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No show for Bollywood online

By Aminah Sheikh in Mumbai
February 29, 2008 09:45 IST
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Whereas Hollywood has recognised the true potential of its films' websites, its Indian cousin is yet to begin making money out of them.

Indian production companies are yet to wake up to the potential of making money from their websites too.

Almost every film has its own portal from where users can download wallpapers, view snippet of the film, download ringtones, see the making of the film, among other features. However, a Bollywood film's website is just a promotional and marketing activity, and is not treated as an integral marketing mix for a film, unlike in Hollywood, say analysts.

Hollywood production houses have gone beyond the traditional content and are making merchandising of a film available online -- like DVDs, games based on the movie and so on.

"In Hollywood, around 30 to 40 per cent of the noise is generated by a film's website, while in Bollywood it is around 15 to 20 per cent. Most of the leading Hollywood studios release trailers of the film exclusively on the portal as nearly 60 per cent of the audience overseas do not watch a film unless they have seen the trailers online," explains Carlton D'Silva, Creative Director, Bollywoodhungama.com.

The company has developed websites for several films like 'Taare Zameen Par', 'Darna Mana Hai', 'Vastu Shastra', and 'My name is Anthony Gonsalves'.

So what has kept producers away from exploring other features that can be monetised? "To incorporate a feature like merchandising of the film via its portal is one of the revenue streams. However, film merchandising, even at a retail level, hasn't yet taken off in India. Therefore, for it to translate in an e-transaction will take a while.

However, the website can drive sales for film merchandising made available in stores," says Navin Shah, CEO, P9 Integrated. He adds that even in international studios, buying of film merchandising online from the films portal is minuscule. Of the 35 to 40 per cent of the turnover earned by a Hollywood production company from the film's merchandising, roughly 10 per cent comes from e-sales, notes Shah.

Meanwhile, Hindi production houses are attempting to move towards an online promotion model. For instance, to release the DVD of 'Lagaan' after five years of the film's theatre release, the makers created a blog with actor Aamir Khan participating as the blogger.

The portal offered users a choice to book the DVD online, as it was a limited edition set. This apart, a few behind the scene clips were uploaded, which witnessed around 10,000 page views in just two weeks.

Similarly, Shah Rukh Khan-starrer 'Don' launched a multi-user online game on its portal. Also, portal developers are now looking at designing websites in sync with the film's mood and look, like in the case of the film 'Corporate', the website gave a feel as if the user was hacking into the website.

Another way that Indian production companies are ensuring traffic on a particular movie portal is by giving the URL (online address such as www.xyz.com) of the website on all its communication material such a posters and billboards.

Experts feel that Bollywood production houses should consider adopting the Hollywood model of uploading a trailer of a film a year before the film is released. Auctioning goods from the movie's set, limited edition signature-driven mementos, fan club activations, are some of the feature that can be incorporated in a movie portal. With such activation, a user ends up spending at least 5-10 minutes of his time, against the traditional 30-odd seconds, according to industry estimates.

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Aminah Sheikh in Mumbai
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