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Airtel bags Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam rights

The initiative will enable Airtel customers to view the movie 12 hours before its theatrical release

T E Narasimhan  |  Chennai 

Airtel digital TV, the DTH service from the leading telecom operator Bharti Airtel, today officially announced that the premier of Kamal Haasan’s forthcoming thriller titled Vishwaroopam in Tamil & Telugu and Vishwaroop in Hindi on its Pay Per View (PPV) platform.

Business Standard is the first one to report that Kamal Haasan has signed with Airtel for around Rs 40 crore, however, Airtel declined to comment on this.

The initiative, the first of its kind in India, will enable customers of Airtel DTH to view the movie 12 hours before its theatrical release, said Airtel in a statement.

Shashi Arora, CEO- DTH/ Media, Bharti Airtel, said: "With our 7.5 million customers, we are certain that this will create an all new avenue for movie releases in India."

Earlier, he told Business Standard that the first time a producer came forward with an idea to broadcast a new movie through Direct-to-home (DTH) platform before its theatrical release, while usually the DTH broadcast a movie after the theatrical release and almost 2-3 weeks before the satellite release.

However, if the pricing is very steep, it might have its impact on participation of more viewers. Unlike the mis-perception that the DTH subscribers are urban population, almost two-third of the customers are in the semi-urban areas, he added.

The Airtel official said the broadcasting of the premier is very much like any other latest movie it airs after the theatrical release under its pay per view show offerings and the company is, in a sence, just a “distributor” of whatever content there is in the movie.

The company has around 30% of the Tamil Nadu DTH market, said Arora.

Allaying the apprehensions that the movie could be copied from the DTH, he said any pay per view show could be stored by the subscriber even if there is a DVR, only for a maximum extend of 24 hours and beyond that the film would get automatically erased. While many of such issues on copying and piracy is a matter of concern for the production house, the DTH operator is only acting as a distributor in that sense.

Airing a movie before the theatrical release has a challenge that many subscribers would not be ready to buy a movie which has not been known to them.

“Customers like to purchase a movie on DTH once they know about the movie, which they might have missed to watch in a theatre or was waiting watch in television. Here, things are more unplanned and we have to see how many people want to see a premier in DTH,” he said.

Arora added there is zero ambiguity in taking up a Kamal Haasan movie to be broadcasted as premier, since people would love to watch it in whichever platform it is in. He said the company's deal with Kamal Haasan's production house is based on how many subscribers are likely to watch the movie.

And the model has its potential, since DTH offers high quality digital print, and even the audio effects depending on the facilities set in the household. All the movies shown in DTH platform has to have U/A certification and no A certified movies could be broadcasted through the platform. This ensures that any movie shown through DTH must be viewable for the family audience.

He added the company would be looking at broadcasting more such premiers as an opportunity similar to its various other programmes, if there are more such proposals from the producers of the movies.

The movie would release in theatres on January 11, 2013, it will be premiered on Airtel DTH’s Pay Per View (PPV) at 9:30 pm on January 10, 2013 in Tamil, Telugu & Hindi.

Pre-bookings of the Tamil version will be available until January 8, 2013 for a charge of Rs 1,000. After which, the Tamil movie can be booked for a charge of Rs 1,200 and the Telugu & Hindi version for Rs 500.

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First Published: Mon, December 24 2012. 17:45 IST