While broadcasters in the last three to four years have been paying a fortune to acquire Bollywood content for their channels, for the film studios, satellite rights have become a huge money spinner, contributing 30 to 40 per cent to their revenues.
However, 2014 may not be such a great year for the studios. With satellite rights prices hitting the roof, broadcasters have taken a conscious call to go slow on movie buying.
Star India has virtually exited the movie acquisition market, says Hemal Jhaveri, Executive Vice-President, Star Gold and Movies Ok. The broadcaster already has two deals going with Salman Khan (worth Rs 500 crore) and Ajay Devgn (a Rs 400 crore deal) wherein all their releases would be aired on the Star network.
"Movie acquisition is becoming a hugely expensive affair. We already have a steady supply coming from previous deals and we will make fresh acquisitions only if the content is really exciting," says Jhaveri.
While neither the MSM nor Viacom 18 spokespersons were available, the buzz is that all broadcasters are going slow as far as movie acquisitions are concerned.
"Whatever new films you are going to see, they are part of earlier deals," points out Jayantilal Gada, Chairman, Pen India, the company which acquires movies on behalf of Zee. "We (Zee) have never been aggressive in buying films, we pick and choose our films. Most broadcasters are wanting to go slow in acquiring films as there has been an irrational escalation of prices," says Gada.
In fact, most of the recent releases such as Queen, Gulab Gang, and even the upcoming Disney India release, Two States, are struggling to sell their satellite rights, says a senior film analyst, who doesn't wish to be quoted.
Not only had studios been selling satellite rights at a huge premium, they also had been doing bulk deals with broadcasters. Eros, for instance, did a Rs 100 crore deal last year with Viacom 18 for Khiladi 786 and four other smaller films. Many studios have also been pre-selling the satellite rights before the release of their film.
With broadcasters taking a back step, will it be end of the road for bulk deals and pre-selling of satellite rights?
Films will be pre-sold, but the era of senseless buying will stop, points out Vikram Malhotra, MD & CEO, Abunduntia Entertainment. "Broadcasters will be selective and will no longer choose to buy a film because they are part of a larger bundle," he says.