video business just got hotter. Joining the ranks of Netflix abroad and Clixflix in India is Reliance Entertainment's BigFlicks.com, which has ambitious plans of becoming the world's largest Indian entertainment content library by acquiring more than 2,000 titles in one year.
BigFlicks.com is essentially Reliance's on-demand movie download service. It will offer a range of digital quality Indian movies spanning across languages (Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi and Kannada), which will be available to either download to own at competitive prices, or for free streaming. The company will also offer rent and subscription services. Home delivery is a given.
While Indians in general form the core target group for BigFlicks.com, initially, the NRI segment will be targeted more aggressively. As is known, this group (25 million NRIs, comprising mainly students and working professionals) is blessed with high broadband penetration and a thirst for Indian content. On the other hand, broadband issues still pose a threat to this kind of model in India.
Admits Kamal Gianchandani, COO, Bigflicks.com, "For the first one year, we expect our retail (offline) business to do better than the online one in India. But that will reverse with increased broadband penetration and high bandwidths."
BigFlicks.com will also release movies online occasionally. Ramesh Sippy's low-budget venture, 'Fear', will be released on BigFlicks.com - this will benefit the film in terms of savings on the cost of prints and distribution. A Sachin starrer in Marathi, 'Navra Majha Navsacha', will also be released on the portal.
What BigFlicks.com definitely hopes to achieve is to partner the Indian film industry, not just for content and revenue sharing, but also in the common goal of wiping out piracy. "By releasing a new movie on the Internet, we are confident of marginalising piracy by offering a legal alternative at compelling price points," says Gianchandani.
Rajesh Sawhney, president, Reliance Entertainment, says, "We have seen that in mature economies, the demand for home entertainment is increasing with the rising income levels of consumers." A typical Hollywood movie generates more revenue through home entertainment than through theatrical distribution, while in India, home entertainment contributes very little to a movie's revenue. "And that is because we lack an effective home entertainment platform, which is a problem we hope to address," he says.
Handling the advertising for BigFlicks.com will be Law & Kenneth, and a media campaign (including a TVC) is likely to break soon. Reliance has decided to make an investment of US$100 million in BigFlicks.com over the next five years, and the venture should break even by 2011. The portal will be subscription driven, rather than ad revenue driven.