When NBC Universal’s President and CEO Jeff Zucker spoke on the importance of looking out of the US for growth, he had set the tone for half the conversations at the NATPE Conference 2008. Marcel Fenez, Global Managing Partner, Entertainment and Media Practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers cited statistics like 18 per cent growth in the Indian media market, and 16 per cent growth in China as reasons that were attracting international players – big and small – to these markets. He said, “The US dollar is, in fact, becoming weaker and that is yet another indication that growth lies elsewhere now. However, we have already seen examples of investments in the international markets go sour. The question is how to do it right.”
The first to offer any reply on that was NBC Universal’s President, Global Networks and Digital Initiatives, Roma Khanna. Khanna is also the liaison officer between NBCU and NDTV India. She identified a roadmap to guide the way into international expansion. Putting it simply, Khanna spoke on the market that a company wanted to get into, then study the regulatory environment of that market, the competition there and the content needs, that would finally help in forming a business model that could best work in that market, which would be in line with the growth expectations.
She explained that there were various kinds of business models, from injecting international content to getting in the middle of local content by either acquisition or a entering the market standalone. When asked on whether NBCU was late in the game given that unlike some other global players, NBCU had got into India only now, Khanna said, “I don’t think you can get in late. Sure, the game changes to the extent that you need to pay more to be in a mature market, for instance the European television market is near impossible to enter at present. But for India, we are in the exact right time.”
“NDTV launched a Hindi general entertainment channel (NDTV Imagine) and though it is still early, the channel has started very well, and is already giving competition a tough time. Launching new channels is not easy. The content has to resonate with the local audience. For us it makes sense to be with a partner like that, who knows the market that well,” Khanna added.
Another instance that triggers growth in international markets is through partnerships at a “simpler level”. Tim Mutimer, Director of Sales, Granada International, cited an example here where India sees its share of innovation in sales deals. He said, “You can also look at different ways of engaging in everyday deals to have a presence in an international market. For instance, just a week back, we have worked on a branded entertainment deal with National Geographic and GroupM in India for a client Lufthansa, on Nat Geo’s show ‘Nat Geo Genius’.”
Some of the other emerging international markets mentioned were Central Eastern America, Russia, Japan and China. In comparison to India, the global heads were of the opinion that the name of the game in China was volumes. Anthony Tse, President, China Entertainment Television (CETV), explained that China was not about one good deal but many not-so-good deals. The television success in China was strictly in the long-tail.
Even as various ways to be present in a market was spoken about at the conference, and the sensitivities of some markets were discussed, a point of contention between the global heads was the balance between the empowerment to the local partners with the global vision. Terry Mak, EVP, Distribution and TV Networks, Celestial Pictures, said that when a global company took away the entrepreneurship from the local partners, they slowed the growth process and handicaped the management.
To this, Khanna said that till the business in a country had reached a certain threshold, it was important for the international partner to stay close since apart from investments, the credibility of the players involved was at stake in international relations. The common point that the experts agreed on was that there had to be clarity on the kind of empowerment given to the local management, and that it should be done in a manner that the specific market heads could take decisions on their own.
Another key to the success of international relations has to be the need to work like small companies that can look at various details more closely. The conference entailed various other points for mutually beneficial relations that included the need to know local sensitivities – in content and business models, respect for the partners involved and reciprocity.