You know that old saying, right? Pay peanuts and…? Well, content rights are a strange market where you might pay a king’s ransom and buy a mangy cur. Our story begins over a decade back, where films were made to produce revenue on the big screen and television rights were a low-yield residuary aftermarket. If memory serves, a Farhan Akhtar remake of an old Bachchan film featuring Shah Rukh Khan in the eponymous role changed the game. A tepid market went straight to the boil. TV rights revenues began to materially sway the economics of a title.
A decade long Gold Rush (or suicidal stampede, depending on your viewpoint) had begun. Necessity may not mother invention; adversity does. Imagine a young fan of Nagarjuna back to office the morning after seeing ‘Shiva’, again, and as his mind replays ‘Botany’ he has his eureka moment. “Dub this in Hindi,” he says. Machismo, comely glances and menacing threats translate sans dubbing. Add in a dubbed soundtrack and voila! A brand new Hindi film. Before your eyes, every South Indian film library was ready to be repurposed and thousands of hours of ‘fresh’ content was lighting up boxes across HSMs.
The big-banner blockbuster from Yashraj, Mukta Arts etc wasn’t eclipsed out of the Hindi film genre, to be sure, but now it is the pricey glace cherry on an otherwise affordable confection. Has the game changed irreversibly? Perhaps.
Universal digitalisation cues the era of new, on-demand services. Instead of waiting for a favourite title to appear on FPC, the viewer can see what she wants, whenever and wherever. Producers no longer need to sell rights but can share revenue by merchandising their titles on all sorts of platforms. You don’t have to bill a channel Rs 10 crore for a title if a million consumers are willing to pay R100 per view. “Picture abhi baki hai dost”.