We are disruptive and bring path-breaking ideas into the market: Deepak Dhar, CEO, Endemol Shine India
Dhar, MD and CEO, Endemol Shine India, says that the company’s strategy is to be a content provider for all platforms and amplify its impact properties across languages
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Walking into the 16th floor office of Endemol Shine India one is greeted with a calm environment, unexpected at a production house that’s currently working on putting four of the biggest television shows in the country – the first season of Bigg Boss in Tamil and Telugu (the Indian version of the international blockbuster reality format Big Brother), Khatron Ke Khiladi (season 8, Indianised version of Fear Factor) and Bigg Boss Season 11 in Hindi – on air.
Endemol Shine India - a joint venture between Dutch media company Endemol and CA Media, the Asian media portfolio of The Chernin Group - entered India in 2006 as Endemol India backed by a strong slew of tried and tested international formats. However, its first production on Indian television screen was designed to show its local credentials. Recalling their first endeavour, Deepak Dhar, MD and CEO, Endemol Shine India, says, “Everybody thought our first production would be Big Brother but we did a local production, ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge’. We came in on the back of our formats but the message to the entire industry was we are a local production company with the strength of Endemol. We are disruptive and bring in path-breaking ideas into the market”
Since then Endemol Shine has commissioned and produced about 170 shows, that’s around 6,000 hours of programming, in eight languages – Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telegu, Malyalam, Bangla, Marathi and English and evolved from being just a television producer to content production company across television, film and Digital or as in the words of Dhar “an all-rounder.”
Non-Fiction and more
With the many international non-fiction formats in its kitty, it’s no surprise that Endemol Shine occupies a dominant position in this space. Dhar claims that of the top 10 franchisees, six to seven are produced by the company. He says, “We have consolidated and dominate in the non-fiction space thanks to the formats we have brought in and are on top of the game. We see some amount of growth still there.”
But the company’s biggest money spinner and “strength” remains Bigg Boss - which manages to stir controversy every season thereby ensuring free PR and ratings. With 10 seasons of the show completed in Hindi, four in Kannada and two in Bangla, one wonders if viewer fatigue has set in. Calling Bigg Boss a “company within a company”, Dhar says that at the start of each season he is spoilt for choices as he gets to pick content for Bigg Boss from 40 markets, courtesy the yearly Big Brother exchange which is a pool of creative ideas, ensuring that the franchise remains refreshed each season.
What’s also worked is the growth and opportunity from the regional franchises. Endemol Shine has produced multiple seasons of ‘Deal or no Deal’, ‘The Million Pound Drop, ‘Minute to Win it’ in different languages. Dhar says, “In India, you can either be known as a great language producer or a great genre producer. We are the only producers who are known as a national producer. We service all networks across the board and in all languages.” He continues, “We are sitting on the top of the pinnacle, doing the best shows in all languages and genres - from game shows, scripted to reality to song and dance to everything.”
Another opportunity spotted early on was in the fiction space, a space where Dhar says many didn’t give them a chance. However, Endemol Shine proved its detractors wrong. What has the firm excited now is the market move to the “finite scripted game which is more a high impact and premium value scripted fiction.” As part of this move Endemol Shine will bring down its international formats and is also looking at picking up Turkish and Israeli syndicated scripted formats that can be remade in India. He says, “We see a huge amount of room for growth because people are now looking at disruptive story lines in the fiction space. We have pushed the envelope to bring content in the scripted side.” The scripted format also has seen Endemol Shine making its presence felt in the Digital space with the digital scripted show ‘The Test Case’ airing on AltBalaji featuring actor Nimrat Kaur and directed by Nagesh Kukunoor.
The company also ventured onto big screen with four films - Brothers, Traffic, TE3N and Anaamika (bilingual - Tamil & Telugu). With films being seen as an “opportunistic approach”, Endemol Shine is not building an aggressive pipeline but would look at a film if “it creatively excites us and commercially seems right.”
The Money Game
Larger ticket-size of a non-fiction property, when compared to a fiction property, and holding the intellectual property rights (IPR) for its format shows - wherein the company gets a licensing fee as well as commission fee, has helped Endemol Shine India notch up estimated revenues of around Rs 300 crore mark last fiscal. This was a growth of close to 25% (YoY), a rate Dhar expects to continue growing at.
Hindi remains the biggest revenue component - on account of the ticket size being bigger – with the contribution from the regional space being significant. “If you are in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali and Marathi, and if you have at least three of those five bundled up, when you consolidate it, it’s fairly significant. It’s a sizeable opportunity that you can’t turn your eyes from,” he states.
The Creative CEO
A creative person at heart, Dhar – who’s been at the helm since 2008 - is still very hands-on. His favourite analogy is that he is “the kitchen of a restaurant,” always ready to roll up the sleeves to get the job done. He says, “I am an entrepreneur and a professional business guy but what comes naturally to me is the fact that I love being in the kitchen, constantly creating content.” He continues, “What doesn’t work has a lot of learnings. I get charged when somebody tells me, ‘No, I don’t think this is going to work’. This makes me want to make the content work even more. I might succeed or I might fail, but I really give it my 100%.”
In April 2012, CA Media picked up a 49% stake in Endemol India and talking about how the equation has evolved, Dhar says this relationship has helped take the business to the next level. He explains, “Everybody knows about my relationship with Rajesh Kamat (currently MD, Emerald Media which has a significant minority stake in CA Media) and we have a very strong personal and professional relationship. The business has shown spectacular results with them coming on board. The movie production business scaled up to a large extent and the regional growth came from the strategic insight they brought to the table.”
Looking ahead Dhar says, “We are very bullish about the non-scripted space, regional opportunities and branded content.” As for content, Bigg Boss in Tamil has legendary actor Kamal Hassan stepping in the host shoes while Junior NTR takes on this role in the Telugu version which is set to be launched on July 16. Commenting on Bigg Boss Tamil, he says, “We have stormed into the largest markets down South. We have got Bigg Boss into Tamil which is actually two years too late. Kamal Hassan as a host brings in energy and his personality and wit are just what we need.” Post that, director Rohit Shetty is back in action with Khatron Ke Khiladi. With the first teaser for Bigg Boss 11 out, actor Salman Khan is back once again reprising his role as the host. The focus is clear - amplifying all its impact properties - be it Bigg Boss, MasterChef, Fear Factor - and taking it to more markets across India. Also in the works is a plan to bring in more international disruptive formats like The Wall and Hunted from the Endemol Shine stable on screens soon.
The other big focus area is OTT platform and the company is working on a couple of projects in this space. Interestingly, Dhar is also looking at the non-fiction space for the OTT space. “We are a little ahead on the OTT space and have two to three big scripted fiction ideas there. We will start pushing some of our non-scripted non-fiction formats as well in the OTT space. The youth are consuming a lot of content on this platform. When you watch a great scripted show or a fiction show, you need to be in an environment that you are comfortable watching, so that you absorb and feel the content. However, a lot of the snack in-snack out kind of non-fiction ideas could possible sit on an OTT platform. That’s the opportunity we see there,” he states.
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