What kind of deals are worked out between the cable operators,
producers, broadcasters and studios in the US? How is this different
from what happens in India?
I must say that transparency is a key issue in the distribution
chain. In the US, there is a great deal of transparency in the deals
between the consumer and the cable operator; the cable operator
and the broadcasters as well as the studios. As I mentioned earlier,
the cable operators are willing to share revenues with each link
of the content production chain.
Although, some of the Business to business (B2B) deals are
confidential, everyone has a fair idea of the terms and conditions.
India, there is a clear-cut lack of transparency and distrust.
Presence of large corporatised producers with better bargaining
power: In the US, the film industry had become institutionalised
and corporatised much before television became popular. Hence, the
studios (large distributors with huge libraries of films and serials)
can negotiate better deals with the channels and broadcasters. In
the US, there are seven major ones: Warner, MGM, Disney, Viacom/Paramount
and the non-US ones such as Sony, Fox and Universal/Vivendi.
The presence of such large studios has a bearing on the revenue
sharing deals between the broadcasters and the cable operators.
In the US, fiction (film based and serials), sports, reality televison,
localized news are the top programming genres. The studios and the
broadcasters commission A-grade producers to get quality content
in the above mentioned genres that is offered to the consumer.
Consider the fact that HBO used the cable revenues to produce offbeat
content - a case worth referring is that HBO produced Gandhi with
India's NFDC. Such examples must be shared with the Indian cable
operators and MSOs.
In India, there are no major studios, but only individual producers
who cannot command much clout, nor do they have a strong bargaining
power. For instance a Balaji Teelfilms cannot have the same clout
that a Warner or an MGM or Viacom would have. The production houses
cannot command more revenues and therefore compromise on the quality
of future offerings. The consumer suffers.
Large groups with presence in all the links in the distribution
and production chain:
In the US, there are certain studios such as Time Warner that
substantial presence all through the supply chain as a studio as
a broadcaster and as a cable operator too. This gives them additional
In India, Zee may have produced a film like Gadar (content
producer) and owns subsidiaries like Siticable (cable assets), but
its archives cannot compare with that of Time Warner.
Eventually, one would see the emergence of large set-ups that would
emulate the US studio-based systems. However, one hopes that the
Indian companies start thinking on these lines on an immediate basis.