Television

Disney to debut 2 local live-action shows by year-end

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MUMBAI: In line with its localisation strategy, Walt Disney is working on two original, live-action Hindi-language TV series to be shown on the Disney Channel.

The move will mark Disney's entry into production of shows locally as it pumps up efforts to expand in a fast-growing Indian kids television market.

"We'll have two shows on the air by the end of 2006," Disney Channel Worldwide president Rich Ross told Financial Times in an interview.

Ross did not disclose the working titles for the two new series, but said they will be 'half-hour dramas telling different stories.' One of these shows is reportedly centered around a girl band.

Disney has shown aggression in the Indian market and recently acquired Hungama TV, a local kids channel, and a 14.9 per cent stake in production house UTV Software Communications for a total consideration of $44.5 million. The company has also announced serious intent to produce Bollywood movies.

Following a step by step localisation strategy, Disney initiated this move by converting Toon Disney into Tamil and Telugu for audiences in the South. "Languaging was our first step," a Walt Disney Company (India) Pvt. Ltd spokesperson told Indiantelevision.com.

In order to provide the Disney channels a local environment, specific interstitials were introduced. The third step was to acquire locally produced content like Hanuman.

"Producing our own shows locally was the final step in this localisation drive," the spokesperson added.

Another major initiative Disney has in the pipeline is a localised version of the international smash hit TV movie High School Musical. According to a report in the Guardian, the film is being remade as a feature film for the Indian and Latin American markets, swapping basketball (the male lead is a high school basketball star) for cricket or football as appropriate.

As reported earlier by this website, Disney has also stated that the key driver for market expansion in India is live action programming and revealed that it was looking at local acquisitions to support that strategy.

Live action programming is said to appeal to the tween age group (10 - 14 years), which is a large but underserved category in comparision to pre-school kids.

Walt Disney is yet to evolve a programming strategy for Hungama TV as the acquisition process is not complete, the spokesperson told Indiantelevision.com. The three channels in India will cater to diverse audiences in the kids space.

Disney also sees potential in the China market, although the company made inroads in India first for its "relative openness."

"We have yet to be able to strike a deal in China to make co-productions there. We believe that day will come as well but I think that is emblematic of the difference right now," Ross told FT.

High School Musical, which cost just $ 4.4 million to make, has had a phenomenal worldwide response. By year-end the film will have been shown in 100 countries. The DVD has sold more than 2.3 million copies and the soundtrack has shifted 3 million copies in the US alone. In February, there were nine songs from the musical in the top 100, five of them in the top 40, paving the way for the stage play, the T-shirt, the book, the dance craze and the theme park rides, the Guardian reported.

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