Sangeeta Tanwar

TV.NXT: It's time to tap new potential markets by looking beyond low-hanging fruits

Looking at the overseas market, the easiest part is to replicate high production values but the real challenge lies in producing fresh intellectual properties (IP) for these markets

The first day of TV.NXT saw the industry stalwarts debating various hot topics related to the Indian television industry.

TV.NXT: It's time to tap new potential markets by looking beyond low-hanging fruits
The second session of the day, titled 'How to take Indian content overseas', saw industry experts including Bharat Ranga, chief operating officer, international operations, Zee Entertainment Enterprises; Rahul Sood, head, affiliate sales, business development and network distribution, NDTV; Gaurav Gandhi, chief commercial officer and head, international business, Viacom18 Group; and Puneet Kinra, group chief executive officer, Balaji Telefilms discussing the opportunities and challenges facing Indian players while operating in overseas markets.
TV.NXT: It's time to tap new potential markets by looking beyond low-hanging fruits
TV.NXT: It's time to tap new potential markets by looking beyond low-hanging fruits
TV.NXT: It's time to tap new potential markets by looking beyond low-hanging fruits
TV.NXT: It's time to tap new potential markets by looking beyond low-hanging fruits
TV.NXT: It's time to tap new potential markets by looking beyond low-hanging fruits
The discussion was moderated by Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, author, The Indian Media Business.

The moderator opened the session by stating that be it syndication, dubbing or distribution, only a few channels have taken steps in this direction. Viacom18 is present in 28 countries and Zee continues to be a success story with Rs 440 crore in revenue coming in from its international business.

Kohli-Khandekar asked the panellists why much action has not been visible on this front across the board and what has contributed to Zee's success overseas?

Ranga replied, "The simple and the only answer to the question is that the content has been responsible for the success of our international business. Our content is in accordance with the taste and preference of the overseas audience. We have built this mechanism in our business and in the process, we might lose few rupees here (read India) but at the same time, we gain some dollars."

He shared that content can be produced in various forms. One can build a franchise especially for the overseas market or India alone. The content also can be generated for both the markets as well.

Ranga added, "There has to be different game plans for different markets. Indians are spread out in 167 countries. Though West Asia has the largest number of Indians, they do not have great purchasing power. Thus it's all about how an enterprise chases the dual objective of revenue and subscription."

After decoding the success formula of the broadcaster, Zee, the moderator mentioned the popularity and success enjoyed by fiction shows of Balaji in countries such as Sri Lanka and Malayasia. She turned to Kinra to know what the production house's future plans were and the priorities following successful syndication deals for its fiction content.

Kinra responded by saying that the first priority of the production house was to reach out to the Indian diaspora spread out across the world. Having achieved that, the next step now is to create local content. The aim is to create specific IPs (intellectual properties) for individual markets. It's time to explore new emerging markets including Madrid and Latin America.

"The easiest part in the whole process is replicating the high-value production skills involved in creating content. However, the real challenge is in creating fresh IPs," suggested Kinra.

Taking forward the discussion, Gandhi shared Colors' experience with the overseas market. He asserted that India is the most overproduced market in the world, with 180 hours of fresh content being produced every week. According to him, we, as a country, face a couple of challenges while catering to international markets.

He said, "Content in India is designed to capture ratings. As the measurement meters penetrate further downward, the content produced is such that it appeals to the lower mass strata of the society. Now, the question is whether such content appeals to everybody outside our country -and the answer is no. The tendency here is to go for low-hanging fruits by tapping existing markets - by taking your channel to the United Kingdom and Canada markets."

Sharing Viacom18 and Colors' strategy to tap the overseas business, Gandhi mentioned that the channel has begun by sharing its feed in smaller markets such as Australia. East Europe and Africa are the new emerging markets, where the channel is making headway by drawing on its equity built on new movie titles owned by the channel and the company.

Colors is eyeing both distribution and syndication routes to maximise its gains.

Moving away from the experience of the GEC (general entertainment channel), Kohli-Khandekar turned to Sood of NDTV to share the news brands' experience with international markets.

Sood emphasised that NDTV has proved to be a clutter breaker when it comes to reaching out to the overseas market. When the news entity made its presence felt in the United States in 2003, the sole aim of NDTV was to make Indian news available overseas. Currently, NDTV is present in 80 countries.

All along, the philosophy for NDTV has been to not just reach an ethnic mass but to cater to a wider base of audience.

The moderator questioned Sood on challenges that the Indian players face on the distribution front while operating in overseas markets.

Sood accepted that having been clubbed with biggies such as CNN and BBC in a market such as the US at the time of NDTV's launch in 2004 did prove a little bit of a challenge.

Kohli-Khandekar turned to Kinra to know how Indian players tackle hassles on the distribution front, given that in the overseas market, it's all about replacing one Asian channel with another. There is no differentiation between players based on language or genre.

"Most often, one is able to show the purchasing power of the ethnic Indians and to convince them that it makes sense to target this segment of population. For instance, Japanese pay $30 for a month for Japan TV, whose content quality is inferior even to Doordarshan's. People overseas are keen on consuming same content as consumed by their counterparts back home. Rather, there are issues with bandwidth given the large number of channels present in mature markets," responded Kinra.

Sood added that besides established markets, what Indian broadcasters and media companies need to do is to come together and explore other potential markets. Players could come together to form a bouquet and sell together. To succeed, one has to manage overheads and subscription numbers and sustain it for four to five years to see benefits.

Nearing the end of the session, Kohli-Khandekar suggested that does the fact that India itself consumes a lot of media lead to an impression as to why export content, when we already have our hands full?

"There is a limit to the amount of work that one can do and one knows that one cannot go beyond a point. It's not easy to create a brand," concluded Kinra.

The event was organised by afaqs! in association with Big CBS (main sponsor) and STAR News (associate sponsor). The other sponsors include UTV Action, Bloomberg UTV, Sony PIX, Sahara Samay and Mastiii TV.

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