Content syndication leapfrogs as a big revenue winner for broadcasters

Syndicating content to international as well as regional audiences is a trend on the rise, with revenue contributions of up to 30%

Content syndication leapfrogs as a big revenue winner for broadcasters

Earlier the Indian audiences consumed international content, however today there is a drive as well as a demand for Indian content to be consumed internationally. So much so, that there are many channels today that create content which is then dubbed and made available to audiences in other countries. Networks such as ZEEL, Multi Screen Media (MSM) and other broadcasters have jumped at the prospect of increasing their revenues through content syndication.

Speaking about this Rohit Gupta, President, MSM said, “Content syndication is very big for us. Apart from English shows we also have IPL and other content which we syndicate to Pakistan, Bangladesh and other SAARC countries. It is becoming very big but when you compare it to overall revenues it is very small although it is a segment growing at 25% plus.” On the amount per episode, he said, “It depends, it could be $1,000-700 dollars an episode that is the kind of range for it. It could also be $1,500 an episode, it depends upon show to show. IPL is a big piece (of revenues) for us. For regular GECs, it would be somewhere between $800-1200 per episode.”

Niche channels like food network channels eye a bigger revenue contribution from content syndication and a way to bring in steady revenues. According to S.K. Barua, CEO, Food Food, “All our shows are syndicated. The food category is a very expectable category across the world. It is not a saas-bahu (soaps), so because of the category we can sell all over the world”. He further estimated the overall revenue contribution from content syndication to be roughly around 20% for the channel.   

Recently launched Epic Channel has also decided that content syndication will contribute a major part to their revenue model apart from advertising and subscription revenues.

Speaking about global content syndication, Mahesh Samat, MD, Epic Television Network, in an earlier interview with exchange4media said, “Given that we have a limited number of episodes, and I know we have a lot of interest from partners across the world because the primary target is of course the Indian diaspora which is interested in history and mythology but also the non-Indian. The average world citizen who also wants to know about India because a lot of our non-fiction shows, we have a show on abandoned places in India, a show on the myths and legends associated with places, we have a show on the history of food in India, so we have a whole bunch of fascinating interesting shows which will have a global audience and therefore we are looking at syndication very seriously. In fact, even before we launched the channel we represented in Mipcom and we got a huge amount of interest from prospective buyers there.”

Shows such as Balika Vadhu and Uttaran, apart from being syndicated in Hindi, are now dubbed in more than 16 languages which include Hebrew, Russian, Serbian, Bosnian, etc., with the audience base expanding beyond the South Asian diaspora according to an IMPACT report. “We have evolved to a very different level where we now sell our shows to mainstream audiences in many countries. The theory here is, you are talking to a set of homes who are not Indians. Just the way we consume foreign content in Indian languages, they are now consuming content in a language known to them,” said Gaurav Gandhi, COO, IndiaCast in the report.

 One of the largest content syndication TV broadcaster globally, BBC Worldwide, has also been driving local content syndication within the country.

Speaking to us Myleeta Aga, SVP & General Manager India and Content Head Asia, BBC Worldwide Productions said that finished program sales are the largest revenue contributor for BBC Worldwide globally. The network which has been increasingly producing local shows in India (Jhalak Dikhla Jaa, Yeh Hai Aashiqui on Bindass, Fanaah and Kaisi Hai Yaariyan on MTV) is keen to syndicate the content to other countries in the Asian market in the same way it does for its international content. “That is very much an ambition for our business. We are increasingly looking more closely at mostly Asian markets but it very much our aspiration to create content in India that works in other markets. We will be starting that with digital content. As the quality of content in India gets internationally competitive and obviously we believe that we have an advantage there because we are part of an international company,” said Aga. She further said, “In terms of the total size of the business in India the production business is larger than the syndication business and that is primarily because we are a local content market where everybody wants content made in Hindi or Tamil or Bengali. But both our businesses are growing. We are actually seeing growth in production as well as in syndication.”

Nickelodeon too recently announced its plans to syndicate its local content show Pakdam Pakdai to countries across Asia. 

It is not only TV broadcasters who have taken an interest to content syndication. Dream Theatre, a brand management company that forayed recently into content syndication, had purchased the rights for cartoon show Pokemon recently and had syndicated the show to Hungama TV.

“Because it so early and this is really our first foray in the case of Pokemon our syndication revenues would be just about 30% of our overall revenues,” said Jiggy George, CEO and Founder, Dream Theatre.


The prospect of domestic market

Internationally, the market for content syndication is expected to be around Rs 1,600-1,700 crore currently from Rs 1,000-1,200 crore a year ago and is growing steadily according to media reports. While the international markets may be a favourite for content syndication, the market in India too has been growing in terms of the regional front. Many channels choose to syndicate their content to regional channels after it is dubbed.

“With shows such as Dance India Dance (DID) we did a lot of syndication for regional channels where they put it on Tamil, Telugu and other regional channels. That is doing really well for us. Content syndication is international and in India because we have our shows like Saheli (Ki Khoon Ka Raaz) and others we dub it in Tamil and other regional languages and we sell it there. Other than the big markets, there is a syndication of content in other regional markets which are also big,” said Gupta.

On the other hand Barua says, “Content like ours is something that can be syndicated but we are also being restricted in terms of India. For example we will prefer to do it on a regional channel basis instead of giving it to larger channels. Otherwise we will lose our relevance.” He further added that there is growth in content syndication in India as some channels find it too expensive to produce shows and as a result prefer to buy syndicated content. “Even if they don’t want to use the syndicated content in prime time but in order to fill up the inventory it probably works better for them to buy syndicated content,” he added.

With a large revenue growth potential internationally as well as in India in terms of content syndication, television networks are finding new ways to create content which will not only stick in certain specific markets but also cater to wider markets.

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