu Bhagnani's library besides having purchased Black and Paheli for Star Gold, which is being re-positioned as a movie channel. Both Sony and Zee Cinema continue to be aggressive with the former recently picking up Mangal Pandey for Rs 7 crore.

According to Mr Sunir Khetarpal, Country Head, Entertainment and Media banking group, Yes Bank, "Increased competition among broadcasters could drive up the acquisition cost of movies. Usually if a film does well, the prices are relatively higher." About three years ago, the acquisition cost of Bollywood films had skyrocketed after Sony reportedly paid Rs 10 crore for Devdas. But subsequently prices had stabilised.

A media analyst said, "On the one hand, Star Gold and Set MAX are making heavy investments to buy TV rights of films in order to bring in new viewers. Zee on the other hand has repackaged old movies such as some Amitabh Bachchan starrers and has received incredible viewer response. Besides this, channels are also investing in brand building initiatives."

The market for Hindi movie channels stood at Rs 240 crore last year and is expected to cross the Rs 300-crore mark. Zee Cinema leads the pack with the highest channel share of 40.5 per cent, followed by Set MAX with 33.6 per cent and Star Gold with 25.9 per cent.

A senior broadcasting company official said, "Once these channels do well due to the latest offerings, the advertising rates could go up. Normally the ad rates for a movie channel are almost 50 per cent lower than the general entertainment channel. Therefore, normally blockbusters are premiered on the flagship channel."

However, not all channels are able to recover the investment made on a blockbuster movie during the first screening. "The channel is able to attract more eyeballs and that could lead to more brands advertising on the channel," the official added.

Meanwhile producers such as Vashu Bhagnani, who with others produced the Amitabh-Bachchan-Govinda starrer, Bade Miyan-Chote Miyan, are a happy lot. "Channels are increasingly seeing value in libraries now and that is a good sign for us," he quipped.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 26, 2005)
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