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Par, U eye India’s vid audience

BOMBAY, India — Paramount and Universal have teamed up to create a plan to give India’s English-language video-watchers a respite from poor quality pirated videocassettes. Fuzzy video recordings of new Hollywood releases are screened in India following their American premieres. Often taped from projection booths, these recordings register all but the smell of popcorn, with audience heads and reactions coming through on tape.

Paramount and Universal, united in a venture called CIC Video, intend as of April 1 to provide high quality videotape recordings of original blockbusters, good enough to match international specifications.

P. Chanda, general manager of CIC’s Indian subsidiary, Universal Films of India, has planned an up-market strategy for the release of select Hollywood video recordings. Expensive JVC professional equipment will be used for duplications of the master print, which will be processed digitally and with Dolby systems.

There are around 30,000 video libraries in India, catering to 19% of the 43 million Indian TV households that own VCRs.About 17% of the home cable audience watches Star TV, and it is this primarily urban English-oriented audience that CIC aims to capture.

CIC will single out select video libraries in major metro towns as customers. Each CIC cassette will sell at the higher price of 350 rupees ($ 11.25), as opposed to $ 8 for the pirated tapes. The CIC rental fee will be 64 cents, double that of the average one-time video rental charge. CIC intend to release around 10 films per month, adding up to 120 titles per year.

Chanda says that studies conducted by CIC in 12 Indian cities showed that discerning viewers were prepared to pay higher rental fees for good quality tapes. He added that 16% of TV watching time was done on the VCR by these viewers, averaging to one film every two weeks. Poor quality was the main reason given for the low rate of viewing. , followed by lack of time and high cost. The findings provided a basis, Chanda said, for trying to win over the urban video viewer.

Chanda’s answer to the piracy problem is that the films will be protected by the Copyright Act of 1957 as amended in 1984, and will not be authorized to be shown on cable. Also, action will be taken against the proposed network TV regulation bill of 1993, and a new technology called microvision is also being considered to inhibit cassette piracy.

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