With the digital boom exposing Indian youth to international content like never before, content providers and broadcasters are gearing to cater to growing demands for quality film and television shows from the West and other countries….writes Sandeep Sharma
While some broadcasters are just happy buying content from other countries, some are bullish about producing more English content in India itself in the near future.
According to the KPMG India-FICCI Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2017, despite witnessing a decline in BARC ratings on TV, the number of viewers for English shows and movies increased from 7.22 million impressions in December 2015 to 7.67 million impressions in December 2016.
“With significant push towards digitisation and smartphone proliferation, English as a language is making inroads into homes across India. We believe there is room for double digit growth in the genre for 2017,” M.K. Anand, CEO and Managing Director, Times Network, has said in the report.
This growth can be attributed to the free and easy accessibility of foreign content — especially American and British films and TV shows — in India, and the universally appealing content that they cater.
The shift in audience tastes is also a vital factor.
“The audience is now more receptive to differentiated content that English shows and particularly British content offers.
“Foreign content is now more easily available to Indian audiences due to the boom in OTT platforms, which provide easy access to content from anywhere and everywhere in the world. This has largely contributed to the spike in demand for foreign content here,” Myleeta Aga, Senior Vice President and General Manager, BBC Worldwide South Asia, said.
The digital world and the acceptance of the ‘TV in hand’ mobile content has boosted the appetite of audiences for such shows.
Interestingly, international studios and distributors have increased their content production costs by 150 per cent in the past three to four years to this end, the report indicates.
“The entry of new players is great for the consumers and helps in category building for English entertainment in India. However, given the immense reach and affordable access of TV, it is still the best way to reach the English entertainment consumer,” Ferzad Palia, Head, Youth, Music and English Entertainment, Viacom18, said.
In 2015, Viacom18 stepped into the market with Colors Infinity, under which it brought shows like “The Stage” and “Vogue BFF”. There’s also “Vh1 Inside Access”.
Given the demand, more Indian productions in English language can be explored. What are the challenges?
“It’s really about business models and is about the capability to then create that content. The fact is that this kind of content (British and American TV shows) is available through digital and other channels. Our expertise to create that is not up to the mark today,” Punit Misra, CEO – Domestic Broadcast Business, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), said.
“It’s a make or buy decision. It seems more sensible to buy than to make it in India,” he added.
Aga also pointed to the “cost-benefit concern”.
“Creating original content in India to rival US or British series that cost millions to produce just doesn’t make sense. The audience in India is also not open to paying for content, like in most western markets,” she said.
“So it is more profitable for channels and platforms to source their shows from abroad than create fresh English content here,” she added.
As of now, the ratio of English content in India is hugely dominated by foreign content. Either way, if one goes by the Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report, 2017, the English entertainment genre has seen an advertisement growth of 10-12 per cent.
Palia said Viacom18 has witnessed “great success” with its original English shows and it is looking forward to more Indian productions.
“We will definitely look at creating more local content in English. It doesn’t just help us but also works very well for the brands that come on board,” he added.