Circa 1990, it would have been extremely difficult for a non resident Indian (NRI) to live in a foreign country with no access to his daily dose of entertainment or news in his own language. Cut to 2013, and the same NRI has so many options that he is spoilt for choice. Be it the idiot box or cyber space, he has ready access to TV content from his country, thanks to Indian broadcasters, who have taken giant steps to cash in on the emotional connect that NRIs seek from their homeland.
The oldest and until now the largest player in the scenario is ZEE Network, with its strong distribution presence in 168 countries. The latest to join the bandwagon is Reliance Broadcast Network, which has strengthened its reach in Canada by entering into a strategic distribution tie-up with Telus & Cogeco for Big Magic International.
“For a broadcaster like us, that has a multi-media play, opportunities arise across media platforms and we are continuously exploring opportunities. This will ensure that our popular shows in India grow global and entertain viewers internationally too,” said Soumen G Choudhury, EVP, Reliance Broadcast Network.
All Indian broadcasters collectively earn revenues of about Rs 1,000 cr – Rs 1,200 cr a year from the international distribution and syndication business, including a few on-ground activities. They are now looking to increase this revenue by expanding their footprint in several ways.
Who are the players?
The pioneer in this field is ZEE Network. ZEE enjoys a lion’s share – roughly 50 per cent – of the business that Indian TV channels do internationally. But ZEE is not stopping at that. In an earlier interaction, Punit Goenka, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ZEE Entertainment Enterprises had said, “The biggest opportunity and challenge we are working on is to expand our territory from being a South Asian content-owner to addressing non South Asians too.”
If ZEE is running at its own pace to tap territories which are still unexplored, other broadcasters have pulled up their socks too. From Star Plus to Colors, every major network worth its salt has beefed up its international business and is trying to rake in the moolah. Gaurav Gandhi, COO of IndiaCast, a multi-platform content asset monetisation entity jointly owned by TV18 and Viacom18, shared that competition on foreign shores has shot up. “While the market has grown at an overall level, a lot of that growth has come from newer players like us and not necessary the legends. Given the phenomenal growth we have seen in our numbers in the last two years, it’s evident that we have eaten into the shares of other players.”
Rajan Singh, Executive Vice President for STAR’s international television business, has experience in this domain for more than 20 years, having looked after the international business for ZEE and Sony in the past. Singh said, “We are looking at all the markets and our vision is that wherever there’s a South Asian or Indian population in the world, my job would be to ensure that they have a STAR Network available to them. We have been quite successful in doing that in countries around the world.”
“I am a very lucky guy because when I take my business around, I don’t have any programming cost. All I have is the technical and marketing cost, as the majority of the expenditure in terms of programming has already been accounted for in the Indian market,” he added.
With no production cost involved, it is definitely a happy situation to be in, but there are other reasons too that have made broadcasters excited about this source of revenue. Ashish Pherwani, Partner, Ernst & Young summed up, “The Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) is much higher. In some countries, it is very common to pay $5-$10 per channel for a month whereas our ARPU for 180 channels is roughly $5 for a month. Traditionally, subscription is completely recession and slowdown averse, which makes it a solid revenue stream for these Indian channels. I think that’s why they are focussing very hard on expanding.”