Special Report: A look at the Blu-Ray market in India

MUMBAI: With the advent of technology, the home video market has seen many a format change. First it was the VHS, which was followed by VCDs and DVDs. The latest technology to hit the home video market is the next-generation digital video disc, which is the Blu-Ray format.

In a war of sorts between major Hollywood studios for the adaptation of either the Blu-Ray format or the HD format last year, the former won hands down with most studios in favour of it. With its high storage capacity, Blu-Ray discs can hold and play back large quantities of high-definition video and audio, as well as photos, data and other digital content.

Blu-Ray is currently supported by about 200 of the world’s leading consumer electronics, personal computer, recording media, video game and music companies. Home video companies are looking at the format as a successor to the DVD format. While all Hollywood studios have begun the day-and-date release of their new films on Blu-Ray disc with the DVD, they are also flooding the market with a continuous slate of catalog titles every month on the new format. However, in India the format is going slowly.

Even though many home entertainment electronics manufacturers have introduced lines of Blu-Ray players since the format first emerged, the penetration of Blu-Ray players in India is still very slow as compared to other countries mainly due to the fact that the player base is small. However, most of the home video companies are now releasing English films on DVD as well as Blu-Ray. Indian home entertainment companies are of the opinion that the player base is slated to grow far bigger over the next two to three years.

Speaking to Businessofcinema.com, BIG Music and Home Entertainment CEO Kulmeet Makkar said, "So far we have released about 100 Hollywood films on Blu-Ray, while we have just released only a few Indian films like Ghajjni, Jodha Akbar and Rock On. Presently, our strategy is to release only those films that people would like to own and have as a collection. Hence the number of units set aside for the Indian market would be in the range of 100 – 1000 for Hollywood films and 500 – 2000 for Bollywood films depending on the type of film."

Though a number of production houses like Eros International, Yash Raj Films amongst others are releasing Blu-Ray discs of their films, these are mainly released for the overseas market. One of the reasons why the Blu-Ray disc format still has a long way to go in India is the price point. Blu-Ray is a very expensive format since the discs have to be imported. While DVDs are priced at Rs 399, Blu-Ray discs come for Rs 1199. Moreover, as of now, only Moser Baer has developed in-house patented technology for Blu-Ray discs, which has been considered as one of the four standard media to be included in the Blu-Ray disc specifications by the Blu-ray Disc Association. There are not other Blu-Ray manufacturing plants in India.

While Blu-Ray format is at a nascent stage in India, Excel Home Videos managing director Muslim Kapasi feels that even though it started a bit slow, the response to Blu-Ray in India has been good. He says, "So far we have released over 40 titles in Blu-Ray and we hope to cross around 120 titles before the year end. The numbers are constantly growing and right now it’s in the early adoption stage. Even though Blu-Ray is a high end format, in India it is still not the frontline format, the DVD is still the frontline format. The base for Blu-Ray is still small."

With hardware prices coming down as companies like LG and Philips began manufacturing the Blu-Ray player in India along with Moser Baer’s Blu-Ray manufacturing now operational in India, the format has the potential to pick pace over the next year or so. While the price point will remain a critical factor for the Indian consumer to adopt the Blu-Ray format, content coupled with differentiating bonus features will also play a pivotal role in growing the market for the format in India.

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