A key attraction of the India Day at MipCom 2007, being held at Cannes, was the key note addresses by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. (ZEEL) Chairman, Subhash Chandra, and UTV Group Founder and CEO, Ronnie Screwvala. Paul Johnson, President MipCom kicked off the keynote session that was again under the broad theme of ‘Global TV Trends’. He said that where television was 65 per cent of the India media industry, and growing further, the Indian market was changing at a pace that made it both attractive and challenging.
Some of the important points that Chandra spoke on included his expectations to see some consolidation in the Indian media sphere, given the proliferation that the market was seeing at present. He also stated that as more new media came into play, it would see further co-existence of various mediums than one replacing the other. He cited the example of television and movies, saying that the advent of TV had only improved the movie experience.
One of the most significant points was that TV2.0 is here and it is making Indian companies global. He also reiterated the need for regulation in the Indian media industry.
In his address, where Chandra was speaking on ‘The Indian Market Explosion – What does the Future Hold?’, he pointed out three areas which were critical for the way forward for India. These included the future revenue models, the evolution in content and the role of Indian media companies in the global industry.
While speaking of revenue model projections, Chandra said that while growth would be seen in both advertising revenues and subscription revenues, it was the subscription revenues that would become key revenue contributors in the near future. He also pointed out that it was important to see which genres were growing. Chandra further said that Hindi GEC had been an important area for a long time, but the share might go down in the near future. At the same time, he also saw content creation for global audiences and hence, more English content generated from India. He said, “TV 2.0 is here and we should embrace it.”
Chandra added that the future would also see content packaging in different ways and one key reason for this would be the convergence in mediums in days to come. He said, “I think ZEEL is a step ahead already on this as we have already taken the initiative to digitise our content. This means that even without repurposing the content, we would be able to provide it through any platform at a click of the button. This is an indication that India is not far behind when it comes to content technology.”
Chandra then took the audience through Indian companies stepping out of India. “We are launching channels outside India and we are buying international companies as well. In both cases, we are catering to not just the Indian Diaspora internationally, but also to other global audiences,” said Chandra. He explained that in addition to channels in markets like China, where Indian content was dubbed in Chinese, ZEEL also had the Veria example, where the idea was conceived in India, produced in the US and would be gradually taken to audiences across the globe. At present, Veria, which is a lifestyle and wellness brand, would be seen only in the US.
Through these initiatives Zee was already reaching 500 million viewers across the world, in 128 different countries. Chandra also cited the examples in terms of market capitals of some of the media companies in India stating that if the Network 18 and the UTV experiences in India were seen, one would know that Indian companies were on the right growth tracks.
Have an India strategy or suffer: Ronnie Screwvala
Ronnie Screwvala had a word of caution for the companies that made it to India. While some might have experienced some success, they eventually suffered if they were short of a well thought-out India strategy. He said that the companies should be clear on what value would they add to the Indian market if they wanted to operate in India. Some of the examples he cited here were that of News Corp, Turner International and Viacom. He also spoke of Pearson and Packers, which had made it to India but lost close to $100 million and exited the market – all due to lack of a plan.
Screwvala was clear that international companies must have an India agenda in order to thrive here. He cited some companies that had bad experiences in India. Citing the example of News Corp, he said that the company officials had stated that the company wouldn’t have seen a positive P&L from India for a long time, and quoted a New Corp official stating that they saw India operations coming on track only by 2011, and this was after having six years of supremacy in the country.
He also cited similar experiences for entities like CNN, “who ended up selling their brand name to a local partner for as low as a million dollars”; and Disney, “who despite the brand name have not been able to make a dent in the merchandising industry in India yet; and Viacom, “who had to recently partner with a local Indian company to grow further in India”.
Screwvala’s presentation focussed on ‘Indian Media – A Global Destination’ and revolved around five key talking points – the macro view; key sectors, five reasons to come to India; India going global; and five future growth drivers.
Giving the macro view, he explained that the lack of regulation had been one of the reasons that the years 1991 to 2006 had been a dream run for television in India. He further said that a few guidelines and a Broadcast Bill would not dampen this. However, the single bottleneck that he saw here was lack of regulation in the cable industry. Moreover, the way Indian consumers were guzzling up content was playing a role in allowing the growth that we were seeing in the sector, Screwvala added.
Giving a ‘balanced’ view, Screwvala said that every advantage presented a disadvantage and it largely came from the infrastructural problems in India. So, while there was fibre optics, there was the problem of the last mile connectivity. While there are almost 300 channels, we still saw single TV households; while India made 800 movies a year, theatre penetration was low, and while there were 200 million mobile phones, most of them were non-voice ARPU.
He also explained that despite what was said about clutter in India, the uniqueness of the market was also seen in the fact that in various genres, the entry of more players grew the genre – the news and the kids’ genre were some examples. He also said, “We have seen consolidations and mergers, but no one has shut shop in India.” He identified the wave since 2007-08 as the second wave of television and said that from here, the game was set to change, and it would be interesting to see how.
Speaking on the motion pictures business, Screwvala said that even as the industry became multi-genre and the content changed, the Indian industry was still short of being a global ambassador.
Screwvala culminated his presentation with five future growth triggers. He enumerated these as the cable industry organising and the coming of two-TV households; consumer paying for content; broadband picking up; knowing young Indian and what and how they consumed media; and finally the changing equations of equity and debt in the industry.