I ended up missing it, but I was amongst those who were really keen on attending the Reliance Broadcast Networks and CBS Studio International announcement last week. Ever since the deal was first announced, the industry is abuzz with all kinds of conversations.
First level of discussions was on CBS finally making its way in India. The rest of the global biggies have been here already. At the cost of political correctness, News Corp rules this market. Viacom is here in a significant way now. Players like Turner are almost old hands in India and even NBC gave the market a good shot before the global meltdown changed things there. CBS however, has been taking its time in making any play for India.
The second, but stronger, level of conversations was about Reliance Broadcast Networks entering the television space. Reliance Broadcast had made very lofty television plans in 2008 but like most aspects of the industry at the time, courtesy slowdown, Reliance too had to shelve the big plans, in a big way. And now when the industry is picking up again, Reliance wasted no time in announcing its foray in television.
Both players have interesting track records too.
Some of the biggest shows that we are hooked on to today – from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ to ‘Big Bang Theory’ to the CSI series are all CBS shows. My first encounter with CBS’ vision and approach was in October 2007, when Leslie Moonves (CEO, CBS Corporation) was addressing a press gathering at MipCom. Moonves was candid enough to admit that India was not priority in the CBS consideration set at the time. But over time things changed, and the question was no longer if CBS would be in India, but when would CBS be in India.
Reliance Broadcast Networks too has an interesting history in India. The growth of Big FM in the radio space and the quick addition of Big Street in OOH, Big Digital and Big Live added to the spread of the group. The fact that television was on the group’s radar was obvious a long time back – again the question was when.
The answer for both is ‘now’...
When these two players forge a partnership that did scare some of the big boys of the industry, the expectations were also sky-high. The first set of announcement is interesting – three English entertainment channels with demographic targeting would be fascinating to observe in terms of market growth. But those who know India, also know that the big bucks, and the big risk, is in the Hindi general entertainment space, which has not stopped to sizzle irrespective of the slowdown or IPL or anything else – people are watching their shows despite the rains (which btw has broken all records in Delhi this year!) and the Commonwealth Games conundrum.
The press announcement did say that the Big CBS JV “may explore the option” of a Hindi channel. May be the JV is keeping the cards very close to its chest, and did not want to overdo the “big bang launch” card, and that is fine.
But let’s be serious about this – the game will really begin when it is in the big boys’ field, and that will happen only when Big CBS would not just explore to fructify the Hindi channel option. And again I am amongst those who believe that announcement would indeed be sooner than later.