Bollywood ringtones and games have emerged as a key source of revenue for cellphone operators, and it is clear that cell phones, more than the Web, are central to marketing/promo campaigns when it comes to audiences within India (link). Of course, film songs have always worked as brand extensions – songs have been part of the publicity machine for several decades now and with every new medium, we’ve seen innovative uses of film music. While state-owned radio and television didn’t do much, satellite TV channels introduced a host of film music-themed shows – from top ten rotations to flashbacks to talent shows like Antakshari, Sa Re Ga Ma, and Indian Idol.
As it turns out, the question of rights and ownership plays a crucial role and is a key factor that distinguishes Bollywood from Hollywood when it comes to developing content for the mobile platform. As an exec explains here:
Hollywood is a multibillion-dollar industry, but there are many companies in the value chain and that makes the issue of rights complicated,” said Nick Lane, an independent consultant specializing in the mobile phone industry. “With Bollywood, the main difference in getting the content onto the mobile phone is that the whole process is a lot smother.”
And this has been so for several decades now. When All India Radio banned film music in post-independence India, producers in Bombay canceled AIR’s license rights and channeled music and advertising money to Radio Ceylon instead. While programs like Showtheme and Chitrahaar on state-regulated Doordarshan didn’t bring in much money for producers, the flow of film content on satellite TV channels during the 1990s was negotiated with considerable ease (the story of entire films being screened on “pirate” cable channels is a different story). As far as I know, no one has done any systematic work on this question of rights and specifically, how it has shaped the flow of film content across media and made processes of convergence less fraught compared to Hollywood.
In fact, it might be worth thinking about the notion of “mobile Bollywood” in historical terms and across media and not necessarily specific to mobile phones.