Byte-sized digitainment

Written by Sudipta Dutta | Mumbai | Updated: Jul 30 2010, 18:06pm hrs
RaavanZapak was associated with movies like Raavan and Kites, to provide digital marketing ideas and execute them.
The music and film industry gets hooked to new media and finds mobile entertainment growing. Though internet is yet to pick up, most Bollywood houses are de-risking by exploring new revenue streams from cellphones to i-Pads.
In the 10 months since its launch, UTV New Media has seen its subscribers for audio movies jump to two million. With a database of 250 movies in eight languagesthe choice is between films like Raajneeti and Sholay, new and oldthis voice-based service has become quite a phenomenon in small towns, typically with consumers who dont have access to the internet or the multiplex, but have a mobile phone. With CD sales dropping big time, one of Indias foremost bands, Indian Ocean, is offering its latest album to be downloaded free from the internet; Shakiras World Cup football anthem, Waka Waka, saw the highest download in India, when it wasnt even a playing nation, and Hungama has launched a cross-platform digital music store.

Welcome to a brave new world of digitainment. Forget caller tunes and ringtones, a whole new form of entertainment is playing out on I-phones, I-pads, YouTube and social networking sites like Facebook and even Twitter.

In India, however, the biggest digital drive is still coming from the unprecedented growth of the telecom industry. Says Sanujeet Bhujabal, marketing director, Sony Music India, The mobile market in India is vibrant and growing, as can be inferred by the sheer number of telecom operators and mobile phone makers entering the market. With the existing 550 million subscribers and a monthly addition of an average of 10-11 million subscribers a month, and value-added services (VAS) being available to all pre and post-paid customers, the potential is limitless.

Industry sources peg Indian VAS at Rs 15,000 crore with voice-based products, which includes ringtones, accounting for 50 per cent of the business. UTV New Media CEO Manish Agarwal says the audio cinema has got an overwhelming response in small towns. We offer a choice of seven movies, each condensed to about 15 minutes with dialogues, background score and so forth, and we have a collection of old and new.

Sholay, with its gripping dialogues, is still a big hit. Bollywood music remains the most popular genre on digital, according to Rajat Kakar, MD, Universal Music India. Audio cinema is a classic example of how innovation is driving sales of Bollywood music, he adds.

Besides the growing mobile-using population, Siddhartha Roy, COO, consumer business and allied services, Hungama Digital Media, also points at over 80 million broadband subscribers, saying, India is a very promising market for digital downloads. To add to this, both mobile and computer device manufacturers are developing inexpensive phones with great multimedia features. The entire ecosystem is now conducive for the digital distribution platform. Content owners are already quite excited about the domestic market and they are allocating marketing muscle to promote their content digitally, as well as in the physical format, he adds.

For some years now, Bollywood has also played an active part in the growth of the nascent gaming industry. Zapak, for instance, handled the entire digital marketing strategy for Bollywoods biggest hit of last year, 3 Idiots. For the film, Zapak created an online destination for the movie, which, among other things, took the user on a tour of the directors office, the lab, hostel, canteen, classroom and also, in keeping with the 3 Idiots line of content, the loo. It facilitated a chat for fans with the entire castat least 50,000 logged on from across the world.

Says Rohit Sharma, CEO, Zapak Digital Entertainment, Convergence of gaming and movies was pioneered by Zapak. Just recently we associated with big banners for movies such as 3 Idiots, Kites and Raavan to provide digital marketing ideas and execute them. These activities/applications have been highly successful. We believe that new media has a lot of untapped potential which is yet to be explored.

Reliances Jump Games, also associated with 3 Idiots as the mobile partner, is developing mobile games across different mobile platforms. Jump Games also recently launched an iPhone app based on the movie, which has been featured in the India iTunes App Store. Says Salil Bhargava, CEO, Jump Games, The market for entertainment on mobile phones has grown disproportionately in the country. Games being a natural extension to movies and television series, we at Jump Games ensure that we offer engaging content that is in line with the theme of the movie.

Also waiting to be fully tapped is the internet. Broadband penetration is still low compared to the digital explosion in the telecom field. Bhujabal of Sony feels the internet is yet to pick up, but eventually he expects addition of streaming sites and legal downloads. The online music market is negligible in the larger scheme of things in India as of now, he points out; the biggest challenges being access and payment. Access to web has its own share of issues, whereas on mobile, access to WAP and GPRS are issues. Second issue is payment once the service or content is consumed, he adds.

Musically, Bollywood has come a long way on the digital music market, says Bhujabal. from a very basic initiative to mention mobile song codes and wap site address on TV spots to customised activities, including premieres of songs on the web and mobile. Initiatives like mobile radio will gradually pick up to add substantial weight to digital proliferation. Kakar says 30 per cent of Universal Musics revenues are from digital and growing rapidly. However we see merchandising, artiste management, brand integration as areas of growth, he adds.

While no one will comment on the actual worth of digital revenues, Bhujabal says, In the future we see it increasing to around 50 per cent of the total revenues; mobile is the growth engine for the foreseeable future, whereas online will still take some time to show its potential.

All the players are waiting for the advent of 3G to make entertainment even more seamless. Says Roy of Hungama, The advent of 3G will facilitate smoother data transfer. It will allow companies such as ours to give the consumer services that he can enjoy anytime, anywhere seamlessly. Be it video on demand, music streaming, social networking, etc, 3G will empower the consumer with whatever entertainment and lifestyle service one may need.

Hungama has already rolled out Indias first cross-platform digital music store front, which not only allows one to download entertainment content over the internet, but also works with over 250 mobile handsets; it is handset and platform agnostic. We are already seeing tens of thousands of consumers registering on the website. The value proposition is very compellingfor Rs 99 a month, you get unlimited music that is legal, great quality and easy to download, he adds.

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