Glitz goes Bollywood

Hindi channel Filmy puts its focus on the biz

NEW DELHI — Hindi-language movie channel Filmy arrived Feb. 12 as it should — with a glitzy Bollywood party. Two months on, the celebrations in the Sahara One camp are continuing after the latest figures from audience research firm TAMS show the fledgling channel has already captured a market share of 7%.

While the figure pales behind ZeeCinema’s 35% and Rupert Murdoch’s Star Gold’s 23%, it nevertheless is impressive, according to Komal Natha, editor of the weekly magazine Film Information, based in Mumbai.

“It’s a good start — a good indication of the potential,” Natha told Variety of the channel that promises to “redefine the way cinema is consumed on television.”

The channel offers a daily diet of movies, news and gossip centered around Bollywood.

On April 1, a second movie channel bowed in the already crowded market — this time offering new and classic English films and targeting India’s rapidly expanding urban young middle-class.

Sony Entertainment Television (SET), the powerful group behind the venture, brought actor Will Smith to Mumbai in March to publicize its new channel, which it has named simply Pix.

Six weeks on, SET chief exec Kunal Dasgupta reckons the channel is doing OK, considering it’s up against established players.

“It’s early, and we’re still getting word out that we’ve arrived,” Dasgupta says. “But there has been good response in pockets of the country. This will grow.”

Media analysts believe there’s space for more movie channels.

“There is definitely room. The mass media is playing a bigger role in India, and movie channels are going to play a major role as well,” says media analyst Ram Patnaik of Brics Securities.

The TV industry already represents some 60% of the $4.5 billion value of the Indian entertainment industry, which is expected to grow to $10 billion by 2009.

With a middle class of approximately 300 million people — larger than the entire population of the U.S. — India is expected to be Asia’s leading pay TV market within 10 years, according to Hong Kong-based analyst Media Partners Asia.