Alon Shtruzman, CEO of Keshet International (KI), global content producer and distributor, is a man on a mission. He wants to find and commission great stories out of Asia. KI is part of Keshet Media Group, Israel's most successful media company, head-quartered in Tel Aviv.
Janine Stein, editorial director, ContentAsia, an Asia-based information resource, chatted with him on the vdonxt asia stage in Mumbai recently.
Answering a question about where India fits in, in the context of the 25-year-old company's recently raised 'content fund' of $63 million, Alon said, "big time," as that India is a key market for the team, alongside markets like the UK, USA, Germany and Latin America.
For him, India is a market that he can associate both "buying" and "creating" with. "I want to bring shows to India - I definitely see the option of selling Indian shows outside of India... of bringing shows from India to other markets..." he said, acknowledging the rich legacy of Indian television and film content. "India has a very developed production marketplace..." he stated.
While it's no secret that American shows "travel better than anything else," Alon brought up India's burgeoning appetite for shows in foreign languages; "even though watching the dubbed version is an option, many viewers prefer the original..."
Netflix has certainly played a role in opening up the market to such shows; Israeli show Fauda, originally aired on Israeli TV channel Yes Oh, was among the ones he named. Among Keshet's popular shows is False Flag, created by Maria Feldman and Leora Kamenetzky, makers of Fauda. "We benefited from the Netflix phenomena..." he said.
Janine asked Alon whether the skills being developed in creating and producing "global titles like Sacred Games, Mirzapur" are good for the the kind of border-less, content cross-pollination Alon is interested in. "When it comes to production, the Indian market is more developed than most markets..." he said. According to him, shows like the ones Janine mentioned blur the line between movies and television.
In every market, Alon finds, premium video platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and others, have compelled local broadcasters and cable channels to "up their game" and look for "high end shows". That's what he attributes Keshet's association with Star for the show 'POW - Bandi Yuddh Ke' to. Star TV's local (Hindi) adaptation of Keshet's Israeli show Hatufim, Hebrew for prisoners of war, was released in India in 2016. Another international adaptation of Hatufim is Homeland (USA).
Alon then spoke about the importance of "packaging" shows well, his preference for co-investing with a platform/channel when entering a new market, the importance of investing money in IPs ("in the future we'll see more self-funded shows"), Keshet's eight-minute-short, 'vertical format' episodes for Snapchat ("short form content is here to stay"), and themes that will dominate content trends in India in 2019.
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