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'US, Europe and Canada are growing markets for Indian content' : Adris Chakraborty - Globosat Entertainment director

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With the Indian television market booming and the NRI community becoming more affluent, platforms in the UK and US are looking to service this community better. Hoping to take advantage of this is ethnic content aggregator Globosat Entertainment. Formed three years back, the company hatched a deal with Sahara to distribute its channels in the US, UK and Europe. It also markets the religious channel Aastha and works with various platforms.

Indiantelevision.com's Ashwin Pinto caught up with Globosat Entertainment director Adris Chakraborty to find out more about the company's future plans.

Excerpts:

What are the changing trends for demand of Indian content overseas?

Bollywood and cricket are the dominant forms of entertainment. Soaps fare less well as the connect is not there; dubbing or subtitling is needed, or else language becomes an issue. News works but to a much lesser extent, as a lot of the diaspora gets that from the internet. To get people to pay for a news service is difficult. People are to an extent also interested in Indian subjects like alternative healing systems, the investment climate, etc.

How is Globosat positioning itself to take advantage of this?

We want to leverage the appeal of Bollywood through video-on-demand service offerings. We are talking with production houses to make their content available on VoD through DTH (direct-to-home) and cable platforms. There are entertainment and movie channels.

We are also talking with recently launched Indian broadcasters who want to have a presence abroad. We are also talking with FM radio stations to figure out opportunities to distribute their content on a national scale in the US, UK and Europe, under a subscription-based service model.

Which are the Indian and South Asian channels that Globosat is currently distributing?

We distribute the Sahara channels in the US, UK and Europe. We also market NDTV News and promote Aastha channel in the US.

Besides, we are looking at value-added services like ring tones. We are in discussions with a technology service provider to offer subscription-based Bollywood ringback tone services for the South Asian diaspora. We want to work with them to also offer an SMS-based revenue service. The SMS based-revenue, which is big in India, is not being exploited for the South Asian audience. So an NRI watching an Indian Idol on Sony cannot participate through the SMS route. We want to create these kinds of alternative revenue opportunities for our broadcast partners.

Is interest in Indian content also spreading among mainstream TV viewers in the US and other countries?

Bollywood is doing that. It is appealing not just to Indians but also to Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and the Hispanic population. They have subtitles or dubbed content.

What are the services that Globosat offers?

We work in the ethnic content aggregation and distribution business with focus markets in the US, Canada and UK. Since we understand the South Asian market, we started off in this space.

With a full-fledged marketing team, we help content owners promote and distribute their offerings under different platforms on a subscription basis. We work with multiple platforms and with multiple markets to get the best possible distribution and revenue for broadcast partners. Content distribution could be in the form of VoD for Bollywood movies. We work with DTH platforms and cable networks to help aggregate their VoD content. We have a 60,000-square-foot playout and broadcast facility in New York with five studios. We also have studios in San Francisco and in Toronto.

'Demand overseas for Indian content is more dominant in the areas of Bollywood and cricket. Soaps fare less well as the connect is not there. News works but to a much lesser extent, as a lot of the South Asian diaspora gets that from the internet'

What are the platforms you have relationships with?

Our partners include DirecTV, Dish, Rogers, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and BSkyB in the UK. As the platforms deal with many genres, it is important for us to help them give a marketing push to our offerings. The platforms, after all, do not have the time and energy to market our channels. We offer a value add as we understand the community.

What is the scene for Indian regional channels in the US, UK?

They have their own viewing pockets. They are mostly a-la-carte offerings on different platforms. However, there are three Bengali channels which are offered as a package and as a la carte as well.

Do you use Soundview Broadcasting to create innovative content for South Asian audience in the US?

We have a couple of shows. There is a show called Green Card about the process of getting one. Then we have Astro Guide and we also do a community news programme Your Voice where we cover the US. We do all this for Sahara. We provide NGOs an opportunity to come and discuss issues on a show called Centrestage.

We produce some content for Aastha in the US. This includes religious festivities. We do some local programming and plug it on the feed to build up better connection with the subscribers. We also shoot film premieres, interviews and give it to our partners.

Viewers want to know the reaction to a latest film, for instance. We do this from the point of view of building the subscriber base for our partners. Local production helps build an emotional connect.

What is the strategy Globosat follows in terms of marketing its offerings?

Our marketing mechanism is such that we participate in the major media, cultural and trade events in the US, UK, Canada and Europe which are relevant for South Asians. Sometimes we are allowed to put up a booth and run promos of our broadcast partners. We do a lot of cross promotions with print publications. In addition, we do direct mails, dealer network promotions, etc. We also sponsor events like Miss India USA.

We work with platforms to create new offerings. In Europe, in conjunction with a few channels, we created a DTH platform in partnership with a technology playout called GlobeCast. We partnered with Sony in the UK and created a bouquet to be a compelling subscription-based service. This caters to the Indian and Pakistani diaspora. We also have a major Pakistani channel in that bouquet.

Do you also do ad sales for channels?

We have started a full-fledged media agency called Media Morphosis. We help clients with media and print placements. It could be PR or cross- promotion strategies. We are connected with large advertisers, and this helps our broadcast partners. We also use this to market the Globosat channels.

We are in the process of launching Media Morphosis in India. The aim is to offer our services to Indian channels that are abroad and want help attracting advertisers. We will also help companies who want to reach the South Asian community in the US, UK and Europe. We are talking with Star to do their ad sales in the US.

Mainstream travel agencies, insurance and money transfer companies in the US and UK find us useful if they want to reach out to the affluent South Asian community. These advertisers also want to partner with broadcasters. We help them leverage relationships in the most cost-effective manner.

We also organise below-the-line activities, road shows, etc. From a media-buying point of view, we work with a lot of channels. The agency is two years old and we did a gross billing of $2 million with a 30 per cent margin.

Will you be expanding your footprint to Africa, Australia and Europe?

We would like to. However, at the moment the bandwith in Australia and Africa is limited. We want to maximise our distribution in the US and Europe which is a large exercise. Canada is a growing market for Indian content.

South America, unfortunately, is fragmented on the distribution front. Piracy is rampant and the Indian population is also too small to justify going there and marketing our offerings.

New media platforms like mobile, net, etc. are growing through platforms like JumpTV. How is this impacting the channel distribution business?

It is a good thing for us and our broadcast partners. We have room to do more effective deals. Earlier, it was mostly DTH. If a broadcaster comes to us, we can now take him to all the platforms. One thing, though, is that mobile technology is very primitive in the US. So it will take time to develop as a broadcast medium there.

In terms of revenue, what targets does Globosat have?

With a turnover of $9 million, we are experiencing steady growth.

What plans do you have for other ethnic content?

We have tied up with an IPTV platform. They have created a bouquet of Chinese channels. They want us to help them promote and distribute that bouquet in Europe. Our affiliate Soundview also has an Afro-French channel, a Caribbean channel and a Punjabi channel which we distribute in the US and Canada.

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