Essel’s Subhash Chandra on Zee, OTT giants & the Jio juggernaut

The media veteran says money cannot buy the best content always

MUMBAI: Zee Entertainment Enterprises (Zee) has withheld challenges from international broadcasters to acquire a place as one of the top media companies in India. While several players with deep pockets are investing a high amount in content, Essel Group chairman Subhash Chandra, with 26 years of experience, says only money cannot buy the best content.

Speaking to The Hindu, the media veteran said telecom, voice, data, and video all are merging into one single pipe. Moreover, Reliance Jio’s low pricing has made the delivery pipe cheap and affordable forcing other telecom players to do the same. This change will help content companies.

“Even the Amazons, Googles and YouTubes of the world now call themselves media companies instead of tech companies. So, thanks to Jio, this process, which could have taken 5-10 years, has accelerated in India,” he added.

However, he also pointed out Jio’s different nature of the business. The company tends more towards monopoly rather than being a part of the industry. This trend could catalyse the merger of content players with pipe and data, as it happened in America and Europe.

Hailing content as the prime factor, he also said creativity comes above money. A big budget show cannot assure good ratings always. Despite expensive deals, he is sceptical of Jio’s ability to scale.

“We have competed with all media companies. Today, NewsCorp is in India through Star. Time Warner was here, Viacom came, Sony is here, Discovery is here. So, of the top eight global media firms, five are here and we have competed with all. In 2007, a management consulting firm said India would be left with just three players and Zee is the weakest link that will either close or get sold. That didn’t happen,” he said.

Amazon Prime and Netflix are also trying to acquire a stronger foothold in the Indian market given the high potential of the digital content business. Chandra said that Amazon being largely an e-commerce player tries to lure customers for shopping through content. Zee also shares content with the company. But as Netflix is a pure content play, it won’t share content with the streaming giant. The OTT platform’s situation is also different in the country due to its high pricing.

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