Could Airtel Movies solve India’s rampant piracy?

Airtel tied up with Bigflix to launch Airtel Movies few weeks ago. The service is nicely priced and gives access to 500 movies, tv shows and music videos. Airtel Movies is available for Airtel subscribers only. There were quite  a few digital services before Airtel Movies. But Airtel Movies is not necessarily competing with Hungama, Eros, DTH’s movie on demand services or many of Airtel’s own services.

Airtel Movies is competing with the street vendors hawking pirated DVD’s at Rs. 35 (US$0.78) per disc. Sometimes the discs are loaded with five movies for the same price. That is 7 rupees per movie, an unbeatable price proposition. If we take a middle ground and price the money a customer would pay per movie would be Rs. 10, the total cost of Airtel Movies catalog would be Rs. 5,000 to the customer. That is equivalent to buying 142 pirated DVDs. A feat which can be achieved in a span of two years.

In two years, at 229 rupees (US$5) per month, a subscriber ends up paying Rs. 5,496 in total to watch 500 movies. There is also a chance of watching more movies as Bigflix expands its collection. In addition, there will be music videos, trailers and TV shows. Now that we have done the math, Airtel Movies doesn’t sound like a bad proposition at all. It is a tantalizing little subscription which has the potential to kill piracy.

Buying 142 pirated DVD’s is a big ask even for the most efficient pirated DVD watchers. Watching pirated DVD’s is an art. The movies are shot with poor cameras at ugly angles. In many cases, the movie sold is not the movie on the disc. There are absolutely no guarantees on the quality of the movies.

Ubiquity of the pirated DVD’s does tell one thing. People are ready to pay for entertainment packaged properly. They might actually pay a little extra for quality and convenience.

I’d have to be living in a dreamworld to say that digital subscriptions like Airtel Movies will solve all the piracy problems. Only a little percentage of the piracy problem can be solved with Airtel Movies. There are a mere 12 million broadband consumers in India. What about the rest? If priced appropriately would you pay for the content?