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MipFormats, Cannes: Demystifying India's content formats space

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CANNES: How do you work with India? Is it a new TV and digital formats’ paradise? These  - among others – were some of the questions raised and answered in the Producer’s Toolbox at MipFormats in Cannes on 3 April in Auditorium A in the famed Palais des Festivals.

The session began with IndianTelevision Dot Com Group founder, CEO Anil Wanvari giving the 100 strong audience from about 25 countries a quick snapshot view of the Indian television industry.

He estimated that the TV content creation business is about $620 million with about $500 million of this being accounted for by the Hindi General entertainment space. While soaps, drama, Bollywood films and songs account for a major chunk of the spend, around $90 million (including the format licence fee, production margins, and production and talent costs) is spent on TV formats.

Wanvari also pointed out that almost all the European majors have set up shop in India, including Endemol Shine, Zodiak, Fremantle, BBC WorldWide productions.  And they have managed to build robust business.

Wanvari highlighted the potential for new content ideas that has popped up courtesy the proliferation of platforms in the OTT and VOD space. The last couple of years have seen the entry of Hotstar (with about 40 million users; targeted to hit 100 million by end this year), Hooq, VuClip, Voot (from Viacom18), Ditto TV, OZee (from the Zee TV group), ErosNow, ZengaTV, and Netflix. Others like AltDigital (from Balaji Telefilms) are firming up plans for a launch. And the digital opportunity is only going to explode further with the impending launch of 4G services from the Reliance group which is investing about $22 billion on its broadband and 4G mobile play.

CA Media-backed OML (Only Much Louder) COO Ajay Nair was pretty gung-ho about the Youtube promise. “We are about to launch six new shows – four of which are  formats -  with India’s top comedy talent with the support of brands. As most youth are on mobile devices, brands are willing to support any fruitful engagement they can have with them.”

GoQuest Media CEO Vivek Lath announced the formation of GoQuest Formats a new company looking to acquire formats – even paper ones from all over the world to market them globally. “We are looking at travel show formats, convergence formats,” he said.

Grey Matter Entertainment co-founder Rahul Sangari spoke about his music format The Remix which was produced in Vietnam and became the no 1 show there on VTV. “We are going into production in three weeks in China too,” he said. “We are looking forward to closing deals in 16 territories and hope  to do signups in the UK and the US too,” he said.

Sangari was also pretty oprtimystic about a TV and app integrated show called Street Stars which focuses on street performers which is represented by Dentsu StoryLab at Mip.

Zee TV’s Yogesh Karikurve opined that foreign companies wanting to explore the format opportunity in India would do well to explore licensing their formats, preferably before opting to set up a full fledged production operation.

Nair emphasized that any international company needs to find a local partner to do the production and also liaise with the telecast partner, rather than just licence a format.

Sangari’s view was that the need for an Indian partner arises because “India is a very different country; the cultural sensibilities and nuances have to be born in mind while creating, developing and selling a format in the country is concerned.”

Lath said that music and dance shows have been rating well in India. “But formats targeting the new millenials  will have legs,” he said.

Sangari agreed that India had yet to develop in terms of forking out large licensing fees for formats.  Lath interjected and said that should not be a worry for any large format distributor or creator. “Collectively if it is licensed on the regional language channels along with the mainline Hindi channel , then the licence pad can expand,” he stated.

Karikurve talked about the potential for  factual entertainment  formats as that is a genre that ithe Zee TV group is investing in greatly in that genre. Nair agreed but added that 'dating,’ extreme sports, music and comedy formats were becoming relevant. He ended the discussion  forecasting that around 40-50 international formats could make their way into India on digital and traditional television in the not too distant future as the appetite is definitely there. .

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