'Working on an umbrella brand strategy is a good way to build a presence in the entertainment space'

You will start your television business with film channels. With more movie channels coming in what affect will this have on rights prices?

We are working on our plans. We are building our teams. We will launch two channels next year. What the genres are I cannot comment on. You however have to run channels across all genres to be taken seriously in the broadcasting space.

In terms of more film channels coming in the price of content will rise. We are also seeing the evolution of different business models where content is not sold outright. It is syndicated to multiple players. I believe that movie channels will have to differentiate themselves and become genre specific. New models of presentation will have to emerge. The challenge for the players is that to achieve this, a library is needed.

Do you see a shakeout in the Hindi GEC space?

Three years back when there were 100 channels people said the same thing. Today there are 300 channels. Tomorrow there will be 1000 channels. We are moving to a situation where you will have thousands of channels when IPTV, DTH come into their own. When we move to a digital world niche channels become more viable. The long tail becomes viable. Today it is difficult to have more than 30 channels in an analogue model.

The other area is your TV content production business. How is activity at Synergy Communications being scaled up?

As the TV space explodes the demand for quality content is growing,. Synergy will be one of the beneficiaries of this change. They face choices in terms of how they grow the business. We have an arms length relationship with them. It is not a captive production house.


'We are moving to a situation where you will have thousands of channels when IPTV, DTH come into their own'


In terms of the push towards complete digitisation the belief is that when companies like Reliance, Bharti enter DTH it will be the next inflection point for DTH growth as well as for the cable industry to push for complete digitisation. Your views?

I hope that this happens. DTH is a huge opportunity as there is a need for addressability. Corporatisation will help improve the quality of service. While the penetration of existing players might not be great the industry is poised for a rapid change. You have to provide a differentiated service level to the consumer. You also have to provide services in the smaller towns which are neglected. Content offerings need to be differentiated which is not happening. There is scope to create exclusive, niche channels and service like e-commerce. We will push quality of service.

At this point in time shoddy service is being provided in most parts of the country. The DTH industry has grown but if you expect it to touch 10 million in a day that will not happen. There are issues to be dealt with. But the consumer wants a change. We will differentiate as far as the last mile is concerned.

What are the key changes that you expect to see happen in terms of how films are being made and consumed? Is the solo, independent producer a thing of the past?

India makes 1,000 movies a year. The studio model has emerged but there will be scope for the solo producers to also work. In the US film corporates have helped grown the independent studios. The value of the content is being discovered now. But quality consciousness is important. If you are a small player niches need to be created. The issue is to find talent. This will be the biggest challenge in 2008. Talent needs to be broad based.

On the social networking front how did the concept of Bigadda come about? What is its USP vis-a-vis sites like Orkut and Facebook?

I believe that social networking platforms are for real. A new set of technologies have merged to connect people. It is becoming the centre of their social graph. We are in the very early stages of this phenomenon. It will take off with the evolution of broadband. When we talk of social networking sites there are two aspects. One is social networks while the other is social media. Social networking sites focus on connectivity and communication. Social media sites look at user generated, user rated content.

The user becomes a creator or a filter or a participant of content. Bigadda looks at both aspects. We believe that there is a huge space for an Indian platform. We launched it three months back and are satisfied with the response. We already have a million users. We get a million page views a day. We add 12-15,000 users a day. In 2008 competition will emerge but we are confident of the innovations that we will be doing. Social networking will also depend on what is done in the mobile space.

As per research, what extent is gaming competing with film and television for the Indian youth's time?

Zapak is not competing with traditional forms of entertainment. It is creating a new form of entertainment. Like any iconic brand, it is creating its own language, vocabulary and loyal set of consumers. Zapak has four million registered users. On Comscore it is the number one gaming site. Next year we will bring in MMOGs. We believe that India is ready and as broadband takes off value creation will happen. It is not that Indians are watching less films. It is just that Zapak is creating its own set of loyal consumers.

When you talk about entertainment you can't get away from cricket which is why Reliance is bidding for an IPL team. How useful do you see this as a brand building excercise?

I cannot comment on IPL.

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