Web lights audiences path to Eros pics

Company reaches out digitally

The Indian diaspora is spread around the world, in pockets often not quite big enough to justify a theatrical release or shelf space at local DVD rentailers.

But digital platforms are giving Eros Entertainment new ways to reach a bigger chunk of its potential aud.

In the past year, company has started a video download service on its own Web site, erosentertainment.com, and significantly expanded its mobile and digital cable video-on-demand operations.

Eros’ digital ambitions first took center stage at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, where it announced it would be working with Intel and its Viiv digital content platform to start putting its movies online.

“We are vertically integrated and own all the digital rights for our films,” CEO Kishore Lulla says. “For the blockbuster movies, there’s a window before we put them online. Smaller films go day-and-date with a theatrical release or DVD.”

Users can rent or download movies to own, with different pricing models and windows in different markets. Right now they’re only available on Eros’ own Web site and through Movielink, but Lulla says the company hopes to soon let any potential partner sell Eros movies on that vendor’s own site.

Besides new films, Eros is about halfway through the process of digitizing its library, allowing it to monetize its significant catalog of Bollywood pics.

That’s helpful online and on cable, where the proliferation of digital channels is opening opportunities for what is, in countries like the U.S., niche content.

Eros has launched subscription video-on-demand channels with Comcast and Rogers Cable in the U.S. and is in talks with several other big cable operators. It’s pursuing the same strategy in the U.K., Singapore and Dubai.

Company also has a substantial library of music produced for its movies, which it sells through online stores like iTunes and Rhapsody.

In addition, it’s jumping headlong into a market that, while not suitable for movies, allows it to market movies and develop new types of content. Eros has a mobile deal with India Mauj in its home country and is working with various operators around the world providing short codes, video clips and other content for cell phones.

But Eros is planning to move beyond clips and promotional material to produce original content made for cell phones as well as the Net. Its production division is working on short-form content that users can watch for free with ads, instead of the current model of pay-per-view and subscriptions.

Digital content will be a key part of its presence at Cannes, where the company will announce a variety of new media initiatives on its own and with big-name partners.

“We will have new programming and mobile products at Cannes,” previews Lulla, “and we are working with Google on some strategy we will be announcing there.”

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