With the launch of Box Cricket League (BCL) on Sony Entertainment Television, a property developed by Balaji Telefilms and Marinating films, we spoke with Sameer Nair, Group CEO of Balaji Telefilms regarding their venture into unchartered waters, growth plans and challenges he faces in his new role at Balaji Telefilms.
What was the reason Balaji Telefilms backed this show?
Marinating Film did the trial season in March-April. Sunny and Anand (from Marinating Films) came up with this idea. Ekta actually heard it through a friend who owns one of the teams. She told me at that time that she was thinking about buying a team. But when we took a look at the property, I thought maybe it would be better for us to invest in Marinating Films and then take a position in the league itself. That is how we got involved and we have spent the last couple of months with Marinating films to add more muscle and ideas to it. They had already got a telecast deal from Sony SIX to be telecast in the sports channel. Since it was a better fit in the entertainment space, we spoke to the management at Sony and got it a slot on Sony Entertainment, which is a good thing.
What are the revenues that you look to generate from the BCL?
This is the first year. But the fact is, this property promises to do well. We are going to do our best to make sure this is a genuinely big sports entertainment reality concept and with so many stars participating and doing the best they can, it is possible. The first thing for revenue is that it must perform well on TV and everything follows.
How much has Balaji invested in this property?
I would say that it is a substantial investment. It is the first time a company like ours has bought into and therefore created an IP. Since we own the IP, we are spending a lot of money on it. It is not your regular commissioned program. It is a programme that we have invested in and backing it. I would say it is a substantial investment.
This property is something different from the content Balaji is known for. Are you looking to diversify into sports entertainment?
Balaji has been mostly known for the production of the daily soaps, now we are diversifying into sport entertainment and entertainment reality. They are just different ways to grow. The important way that we are growing of course is that we are looking to work with younger, fresher talent out there. Often people such as Sunny and Anand have a lot of brilliant ideas and we are looking to collaborate with such people and work with them so that they become a part of Balaji, giving us opportunities to grow.
Is this something new that you have brought to Balaji since you joined?
No nothing like that. There are a lot of ideas out there we are looking at. For example we’ve done a similar collaboration with Select Media, which are the publishers of the Box Office India magazine and we recently did the Star Box Office India Awards.
What are Balaji’s plans on the film front?
We have a robust pipeline. So in the next couple of years you will see 15 to 20 movie releases from Balaji. So the movie business is a very serious business for us.
How are things different for you since you shifted from a broadcaster to a production house?
I have always been in broadcast, where we’ve worked with companies like Balaji who produce all the programmes and I have had a long association with them. Obviously, now that I am with Balaji I get a good opportunity to see how these companies actually work and how all of it gets produced for television. That is a wonderful experience for me. I have done a lot of production myself, and I have known the people at Balaji for a long time, so in a way it is working with friends.
What are the challenges that you have faced since you joined Balaji?
The biggest challenge for a content company is to achieve scale. That is something that a broadcaster achieves quite easily. I guess my role (in the company) is to work with Ekta Kapoor and Shobha Kapoor to try to build the company to that level, which is why we are looking at different things, we are looking at collaborations, working with different people, trying out new ideas. That is really the big challenge.
What are your future plans with Balaji?
All of this is unchartered territory and new to us. The message I want to put out there is that we genuinely and actively seek collaboration. We want to meet new people and we want to do new things. We are happy to work with them, partner with them, bankroll them, mentor them so that we benefit and they benefit.
Do you think finite shows on GECs will work well with the Indian audience?
I think it is a good thing. There is space in the entertainment business for everything. So it is like the daily soap … but in the meantime new audiences and new audience segmentation occurs and gives an opportunity for new things to happen. That is the way television has evolved in the West. The daily soap opera used to be afternoon programming, we put it on prime time. Now in America you still have the late night talk shows and you have the big game shows, Big Brother and you have comedies, etc. There is a space for everything. Content variety is something that audiences expect today and so there is a big opportunity for all this.