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Guest Commentary: Mipcom’s Focus on India Comes at the Right Time

Oct 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

When television executives from around the world make their semi-annual pilgrimage to Cannes this week for the Mipcom TV market, they might be pleasantly surprised that the first day of the show is dedicated to a territory that is now being considered a top priority in their global strategy. India, after all, has long been thought of as an emerging market with very little, if not completely baffling, infrastructure in the telecommunications area.
That might have been the case a few years ago, and many challenges still remain, but India is probably one of the most intriguing and promising markets for the television and related media industries today. It is no longer emerging—it has emerged.
India has a staggering population of 1.2 billion people. There are 120 million television households and 73 million pay TV subscribers; the majority of those are cable subscribers, but DTH and IPTV are making headway.
There are also 200 million mobile subscribers and 2 million broadband Internet subscribers; both sectors are growing rapidly.
Historically, Western media companies wanting to capitalize on this huge market have been quickly discouraged by the structurally fragmented cable landscape. But that’s changing. Government-enforced digitization and the growth of DTH are key components of this change. There is added opportunity from the mobile and Internet market.
As a result, and after working in this market and observing the evolution of the telecommunications industry over the past 15 years, I am optimistic about the prospects for U.S. and international media companies in India. The introduction of digital and DTH platforms is putting pressure on analog to compete.
Meanwhile, the economic landscape has changed in the past five years as well. For instance, there is considerably more disposable income available, and that has contributed to the growth in many sectors, from movie ticket sales to TV, retail and travel.
In addition, India has the largest English-speaking population of any country in Asia and its population is young—more than 50 percent is under the age of 25—and more worldly and technologically sophisticated than at any time in its history. All of these factors add up to market conditions that are positive for expansion.
Along with these broad market factors, there has been a considerable and growing interest in two specific programming genres—news and children’s programming—that has increased the demand and subsequent success of global channels in India. The nationwide growing appetite for news, fueled by the surge in the Indian stock market, has paved the way for services like CNN and CNBC, both of which are performing well in India.
Kids programming is also in demand. One U.S. company to capitalize on this trend is Disney, which has done so by executing a very well-thought-out strategy. Disney partnered with UTV, a popular local service, to create a newly branded kids animation channel called Hungama TV, taking a 15 percent stake in UTV itself.
In fact, I believe partnering with a reliable, experienced local media company is vital to the success of a media company entering the Indian market.
Understanding the consumer, having a local marketing strategy and recognizing local tastes and trends when programming a channel are crucial; those international companies that have partnered with local, successful companies have seen more success themselves than those who have chosen to go it alone.
A good example is Viacom, which partnered with TV18 to jointly launch MTV, Nick and VH1 channels under the Viacom 18 banner and is moving to create a new entertainment channel together.
Innovation and smart partnerships also are important for distributors in India. For example, executives from Malaysia’s Astro DTH platform recognized the opportunity to reach the growing young Indian audience and partnered with UTV software to create Bindass, a platform of four channels targeted at the 15 to 34 age group, which comprises 42 percent of India’s TV viewing audience. Bindass, which is Hindi slang for carefree or “chilled out,” launched this fall.
For international television executives attending Mipcom this year, this special focus on India may indeed serve to demystify what has so far been one of the more confusing and complicated media markets in the world.
Through the examples and speakers set forth, a few things will become clear: Namely, that if you’re serious about wanting to be successful in India, you’ll need to work on establishing a localized feed, make certain the service has a local feel and insure that you have on-the-ground marketing support. The time may be just right to have a look at India … again.
Kamlesh Patel is an independent consultant to media companies doing business in India. He has more than 15 years experience working in the Indian television market.

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