Murdoch’s Star India Inks Deal With Bollywood Star Ajay Devgn

TV pact follows similar deal with Salman Khan

LONDON – Feevee Star India, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., has pacted with Bollywood star Ajay Devgn for global broadcast rights for all his films for the next six years, beginning with March 29 release “Himmatwala.”

This follows a similar 2012 deal with thesp Salman Khan.

Both actors are riding a box office wave with their recent releases breaching the rupees 1 billion ($18 million) mark, a figure considered the gold standard of Bollywood, and subsequent TV premieres gaining high ratings.

Though Star declined to comment on the value of the pacts, Indian distributors estimate the Devgn deal to be worth $73 million and the Khan deal $91 million. The broadcast rights for Bollywood movies featuring A-listers usually go for around $7 million per film. Devgn is expected to star in 10 films in the next six years and Khan five.

“Star is tapping into the brand equity of the actors,” Indiantelevision.com group founder and CEO, and Intl. Emmy member, Anil Wanvari told Variety. “They are thinking ahead of the market. It’s worth the price and can easily be monetized.”

Star concluded the deals with the actors, rather than with the individual producers of the upcoming films.

“Both these actors have their own production houses and they are producers in their own right,” said Hemal Jhaveri, exec VP and general manager of Star’s Hindi-language movie channels Star Gold and Movies OK.

In recent years Devgn has co-produced films that he stars in through his Ajay Devgn Films, and Khan via his brothers’ Arbaaz Khan Prods. and Sohail Khan Prods., with the actors waiving or reducing their fees in exchange for a percentage of the profit.

The co-producers, including Reliance Entertainment for Khan’s “Bodyguard” and Fox Star Studios India for Devgn’s “Bol Bachchan,” provide financing.

Devgn said: “Business is becoming increasingly open and clear, so it’s easier to deal directly. I am securing the producer a higher value, so he benefits eventually, as they often depend on satellite rights to garner a substantial amount of the cost of production. But I am also ensuring a certain amount for myself.”

Typically, broadcast rights account for some 35% of a Bollywood film’s production budget.

Star India operates 33 channels in eight languages to 400 million viewers across India, and more than 100 other countries, including the U.S. and the U.K.

In 2012, Star bought broadcast rights for India’s domestic cricket for six years, comprising 96 matches, for $703 million.

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