Buena Vista looking to run 'The Amazing Race' in India

MUMBAI: Buena Vista International Television Asia Pacific, which is the distribution arm of Walt Disney Television International, has plans up its sleeve for India that go beyond distributing Disney branded blocks.

The company is looking to sell the rights to the formats of the reality TV shows The Amazing Race and Extreme Makeover to Indian broadcasters.

It is also banking on its hot television properties Desperate Housewives and Lost to leave a mark on Indian viewers.

Speaking to this afternoon at Frames, Buena Vista International Television Asia Pacific senior VP and MD Steve Macallister said, "We are looking at creating local versions of The Amazing Race in certain Asian markets. India is certainly a possibility. Another show is Extreme Makeover."

The format rights were recently acquired by the UK cable and satellite channel, LivingTV. Local versions are in the pipeline in Belgium and Scandinavia. Reality shows have grown as far as generating interest is concerned.

"We are also sitting on two of the hottest shows in the world. These are Desperate Housewives and Lost. They have generated a huge buzz. Desperate Housewives is completely original which is why Indian broadcasters are talking to us about bringing the show here," he said.

According to Macallister, these are the two biggest shows acquired in Australia for Seven Network in recent years. Lost launched in New Zealand a couple of months ago and it did a 66 audience share rating for 18-39 year demographic. Lost is also doing well in Korea since it launched in December.

In India, the US version of The Amazing Race airs on AXN. It sees couples racing the world in a bid to win $ 1 million. Lost is an action-packed adventure show that will bring out the very best and the very worst in the people who are lost.

A plane tears apart in midair and crashes on a Pacific island. The 48 survivors scavenge what they can from the plane for their survival. Some panic. Some pin their hopes on rescue. The band of friends, family, enemies and strangers must work together against the cruel weather and harsh terrain if they want to stay alive. But the island holds many secrets, including the intense howls of the mysterious creatures stalking the jungle, which fill them all with fear.

In Extreme Makeover people are chosen to receive the makeover of a lifetime which includes: plastic surgery, lasik surgery, cosmetic dentistry, hair, makeup and fitness.

As far as the different markets are concerned, Macallister said, "Australia is a mature economy. It is a western culture. In that respect it is important and is our biggest market in the Asia Pacific. India and China have huge growth potential."

Macallister also said the company has evolved its business strategy from becoming very Hong Kong-centric to one where localisation would be given importance. " We want to become closer to our clients which is why we opened an office in Mumbai six months ago," he added.

Just how promising India is can be gauged from the fact that in six months the two Disney channels are the biggest in the Disney portfolio internationally in terms of viewership.

He, however, ruled out aggressively increasing the number of Disney branded blocks in India.

"We opened an office in Sydney two years ago. Clients in China see value in our offerings. We apply the highest quality of dubbing in local languages for our animation product. Products like Alias are popular across the Asia Pacific region. Good stories and concepts tend to travel. Having more people in our front office has been valuable in understanding our clients' business," he said.

Macallister added that Korea is also an important market as it has a very advanced broadband network.

Content that is compelling is coming from there. The new media aspect is of interest to Buena Vista as companies are looking to create specific product solutions to serve that market. "Korea is interesting in that it is a very fragmented cable network. FTA networks are highly regulated. The consumer base is broadband savvy. We are looking at ways to deliver the content," Macallister said.

As far as consumer tastes are concerned Macallister noted that there is a shift towards producing dramas locally. US TV content developers are increasingly becoming aware that they are also producing for an international audience.

An upfront presentation is done in May as a kick off to the LA screenings. Talent is roped in to promote the same. Five years ago there were three or four talent people who turned up. Now there are 70 talent people who make presentations to international buyers claims Macallister.

Buena Vista launched a new copyright proprietary management system Zeus last year. This enables the company to obtain more tailored solutions. The company is able to slice and dice the library and get back to the clients much faster. The company also spends time training the team to be customer-oriented. A year ago the company organised a summit 'Client is King'. Here clients expressed their views on their needs in the marketplace.

As far as delivery platforms are concerned, Macallister said for mobile it is early days, but admitted," There are huge promotional possibilities here."

Talking about Frames Macallister said, "Frames is a great way to meet many market players. It offers a strong networking platform. It is good to find out from people their thoughts on issues."

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