Indian channels have identified the ‘golden egg’ in the NRI circuit. With over 25-30 million Indians settled abroad looking forward to Indian flavour amid videshi channels, the desi news, views and shows come as a nostalgic connect. And, rightfully, channels are eyeing the new, ‘not really explored’ avenue to earn the “additional bucks”.
What’s interesting is that Zee, the channel that made the first ‘foreign entry’ is looking at it as a primary source of revenue. Mukund Cairae, VP, International Distribution, Zee Networks, said that for Zee, the international circuit constituted a very viable market.
“We are present in 80 countries, covering prominent markets such as the US, UK, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. The total international revenue from these markets amounts to $100 million from subscription and advertisements. In fact, 27 per cent of the total revenue is now from ads,” Cairae said.
He recalled how Zee started its international operation nearly 10 years ago. “We began from scratch, setting up NRI data base, offering them personalised service and suitable subscription rates,” he said. In fact, Zee TV has a separate dedicated team working for the international operations.
Meanwhile, taking a cue from this, Indian news channels are also scouting for suitable tie-ups. NDTV 24x7 is on the verge of starting its services in the US, UK and Canada markets.
Rahul Sood, VP-Network Development, NDTV 24x7, said, “We are close to finalising the contract for the US, UK and Canada markets, and the channel should be available in these markets by yearend.” The news channel has been available in the Middle East, parts of Europe and South Africa for more than a year now.
Hindi news channels like India TV and Channel 7 are also keenly observing the foreign market and making strategic moves. Siddhartha Gupta, Director, Channel 7, pointed out that with broadband turning into a reality, exploring foreign waters had turned easier.
“The channels are available online and routing through middle distributors is ruled out, which makes the operation convenient,” Gupta said. In fact, Channel 7 has signed a licensing agreement with NUMTV.com, facilitating the channel’s availability on broadband worldwide. Channel 7 can now reach over two million users of NUMTV worldwide in 38 countries.
Gupta considered this as a good opportunity to rake in the moolah, as he reasoned, “out of the three million international hits, even if 10 per cent turn to subscribers, it would work well for the channel”.
Elaborating on how India TV was charting the road ahead, Rajat Sharma, Editor-in-Chief, IndiaTV, said, “We have received a variety of ideas for alliances in important NRI/PIO markets of the world. We’ve been evaluating each of the options carefully. In fact, the idea of giving our diaspora a flavour of changing India is part of our editorial mission. Therefore, important announcements are in the works.”
One of the reasons why channels are gung ho about the foreign market is the subscription-driven model that works in their favour. “Most Indians abroad don’t mind shelling out one or two dollars simply because they are so definite about their likings,” said Ashish Kaul, VP, Corporate Brand Development Group, Zee.
He, however, warned that NRIs were, in fact, far more loyal to a channel than the domestic market because they were paying a price to get the “Indian flavour”. Moreover, Kaul pointed out, once the distribution was in place, programmes were localised and advertising opportunities followed.
For Zee, the ad flow has been from Indian clients like ready-to-eat food, spices, tour operators, etc, who want to advertise in different countries and the international corporate reaching out to Indian community in a specific region.
NDTV 24x7’s Sood, however, stressed that his channel was taking a different route to tap these markets. The objective was to “target the global Indian and provide them content at par with international standards and in their lingo”. Sood pointed out that the channel had a competitive advantage being in English.
“The Hindi news channels targeted at mass markets in India will not sit well with the global Indian. As it is, the international Indians are so much exposed to BBC and CNN, that when Indian channels enter, it’s more of an urban-rural divide. Hence, NDTV 24x7 is the channel that is going to be targeted at them and not NDTV India,” argued Sood. He further said that the channel might also roll out NDTV Profit to the foreign soil at a later stage, keeping in mind the growing business interests of expats.
On what suited the international Indian, Zee Networks’ Cairae said, “The taste of the global Indian is very different. In fact, the viewers are more vociferous about their likes and dislikes because they subscribe to a channel of their liking and watch it religiously. Also, in the entertainment genre, they have a liking for ethnic, religious programmes and are far more skewed towards Indian culture.”
In fact, the verdict is clear. It is just a matter of time when Indian channels will truly go global.