Of Bollywood, Cricket and Broadband

slumdog_millionaireOver the weekend, I stumbled upon Speakeasy, a newish blog from the editors of The Wall Street Journal. It covers off-business subjects such as art and film. One of the posts that caught my eye:  “Panting After Slumdog.” The grimace-inducing headline notwithstanding, the post talks about how some companies are looking to cash in on the “Slumdog Millionaire” craze by offering the latest Bollywood flicks in theaters across the U.S., thanks to big, fat broadband pipes! BIG, run by Adlabs Films (which is part of the Reliance ADA Group, a conglomerate), is working on building a chain of movie theaters that would show the latest Bollywood flicks. And because Reliance owns a global fiber network (FLAG Telecom) and a metro network provider (Yipes), it can provide connectivity on the cheap and deliver new movies to the U.S. instantly. Because of that, the company can offer a same-time experience for many of the Indian films.

The company recently launched a theater in Chicago and plans to follow up with fiber-connected theaters in New York, D.C., Detroit, Atlanta and Los Angeles (though not San Francisco or Houston — two cities where there is a substantial South Asian population). What’s next? How about broadcasting cricket matches directly to multiplexes.

Eventually, BIG plans to air cricket matches as well, (Adlabs CEO Anil) Arjun said. Undersea fiber optic cables operated by BIG’s sister company, Reliance Communications, allow for a near-instant transmission (it takes about four and a half hours to wire a movie from Mumbai to New York — perhaps less time than it takes to watch a full Bollywood epic).

Of course, you can (or will soon) get Bollywood fare via digital distribution channels such as iTunes and Hulu. Back in 2005 something like this seemed like a far-fetched theory. Today, it seems so obvious!