Kumar Mangalam Birla charges into content creation, hires TV vet Sameer Nair


MUMBAI: Sameer “Sam” Nair has made it a habit to go where many  a man has gone before and failed. The only difference: he has made what he has been charged with a success.

Now, the former Star TV COO and former Balaji Telefilms group CEO, is headed to the $43 billion Aditya Birla group to revive chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla’s long harboured ambitions to chew away a piece of the fast growing Indian entertainment business through his company Applause Entertainment.

Earlier, attempts by Birla under Applause were abject financial failures, though the company churned out films such as the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Black and Dev.

The reason: Birla did not have a strong platform 10 years ago, and attempts to create for cinema and television were challenging. However, with the upcoming Idea-Vodafone giant (around 400 million subs when the two merge by 2018) under his belt, he won’t be facing that challenge in his fresh attempt to build the entertainment side of his business. Additionally, he has  Sam who has a track record of turning around struggling entertainment companies.  Finally,  global platforms such as Amazon, Netflix and Hotstar will be another window of opportunity for revived entity.

Thus, Kumar Mangalam has kept aside an initial  investment  war chest of  Rs 2-3 billion this time around.

Sam  and Applause will be focused on creating premium drama series, in multiple genres and languages (Tamil, Hindi and Telugu) in the shorter format with seasons to feed the new emerging audience which is currently gorging on shows such as House of Cards and Game of Thrones. The idea, according to Sam is to work with content producers in the established studio structure to roll out the first batch of shows rather quickly in the next six months. Around 20-30 series  across romance, drama, crime and thriller genres will be delivered over the next 18 months.

Dropping data prices on mobile and increased consumption of video while on the move are factors which will fuel the explosion in content in India going forward, points out Sam.  Content, he says,  has to play catch-up with technology.

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