afaqs!

Indian broadcasters look overseas for subscriptions

By Anindita Sarkar , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | December 28, 2011
The aim of many domestic channels is to expand their footprints nationwide through focussed distribution; yet they are stepping out to explore the global market. afaqs! explores the reasons.

Viacom 18 Media, the equal joint venture between Viacom and Network18, just launched its flagship channel Colors in Canada. The channel, which began its international operations in early 2010, now reaches out to almost 50 countries. Its content is syndicated in over 55 countries to many third party channels in various languages (dubbed and subtitles).

B4U, too, has launched B4U Movies and B4U Music on Zuku, a cable network and Star Times, a DTT operator, in East Africa. Both Star Times and Zuku cater to the local Asian community in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, Burundi, Entrea, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Sudan.

UTV Stars, described as the official channel of Bollywood, was launched simultaneously in India and in West Asia on August 19, 2011. UTV had collaborated with telecom operator and TV services provider Etisalat for the channel's launch in West Asia. With this launch, UTV strengthened its presence in the UAE through Etisalat which also showcases UTV Bindass and UTV Movies in the region.

Almost all domestic channels in the market are not only aiming to expand their footprints nationwide through focussed distribution, but are also stepping outside the domestic borders to tap viewers in other countries. Why? afaqs! explores.

In search of subscription revenues

Any channel that forays outside the Indian territory mainly targets increased subscription revenues. Regions with a substantial Indian population outside India are starved for good Indian content and are willing to pay well for the same.

Addressing the Indian diaspora directly brings in additional revenues to the channels. Zee Entertainment, for instance, reported that in 2010, 19 per cent of its entire revenue came from the international market. It is a very lucrative opportunity.

For Colors, too, international revenue has grown significantly in the last two years, and is now a significant contributor to the overall revenue pie for the channel.

Gaurav Gandhi, head, international business, and COO Sun18 North, informs that the Indian diaspora overseas exceeds over 20 million individuals, and is spread over 100 countries. And, though the high concentration areas continue to be markets such as the US, the UK, the UAE, South Africa, Fiji, The Caribbean, and Canada, there are several other markets like Australia and New Zealand, western European countries, and South East Asia, which have seen a substantial growth over the last few years.

"Indians around the world seek the same high quality entertainment television content that their relatives see back home, or what they saw on TV before they migrated. Besides, they want to see it on the same day as it is aired in India," explains Gandhi.

Additionally, apart from adding to subscription revenues, the move also helps leverage international relationships and alliances for content syndication.

Impact on viewership, build up advertising revenues

Since the Indian diaspora is a small proportion to the overall population in most markets (the UAE being an exception), the rating systems don't necessarily capture this viewership. Hence, while the viewership base does nominally increase with international foray, TV channels are currently unable to monetise this increase in viewership through increased ad rates due to lack of immediate relevancy for advertisers.

Therefore, for most channels, international expansion hasn't led to increased ad revenues as yet.

"This is, however, expected to change over time as international viewership increases, and local advertising in these markets is effectively leveraged," says K A Srinivasan, co-founder, Amagi.

In support to the above contention, many broadcasters note that though subscription remains a much larger contributor to the international revenue pie, advertising in markets such as the US, West Asia, and the UK is a growing contributor.

Brand impact

While international expansion does provide revenue advantages -- direct increase in subscription revenues without significant cost overheads, it also builds an international brand that can be used as a foundation for future growth.

Expansion outside India helps build an international base. And, this helps get the high-spending Indian diaspora hooked onto content that can be leveraged beyond TV, the first touch point for the brand, with the international consumer being lured to consume content in other media, too, such as the internet, mobile and interactive games. This extends the reach of the brand dramatically and builds the base for holistic growth for the future, across media.

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