While the big broadcasters, cable networks and Hollywood studios are doing a good job of making their content available online in the U.S., international video fans have largely been left wanting. In particular, fans of South Asian or Bollywood content might have had a hard time finding anything but the most recognizable Bollywood movie titles. IP set-top box maker Verismo Networks is seeking to meet that demand with a new subscription service called Mela that will give viewers outside South Asia the ability to watch a wide range of live and on-demand Bollywood content.
Big productions, huge demand
Distributors like Netflix (s NFLX) and Amazon have added some foreign-language content to their video offerings, but it generally pales in comparison to the amount that is actually produced in local markets. The South Asian movie and TV industry is a great example: Sab Kanaujia, general manager for Mela, says Bollywood studios typically produce three times more movies than Hollywood, and sell three to four times as many tickets. But since tickets in India cost so much less than the average theater in the U.S., box office revenues tend to be much lower.
And so, between the number of titles released and the number of viewers for those movies, there’s clearly a huge demand for Bollywood fare. There are more than 3 billion people who follow the Bollywood movie industry worldwide, according to Kanaujia. But that demand isn’t currently being met; just scan Netflix’s foreign catalog and see how many Bollywood films are available. (Kanaujia estimates there are less than 30 of them.) Now Mela hopes to make that content available to international viewers, with a streaming service that will give access to hundreds of on-demand movies and dozens of live South Asian TV channels.
How it works
Launching as a subscription service à la Netflix or Hulu Plus, Mela has more than 500 Bollywood movies available for on-demand viewing, as well as a total of 45 live TV channels. The service today is available for $149 with the purchase of a streaming box that will include a year’s subscription for on-demand movies, 20 live TV channels, and a choice between one of two regional live TV plans based on language. Otherwise, the subscription TV plans will go for $9.99 a month each, with access to the on-demand movie service set at $4.99 a month.
The Mela box can be purchased online or at select retail locations throughout the U.S. While it is initially launching the service with its own box (built by parent Verismo Networks), the company understands the need to make its programming available through a number of other connected devices and will add them as time goes on. That includes access on the Roku streaming box, mobile handsets and tablets like the iPad, (s AAPL) as well as connected TVs, Blu-ray players and gaming consoles.
The service is launching in the United States, but Kanaujia expects Mela to expand to other markets in the coming year, most likely starting with the U.K. Since Mela has broad international rights to all the content it has licensed, it will be able to quickly roll out in other geographies.
The long tail, realized
As distributing video online becomes easier and more consumers become comfortable with the idea of streaming non-traditional TV content, we expect to see more services like Mela popping up, particularly around foreign-language programming. While there are already a number of individual services on streaming boxes like Roku, there’s an even bigger opportunity as more device manufacturers open up their SDKs and allow programmers to build their own apps and services with IP video streams.