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DTH sparks new row between producers and multiplexes
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A new battlefront has opened between multiplexes and big banner production and distribution houses. Ignoring the revenue concerns of the multiplexes, Reliance Big Pictures, Percept Pictures, UTV Movies and Dharma Productions want to release their new films on direct-to-home (DTH) television shortly after their release on theatre screens.

DTH services like Dish TV, Big TV, Tata Sky, Digital TV and D2H are in talks to bag the rights for Jail, 3 Idiots and Kurbaan, despite stiff opposition from multiplex companies like PVR, Cinemax and Fun Cinema. While Jail has already hit the screens, the other are expected to release shortly.

The trend started a few months ago when UTV decided to show its own movies on DTH within a few days of their release, a move resisted stoutly by multiplex owners. Films like Dev D, Rock On, Slumdog Millionaire, Kaminey, What's Your Raashi and Main Aur Mrs Khanna all made it to DTH soon after release. More want to join the bandwagon. Thus, recent films like Blue, Aladin and Wake Up Sid are likely to debut soon on DTH.

However, leading multiplex exhibitors have opposed this move as it leads to a loss of business, especially in metros where DTH penetration is high. “There was a visible dip in the box office collections for Main Aur Mrs Khanna when it was released on DTH within six days of release. We will have to watch out for any adverse impact this trend has on the exhibition business,” said the top executive of a Mumbai-based multiplex chain.

For consumers, this is good news because they will now be able to see new films within a week or two of release at a lesser price — movies on DTH cost anywhere between Rs 75 and Rs 100.

Consumers of DTH service like Dish TV, Big TV, Tata Sky, Digital TV and D2H could get to see some much-awaited Bollywood films soon, including 3 Idiots which has Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor as the lead pair. The Saif Ali Khan- and Kareena Kapoor-starrer Kurbaan is also expected to hit DTH within a week or two of release. Jail may be on DTH by next week, said sources in the DTH industry.

Bollywood producers have begun to see guaranteed returns from the 16 million-plus DTH homes, even if the box office returns from a film are disappointing. At the moment, a DTH operator makes about Rs 3 crore on a new film from subscription revenue, half of which in most cases is given to the production and distribution house.

But the business could grow in the days to come — it is estimated there will be 20 million DTH homes by March 2010.“Even if 5 per cent of them order movies at Rs 100 per movie, it is a Rs 10-crore revenue stream that no producer would want to let go,” said Dish TV COO Salil Kapoor.

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