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Mela Launches A Free Online Movie Streaming Service; Our Take

Mela, the global multi-platform consumer entertainment service from Verismo which focusses on South Asian content, has introduced online streaming of full length movies on its portal, allowing users to view select movies on their computers, free of cost. The company noted that these free-to-view movies will also be available on Mela TV apps on iPad (outside India), Roku (outside India and US), Android, Kindle Fire, Samsung TVs and DVD.

Content: Mela said that the service will initially offer eight Hindi movies for free viewing, with new titles from Hindi and eight regional languages being added every week. Among the titles offered currently are The Dirty Picture, Ishqiya, Jodi Breakers, Black, Firaaq, The Forest, Chaurahen, Will you Marry Me?, Good Night Good Morning and Virgin Goat.

Advertising deals: Mela stated that it has partnered with external South Asian websites, magazines, and TV shows who will serve as monthly premium sponsors for each of these movies. The initial lineup of advertisers include Asian Variety Show TV, a North American television network which focuses on South Asian content; BizAsia, a UK-based South Asian entertainment news portal; BollySpice, a Bollywood news portal; Miss Malini, a Bollywood and fashion blog; Long Live Cinema, a South Asian independant film database and masalamommas, an online magazine for South Asian mothers.

Our Take: We tried accessing the service on a Macbook Air. While we were able to browse through all movies listed on the portal and view detailed information on them, we were unable to stream any of the movies on our computer since it needed a Mela TV account to start streaming. When we tried signing up for an account, we were asked to validate our device by “entering the activation code being displayed on TV”. This step suggests that either the free movies are either available only to Mela TV subscribers or the company hasn’t put in place a new registration mechanism yet for users to sign up and view free movies.

In our opinion, it’s the case of a broken registration mechanism, since it wouldn’t make sense to offer free movies to paid Mela TV subscribers who can already access the entire movie catalog of Mela. For context, Mela currently claims to offer more than 900 Bollywood & regional movies, independent films and selected premium Internet videos.

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Other Offerings: In May 2012, Verismo had released its Mela TV app on multiple platforms and extended the service to all regions, allowing Indian users to access live TV and on demand content through various Internet connected devices. This app offered Tamil and Telugu entertainment content including entertainment channels, cooking shows, sports and live news, educational programs, devotional videos and many more. It also featured MelaFlix, a movie channel airing Telugu and Tamil films and popular Bollywood titles, for which it had tied up with several content providers like Sun Network, Yash Raj Films, ETV Network, Shemaroo, and Telugu One among others.

Prior to this, the company had also launched a First Day First Show initiative wherein it released Bollywood movies in international markets simultaneous to their theatrical release in India. These movies were available on Roku, iPad and on its Mela HD Set Top Box.

YouTube also offers a similar ad-supported service through YouTube Box Office, although it looks the company had abandoned this initiative in favor of its revamped Movies section, with no new movies being uploaded in the last six months or so. Yahoo India had also launched a video destination, Movieplex, allowing users to access licensed full-length movies for free on the Internet.

What happened to Mela Spin-off? On a separate note, we wonder what happened to Mela being spun off? When Sab Kanaujia stepped down as the President, Entertainment Services, Verismo Networks and GM, Mela, due to difference of opinion with Prakash Bhalerao, the CEO of Verismo Networks on the strategy and the direction in which Mela was headed, Kanaujia had stated that he had submitted a proposal to the Verismo board to spin Mela out from Verismo as an independent entity controlled by the management team, and was currently in discussion with the board. However, there seems to be no update on that front yet.

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