It’s not all about business, but about culture: Robert Bakish

Robert Bakish and Sai Kumar analyse the success behind the Viacom and TV18 venture and how it has transcended the local-global barrier

e4m by Synjini Nandi
Updated: Mar 13, 2013 6:11 PM
It’s not all about business, but about culture: Robert Bakish

Local and global content creation and distribution has been of high significance since the longest time. The joint venture between Viacom and TV18 has been an interesting journey, which has observed a number of milestones, thereby breaking the barrier between local and global.

According to Robert Bakish, President & CEO, Viacom International Media Networks & Board Member, Viacom18, it is not all about business but about culture. He points out that it is not enough to have a shared vision; a correct management fit and a lot of hard work is required. The venture has flourished and today includes a bunch of national services such as MTV, Colors, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Junior, and film units, among others. A major step has been the creation of India Cast.

“We can safely say that it has been a great journey, even if not a long one, since five years is not a long period of time. Given the tremendous opportunities, not only will we introduce new content, but we will export content as well in the near future,” Bakish shared.

Sai Kumar, Group CEO, Network18 and Board Member, Viacom18 believes that it is critical to be extremely aligned with the challenges. He finds the learnings from Viacom to be invaluable as the group has seen success in various markets. With India Cast there might be reverse migration. According to Kumar, it is also important to export linear TV and syndicate programmes; though it is not only about syndication, but about formats that can be picked up by the rest of the world.

Elaborating further, Bakish stated, “We will continue to evolve in various ways. When the two partners came together in India, we were influenced by both local and global learnings. There were two elements that we kept in mind. The first is that we are committed to creating content for India, which needs a good team. The second is brand positioning for the content. We are an interconnected world and want to be entertained, and that is leading to productions that are not only travelling to the US and the UK, but to other parts of the global market as well. This is also when India Cast came to the fore, since today the important IP is a hit television format. Hence, the possibility of replicating content increases and formats today are a great value of scale.”

Where is the market heading?
Kumar remarked that today content consumption is at an all time high and is available on multiple platforms and devices such as mobiles, tablets, etc., even though monetisation through these varied platforms is not very high.

Commenting on India Cast, Kumar stated, “It is the second phase of partnership, which though out of adversity, has worked for us. We are extremely bullish about non-linear platforms.”

Bakish noted that the world is evolving from the economic and structural stand point, and added that there has been a rise in services such as video on demand and OTT, which have observed tremendous changes. “This creates its own set of risks and opportunities, but we need to focus on the later part. Today, one can watch programmes on tablets, television, mobiles, etc.,” he further said.

He called it an important development on the distribution part where the primary enabler is the wireless network in the house and the tablets. “Nevertheless, we have always tried to create great content since opportunities remain very significant,” Bakish added.

The outlook
Bakish maintained that the Viacom-TV18 venture is in great shape and is a great opportunity to unlock the value of digitisation. He believes that if one operates in different countries, they need to look at them differently, since each country has its own set of opportunities, even though one might have a global plan.

Kumar stressed that measurement is the need of the hour. He added, “Advertising has been the softest in the longest of time. We need to be realistic. There is lack of measurement in India. For niche channels, even though measurement of upscale viewers is difficult, we need to make an effort at an industry body level.”

Bakish concluded by saying that India is a significant market and that Viacom is looking to invest in great content to ensure that it reflects a balance. The company will continue to bring varied choices to viewers in terms of content, national launches and also a play in the regional markets.

Robert Bakish and Sai Kumar were expressing their views on day one at FICCI Frames 2013, being held in Mumbai from March 12 to 14, 2013. 

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