"You call 'Bigg Boss' scripted or non-scripted you will end up watching it"- Abhishek Rege

MUMBAI: “It’s been ten years for Endemol in India and we proudly say that we are the first International production house that has not wrapped up and gone back. Today, at this point, we are poised to be the leaders in the non-scripted format,” says Endemol Shine India TV business COO Abhishek Rege.

The production house which has brought some major international formats to India, Endemol Shine India doesn’t require any introduction. The popularity and fan following of its shows like Bigg Boss, Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi, Deal or No Deal and Voice say it all!

In 2006, Endemol started production in India and first enthralled Indian audiences with the Indian adaptation of Big Brother . The production house has had a successful run in  the fiction and non-fiction space since then.

In conversation with's team, Rege speaks about his journey with Endemol Shine India, shares his views on BARC rural data, digital space and responds to rumours about Bigg Boss being a scripted format. Excerpts of the interaction:

How challenging has your stint with Endemol been? What have the major highlights been?

It’s been a great roller-coaster ride. We have seen really tough times between 2011 and 2012. There was a large amount of fragmentation that we went through in the market as well, but overall, the journey starting from Laughter Challenge and Chhote Miyan to doing Bigg Boss, the Voice and “So You Think You Can Dance” today has been fantastic. It has been a rich and wonderful experience and not to mention - a great learning. We had some great partnerships with international players and also locally. It has been a great run.

For me, the major highlights in the journey were when Viacom launched its Hindi entertainment channel Colors and we went in with Bigg Boss, Fear Factor and created a new franchise of Chhote Miyan. Our attempt to bring in professional wrestling into the GEC space with partnerships with TNA too was a fulfilling experience.

Investments into our Endemol Indian entity by CA Media and our foray into the movie business were also the high points.

Until now, only English entertainment channels aired international content. Now Comedy Central is rolling out the home-grown Indian show Challenge Accepted. Do you see more of that happening in the near future? And do you think these shows have the scope to be licensed globally?

Absolutely! The English entertainment sector is going through a lot of growth. Until now, the competition was between who acquired the best of the shows from various catalogues. Doing a show like Challenge Accepted is a big step, if it works, you will see others trying to emulate it. But at the end of the day, the economics will drive any such foray.

You need something locally developed, because if you buy formats then cost will be a big roadblock for producing a show. The budgets for such shows may not be too high and hence one may not be able to do big ticket shows in this space as yet. The monetization potential for such adapted shows will be lower because they are likely to cater to Indian audiences only.

After the rural data roll out do you see content becoming a bit conservative?

Not really. From the advertisers’ perspective, it’s more about what content they are picking up, which in turn depends on their target group. We need to understand if those rural pockets attract national advertisers or local. The market which clients look for are towns and cities which have access to national brands or are self-distribution points. So in reality, broadcasters are not catering to a hard-core rural group. Hard-core rural audiences don’t have the same affiliation to buy national brands as they are prized very high as compared to what they can afford. That is the market segmentation wherein the advertisers decide who their consumers are, and that will make the difference. Therefore, rural data should not be affecting content strategies too much.

Bigg Boss is one of Endemol’s marquee shows. However, it’s often rumoured of being scripted to some extent. What is your response to that?

It’s not scripted, is all that I can say. Bigg Boss is one of those shows where the PR is not limited to any positive or negative buzz.  It’s one of those shows which feed on anything about it. Whether they love it or hate it, whether it’s scripted or not, people will end up watching the show. They want to know when the next fight will happen and they will come back to watch it.

How is the interest in the regional Bigg Boss versions growing?

We did three seasons of Bigg Boss Kannada and now will be doing a second season in Bangla soon. Though Bigg Boss season one in Bangla didn’t hit the top as compared to the Kannada market, we had 50 per cent of the channels’ GRPs at that point of time. While in Kannada, the first season of Bigg Boss which aired on Colors Kannada did extremely well, the second season didn’t go all as planned. But the third season that aired on Colors Kannada again broke all the records.  The success of Bigg Boss season 3 in Kannada proves that we have a great potential in the Tamil & Telugu markets.

Endemol has produced a few sports shows like 100% De Dana Dan, Stumped etc. What kind of scope is there in the sports content space and can we expect anything new on that front this year?

We don't have anything that is specifically targeted at sports. But yes, we have a lot of scope in the sports genre. Our focus right now is films. We did a show called IPL Rockstars where singers performed in the stadium while the crowd gathered before a match was about to start. We haven’t delved further in this genre yet except something like Stumped which is more Call TV, but right now we are focusing more films.

Do you think India has truly woken up to branded entertainment? Is there anything lined up from Endemol in that space?

The potential on branded entertainment for the producer is always questionable because of the structure that we follow here. The broadcaster gets all the rights and product placements. Therefore, it’s not that easy for a producer to garner a share in the branded space. I think digital will be the door which will be a lot more open for branded content. Right now we don’t have anything in that space but the future looks promising.

How different is it producing content for OTT players and television? Can an OTT production be more expensive than TV?

It’s quite different producing content for OTT as compared to television because you need someone to understand the sensitivity and the attention span of the consumer when it comes to OTT.  There will also be comparisons on scripted and non-scripted content from both the sides. You need to have power packed content for digital. Edits will play a major role. You just can’t run a drama or a soap on it – that is more for catch-up. Digital is a place where you can have creative freedom as well. It is where your lifestyle, youth & niche segments will come in, and as far as production costs are concerned, it can be cheaper than regional and it can be more expensive than GEC, for making something premium like the Game Of Thrones.

On what basis do you decide on the international formats that can be brought to India and how much are they modified to suit Indian sensibilities?

We look at two things while adapting international formats, one is the cultural adaptability and the other is how economically feasible will it be? The format should be relevant to the Indian audience and to our culture. We can’t bring shows which have cultural differences or something which our audiences might not relate to. Also we have to see if the format is financially feasible or not. In the UK, production houses spend around US$ 10 million on a pilot, and here we don’t have that budget even for an entire series.

We modify the format to an extent where the rules of the key game play are not affected. There are always some Dos’ and Don’ts of every format that have to be protected.

What other formats of Endemol do you plan to get to India in the near future?

That’s tough to answer because we keeping pitching and we don’t decide what comes in, the broadcasters decide that. I think the line-up for most of the broadcasters is pretty much tied up, so we are waiting to see what will come out from this year’s MIPTV/ MIPCOM.

What are Endemol's plans going forward? What’s in store from Endemol India in 2016 in terms of fiction and non-fiction?

Our focus will be a lot on films, that’s going to be our key acceleration area while our TV focus will continue as usual. But films’ are something which will help us to take next the step to diversify and grow. Digital is another area we are looking closely at. In the non-fiction space we will be coming up with season 3 of Bigg Boss in Bangla soon, and then we will be doing the subsequent seasons for Kannada and Hindi at the end of the year. Also looking forward to the subsequent seasons of other franchises we have set up to come in this year.


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