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“I don’t see a revenue stream from digital for 2-3 years”: Kartikeya Sharma

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MUMBAI: At the Seventh Indian News Television Summit, ITV Network managing director Kartikeya Sharma took the stage to speak about the success of his network and the future plans. Hailing from a political family, Sharma was adamant that he did not want to get into politics.

It was while he was studying in London that he got attracted to the media industry. “When I was studying, the only way of being in touch with home was television with the first channel that came on Sky. That drew me into the space,” he said while speaking to indiantelevison.com founder, CEO and editor in chief Anil Wanvari. He added that what affected him was the rise of primetime during 2004-05 and the way India was reacting to the world while it was fresh off the boat.

On being asked about the difference in running his hospitality business vis a vis media business, he said that the two cannot be compared. “News is definitely a tough business and there isn’t any particular revenue model that works well. You have to improvise. Circumstances are also important. So at what point a channel is being launched and the policies at that time is crucial,” he said.

Speaking about the growth of his Hindi News channel, India News, Sharma said that the initial projected benchmark was 6-7 per cent market space but it actually went to 11 per cent within a span of six to eight months. “We don’t fight for filling ad slots on the channel anymore,” he said.

The growth of the ITV Network has been a combination of both internal accruals and external debt. It will be going after a few more acquisitions and product launches in the regional space in the coming months. “By 2016 we want to be the largest and most profitable news network in the country,” he added.

Responding to Wanvari’s question about whether syndication of news was an alternative means of revenue for sustaining the business, Sharma said that surely that will bring in a new source of revenue. “There is enough content floating around with 400 channels but the true value of syndication is debatable and I don’t think you can look at it vis-?-vis subscription or ad sales,” he said.

While digital is touted as the ‘next big thing’, according to Sharma it is still too early to predict its fate. “In foreign countries, people aren’t able to monetise the digital platform as expected. There has been very little work done in research and development. I am not very optimistic about a revenue stream coming out of digital for the next two-three years,” he said adding that there is a need to look at digital as a synergy between evolution of content and technology.

According to him, evolution of digital does not mean the old world will end. “I am a big fan of digital myself but we are being bullish when we talk of this medium. It is a matter of fact that it is the future but the timing is important. We have made huge errors of calculating that in the past and we are doing the same again,” he said.

Talking about his tenure as Association of Regional TV Broadcasters (ARTB) president, Sharma said that the main aim was to help regional broadcasters since he realised that they needed a voice. “I managed to get 40 per cent of revenue for broadcasters from the government,” he stated.

For the industry to progress, Sharma said that unity was necessary but collective decision doesn’t last long. “DD Freedish has pushed up its rates from Rs 50 lakh to Rs 5 crore in five years because of GECs wanting to get onto it. We all decided that we won’t go on the platform but then some of us ended up breaking that decision,” he shared with the audience.

While the news space was cluttered, he believes that there is space and chance to be a number one in news.

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