The Web site has set a new trend by releasing a film online, along with its simultaneous release at the theatres. Vivah became the first Indian movie to premiere on the Internet.
Taking the digital revolution in its stride, Rajjat A. Barjatya, managing director, Rajshri Media, is set to change the way entertainment content is created, distributed and used worldwide. Rajshri.com will offer Indian video content across multiple genres, free and paid, on demand, 24/7 to a worldwide audience.
Rajshri Media also plans to add new features to the site on a regular basis, launch comprehensive sections on astrology, numerology, Indian food and spirituality, add regional language content across multiple categories and integrate content for mobile phones, iPods and other digital devices.
Rajjat A. Barjatya shares his views to Manu A B on the potential on online video streaming and how the company plans to entertain millions of Indians abroad with feature films, music videos, concerts, humour clips, short films and documentaries.
What is the idea behind online video streaming? How do you think this medium can score over other traditional forms of watching films?
About 25 million Non-Resident Indians, persons of Indian origin, students and working professionals live outside India and follow Indian entertainment content on a regular basis, connecting with their homeland primarily through Indian movies and music.
There are also 25 million non-Indians from places like South East Asia, large parts of Africa, Russia, the Caribbeans, etc. who like Indian entertainment globally. This is a large but fragmented audience, which is difficult to reach through the traditional 35 mm cinema route and as a result piracy fills the gap between demand and supply.
By releasing a new movie on the Internet, we are trying to convert a non-consumer into a legit consumer. It is especially for those who do not have access to an Indian cinema near them. We recognise the fact that the Internet cannot replicate the experience of watching a movie in a movie theatre but are proud that Vivah marks the day and age of legitimate multi-platform releases for Indian movies.
We believe all forms of content distribution and consumption will remain; movie theatres, home video (DVD) and online will co-exist as they are all complimentary and not competitive.
After how much time of a film's release in theatres will its online video be available? Or will this be simultaneous?
With Vivah, we have proved that the simultaneous online release of films is in the best interest of content owners as we are essentially creating a new market, which was either a non-consumer or was being fed by piracy. We are not taking away from an existing market.
You have mentioned that consumers will be offered options to stream the movie on their PCs or download the movie with a limited 72-hour license. Could you explain this?
New movies will be offered for a 72-hour download. It is called a download to rent model where the movie will be copy protected and cannot be pirated. We use Windows DRM (digital rights management) software, developed by Microsoft, which is nearly 100 per cent foolproof. Older movies are available on rajshri.com for free streaming.
How does the online video streaming of films work? How does one go about watching films?
It is very easy, log on to rajshri.com and click on any film/video to watch the video of your choice, on demand 24/7.
Do you think online films will help fight piracy?
We hope to marginalise piracy by offering a legal alternative at a compelling price point. The thinking is similar to apple's itunes service in the face of Napster.
How has the response from people been so far? How was the response for the film Vivah?
We have received extraordinary response. Rajshri.com has served over 1 million video streams in 7 days. Vivah has done very well online and we have received a lot of appreciation for our innovation and enterprise.
If new films are screened online and can be downloaded, won't it affect the revenue from theatres?
People who want the experience of watching the movie in a theatre will still go to one. Rajshri.com will cater to the audiences without access to an Indian cinema near them, creating a new market, which used to be either non-consumers or fed by piracy. Thus the two experiences are completely different; they are complimentary, not competitive.
Are music albums and videos more popular than films online?
It's a little too early to say as no one has ever put up full movies online like we have. So far, we are getting an excellent response for both full length movies and shorter music videos.
Are you getting better response from India or overseas?
The site is aimed primarily at the NRI community. We are not marketing the site in India as we still do not have good broadband connectivity, PC penetration is low and credit card usage online is still negligible.
How many films are available on the Web site? How do you charge for films?
We have a catalogue of over 300 films, which are being put up in a staggered manner. All our films, except Vivah, are available absolutely free for streaming. We will soon be starting a pay model for users who want to download and own these films.
Is this service for only Hindi films or for other languages too?
We are starting with Hindi films but have already begun acquiring regional language films, especially in south Indian languages.
How do you plan to develop content for mobile and other new media devices?
We have a competent content creation team in-house, supported by infrastructure like shooting floors, recording theatres and editing suites. We plan to start creating original content for distribution via the Internet and mobile networks.
We are currently studying various models of distribution, monetisation and are analysing consumer habits and preferences for the consumption of digital content. It is still in the early days and we are walking on a new path with a compass and not a map.
What kind of investment has gone into this venture? What are your revenue expectations?
Time, effort and initiative have been our biggest investments! Financial investment has been limited since the bulk of our content has been acquired on a revenue share basis. It is very difficult to predict revenues as we have no precedence to our business model. We believe in what we are doing and have a strong conviction about its potential and success.
What are the challenges that you face?
Frankly, we view challenges as opportunities. Our biggest opportunity is the fact that we are fundamentally changing the way people create, distribute, market and consume entertainment. We are proud to be pioneering a digital revolution. We plan to lead the digital revolution.
What is the future of mobile entertainment? What kind of content do you think will be a hit on mobiles?
We are experimenting with different kinds of content. We feel snack sized content will work better. . . like humour content is ideal for the mobile. 'What content would you like to watch on the go?' is a question we ask ourselves constantly
Will Rajshri be focussing on making films and serials to cater to the mobile space?You won't have to wait too long for our announcement!