Reliance Entertainment owned video streaming service BigFlix.com is planning to go where many aggregators have gone before: it is going to target the Indian diaspora in US, UK and Canada, with Indian content, according to IndianTelevision.com. Reliance Entertainment CEO Manish Agarwal tells the site that they’ll target Indian communities in other markets like Singapore, the Middle East, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and others, incorporating regional language content, beyond Bollywood. The service will be priced at $4.99 per month.

Some thoughts:

– Fresh deals: Since BigFlix has so far primarily been focused on the Indian market, we assume that it didn’t have agreements for global markets yet. This means that it will have to sign fresh agreements with content owners to cover international markets, and these could mean that the company has to spend extra on minimum guarantees, and differentiated revenue shares.

– Will it work? Many content owners have targeted the international market before, but the model has mostly been free-to-view, and monetized through advertising. Without free content, it’s been difficult for businesses to get viewers, and the marketing costs may not justify the model. The Indian content piracy market in the US has been difficult to disrupt too.

Acquiring new films and screening them at the same time as they release in India will be important.

– The market has changed: it isn’t the same market that used to exist when JumpTV was targeting the diaspora. Companies like Mela are going down the applications and set-top-box route. Indiatimes* had announced Boxtv.com earlier this year, but we don’t know when it will launch. Rajshri.com, which also targeted the global market, always had most of its content free for viewing, but found its calling in distributing content to YouTube. The primary cost after licensing will be marketing, and distribution is likely to take place from India. The big question still remains – will enough people pay to watch Indian content in the US for content businesses to survive? BigFlix’ choice of subscription versus advertising driven will be tricky.

– Role of Regional content: It used to be mostly Bollywood and Tamil cinema that was used to attract international viewers, but BigFlix appears to be targeting smaller niches like Bhojpuri as well. This might help aggregate the audience, and the pricing mechanism then becomes interesting – it’s $4.99 per month, for access to unlimited movies. So the plan is probably to get regional content to get people to subscribe to the entire package.

– Distribution & Timing: Integration with Roku and Smart TVs will be key for BigFlix, and the television market gets overhauled (and connected) in the next couple of years. We doubt that there will be much profitability in this business for a few years, but getting there early and adapting to the market will be key for BigFlix. This is about timing, and many have got the timing wrong in the past.

* disclosure: Indiatimes is an advertiser with MediaNama

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