Entertainment – Bollywood fans in the US can now watch free films
Nearly 7 million South Asians and 3 million non-resident Indians (NRIs) in the US will get to watch Bollywood films free of cost thanks to Reliance Big Entertainment’s video-on-demand website – BigFlix.com and Hulu.com – an online video service – coming together to start this service.
BigFlix offers about 550 free movies to its Indian viewers too, and this association will expand its distribution network to Hulu’s 38 million US viewers.
Hulu.com offers full-length TV shows and movies, as against YouTube which largely showcases user-generated content. It is banking on the fact that Hindi cinema fans will flock to watch these free videos online while they make money from online advertising which they will share with BigFlix.
“Teaming up with BigFlix.com will bring the content to nearly 3 millions Indians and 5-7 million South Asians in the US. The movies selected by BigFlix.com to be launched on the Hulu platform are with English subtitles and should appeal to mass audiences,” according to a Hulu spokesperson.
Back home, currently 96 per cent users on BigFlix view non-English content and the website is pre-dominantly accessed for its Bollywood and Indian content by NRIs in the US. “So, our teaming up with Hulu.com gives us a chance to broaden our digital distributorship among NRIs who prefer online streaming,” says Kamal Gianchandani, chief operating officer, BigFlix.com.
It’s a win-win association for Hulu.com too. The free online service for consumers generates revenue from advertising sales. Hulu’s ad revenues come from the ad impressions generated while video streaming from its distribution partners’ websites and from the embeddable Hulu video player. BigFlix, which will share the ad revenue, will earn anywhere between 20 paise and 75 paise every time the user streams the videos.
Gianchandani intends to exploit the digital content rights to better BigFlix’s revenues. He says, “We own the digital rights to distribute over 1,600 films titles online and we will soon host them on video portals like Hulu to add to our revenues.” BigFlix will also expand its online distribution in European countries, South Africa and Australia, where it believes Bollywood films will find takers. These partnerships could be either for free content streaming or paid subscriptions, informs Gianchandani.
A majority of users, believe Hulu and BigFlix, have no problems with advertisements streamed while viewing free video, even if the ad commercials can’t be skipped. “The caveat is that the purpose of the ads is to make the content free and consumers have a better sense of online distribution costs because of what they pay for their own broadband connections,” reasons Gianchandani. To watch free Indian movies on Hulu.com, user will spend around 30 minutes divided over 21 commercial breaks for the entire length of a movie.
Traditional distributors of Bollywood and regional Indian films have been eager to broaden their global appeal, especially in the US, which accounts for as much as 70 per cent of their movies’ foreign box office, informs a distributor on condition of anonymity. The US has a fast-growing and affluent population of Indian Americans and online distribution of films could help the Indian film industry expand its reach.
Meanwhile, Chad Hurley, CEO and co-founder of YouTube claimed in the company’s official blog that the site recorded “over a billion views a day on YouTube.” He also admits, “We have started to see demand for longer, full-length content, and have brought more shows and movies to the site.” However, the company is increasingly facing competition from the likes of Hulu.com and traditional media companies, like NBC and the BBC, who have started free streaming programmes from their own sites, claims comScore.
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