Zee’s Global Content hub to Present new Dramas

admin   February 14, 2018

At MIPCOM, ZEE will be presenting their first ever English adaptation titled Lala’s Ladiez of the super successful and popular Indian sitcom Hum Paanch. The 20 part series is currently under production in the UK

Zee Entertainment Enterprise Ltd, with 240,000 hours of quality programming, including the largest premium Indian movie catalog in the world, is now focussing on Zee Format Factory and more. Pickle chats with ZEE’s Sunita Uchil Chief Business Officer, International Ad Sales, Global Syndication & Production

Zee has completed 25 years in business. What’s the major transformation on at Zee in the overseas market now?

What started out with one channel way back in 1992, Zee now has 32 channels in India and 40 international channels across the globe with a reach of more than a billion viewers for offering. We produce and distribute over 240,000 hours of quality programming, including the largest premium Indian movie catalog in the world. With this reach, Zee made an immersive inroad into all continents. People now know, in a strong part due to Zee TV, that Indian programming is high quality, very entertaining and delves into every genre. We are also focused on Zee Format Factory & our co-production projects with the best in the industry.

Make In India, Show the World is real now with Zee’s home grown reality show Dance India Dance as Dance US Dance, and sitcom Hum Paanch which is being produced in its British version as Lala’s Ladiez and an Anglo-Spanish sitcom Love Thy Neighbour (working title) which is adapted from the ever-popular home grown format Bhabiji Ghar Par Hain. Your views…

Zee is very happy to be a leader in helping to spread Indian programming and Indian creative content around the world. With a presence in over 172 countries, Zee is a significant global content company across genres, languages and platforms. We are increasing this move even more with, for example, our recently announced Zee Studios in Vancou-ver Canada, expanding co-production with partners around the world. We are excited to introduce new and current programming to even more people.

Zee TV is the only Indian broadcaster to have spread across the world and speak several native languages. Give a perspective of Zee’s reach in global territories.

Zee has long held a strategy to expand globally, which is reflected in our company motto “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” — “The World is MY Family.” This is a driving plan for the company. In the past two years alone, we have created channels for diverse territories such as Germany, Latin America, South Africa, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and will continue this path. We have programming in a variety of languages including English, French, Arabic, Swahili and many more. Zee also has its leading Health Entertainment channel in the US, the Z Living Network, with an outstanding library of 1700 hours of health & lifestyle content. All produced in English-language.

Do you see growth focus in any particular region? What are the potential markets for Zee?

We see more expansion in Latin American and Africas and that is why Zee has recently added more development and investment into those regions. We are also investing in local programming for example, Khwaabon Ke Darmiyaan is a very popular Indian dramatic series that we co-produced with a leading African broadcaster and a leading pay TV platform in the Middle East that was filmed and broadcast in Dubai to top ratings. We will expand on these type of new co-productions to tap into various regions.

What is your objective at MIPCOM this year? What is Zee’s attraction for buyers at MIPcom?

Our objective is certainly to connect with new & existing buyers and associates. Zee is present at MIPCOM on the exhibitor floor – P1-K51. Global Content Hub By Zee, the syndication division of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL), will showcase its latest drama series Kundali Bhagya, Piya Albela & Woh Apna Sa and fresh mainstream lifestyle entertainment shows, Yoga Girls, Big Fat Truth, Altar’d and Conquered. We will be presenting our first ever English adaptation titled Lala’s Ladiez of the super successful and popular Indian sitcom Hum Paanch. The 20 part series is currently under production in the UK. Besides this, we also have Phantasmagoria, Moksha, Love Thy Neighbour, India’s Asli Champion and other exciting formats and originals from Zee Format Factory. Finally, we are most excited to showcase a peek preview on an upcoming Feature Documentary Special, Life of Earth From Space, which will be a blue chip quality co-production – a two hour mini-series covering formation of our planet Earth and development of Life.

What’s the impact of syndication business in the digital now world?

The impact has been a positive one. With new digital platforms, Zee is excited about the state of the syndication business and we are able to share our programming to new and younger audiences via advanced technology. Our continuing partnerships with major digital players have developed into a large segment and is acting as a key avenue to extend the availability of our content to global viewers.

Has protectionists’ sentiment in many countries impacted export of content? Do you see challenges in this space?

We have not really seen any impact to Zee’s programming reach. Zee has many family programs which are acceptable to many country’s censors as well as good working relationships with state broadcasters. Of course, co-development, co-production and format business models help to get over some of the hurdles and we are getting stronger in all these areas every day.

How do we effectively use India’s soft power from content reach perspective globally? In the recent Portland USC report on global soft power rankings of countries, India doesn’t feature in the top 20. Will this trend change in the coming years?

India’s business reputation as a whole has been growing very well and many content industry experts have said that India is the country to watch for emerging developments among the BRIC nations. Also, Indian companies are often easier to work with. So people see big a growth potential.


Spotlight on Newcomers in the World of Drama Series at Berlinale

admin   February 14, 2018

The seven series from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Israel, Norway, and the US will surprise viewers with a diversity of the content and production.

The series will look into the depths of the human soul, and portray the insatiable hunger for wealth, power, and acknowledgement. They depict reactionary political systems, but also turmoil and break-up in society, as well as protagonists who couldn’t be more different as they self-confidently follow their own paths. As varied as the subject matter is, the series all prove that power structures have continually repeated themselves in differing forms over the last few decades. And that resistance is not only possible, but necessary.

Berlinale Series opens with the visually thrilling TV adaptation of the Australian cult classic Picnic at Hanging Rock. Natalie Dormer plays the strict headmistress of a boarding school trying to ensure that her pupils receive a suitably decorous education. But we are led to question whether she herself has always led a demure life. Her dark past catches up with her, and then three girls disappear mysteriously during a school outing.

The heroine of the Israeli TV series Sleeping Bears is also forced to face up to her past. Her therapist dies in an accident, and the transcripts of his session notes are sent to her as part of an anonymous threat. She wants to prevent her family finding out about her most intimate secrets and dreams. This private story becomes an expedition into contemporary Israel.

The German series Bad Banks takes a close look at a young, talented, and very ambitious woman. She leads the viewer deep into the unscrupulous, profit-hungry world of finance. Her working life in Frankfurt and Luxembourg is ruled by the forces of greed, egotism, the pressure to succeed, and machismo.

The female protagonist of the Norwegian series Heimebane (Home Ground) also ventures into a male domain. She plays a trainer who leaves her successful women’s football team to become the first female trainer of a Norwegian premier league men’s team. She wages a hard fight against ingrained bias, as she struggles towards her dream. She is out to prove that, given the same qualifications, women are every bit as good as men.

The TV adaptation of the non-fiction bestseller The Looming Tower takes viewers inside the CIA and the FBI at the end of the 1990s. Indications of an attack on the US mount, but the two powerful institutions are locked in a calamitous rivalry. That competition is embodied by two men – played by Peter Sarsgaard and Jeff Daniels – who do battle on a strategic, bureaucratic level, all the while underestimating the increasing dangers.

Meanwhile, The Terror presents an epic spectacle in the best sense; it is based on Dan Simmons’ fictionalised account of Sir John Franklin’s Arctic expedition. The men battle with not only the natural world, but also the strict hierarchy and balance of power on board ship. The vast expanses of perpetual ice create an ominous sense of claustrophobia from which there is no escape.

Liberty is set in 1980s Tanzania in the milieu of aid workers and ex-pats. A critical examination of the lasting effects of colonialism, the character driven family tale is based on the novel “Liberty” by Jakob Ejersbo. It features businessmen, who unscrupulously use the old structures of local exploitation to their own ends, as well as people working in development aid who, however well intentioned, overlook the actual needs of the local population. We are confronted with a culture that, in the end, considers itself more important than the foreign one where it has settled.

Berlinale Series (at the Zoo Palast):

Bad Banks
Germany / Luxembourg
Director: Christian Schwochow (Paula)
Head writer: Oliver Kienle (Four Hands) based on a concept by Lisa Blumenberg
With Paula Beer, Barry Atsma, Désirée Nosbusch, Albrecht Schuch, Mai Duong Kieu, Marc Limpach, Tobias Moretti
Broadcaster: ZDF, ARTE
World premiere

Heimebane (Home Ground)
Norway
Creator: Johan Fasting
Director: Arild Andresen (The Orheim Company, The Liverpool Goalie)
With Ane Dahl Torp, John Carew
Broadcaster: NRK
World premiere

Liberty
Denmark
Creator: Asger Leth (Ghosts of Cité Soleil, Man on a Ledge)
Director: Mikael Marcimain (Call Girl, Gentlemen & Gangsters)
With Connie Nielsen, Carsten Bjørnlund, Sofie Gråbøl, Magnus Krepper, Charlie Karumi, Anton Hjejle
Broadcaster: DR
World premiere

The Looming Tower
USA
Creators: Dan Futterman (Capote, Foxcatcher), Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Zero Days), Lawrence Wright (Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief)
Director: Alex Gibney
Written by Dan Futterman, based on the book by Lawrence Wright
With Jeff Daniels, Tahar Rahim, Peter Sarsgaard, Wrenn Schmidt, Bill Camp, Michael Stuhlbarg
Broadcaster: Amazon, Hulu (USA)
International premiere

Picnic at Hanging Rock
Australia
Director: Larysa Kondracki (The Whistleblower, Shut Eye), episodes 1-3
Written by Beatrix Christian, Alice Addison
With Natalie Dormer, Lily Sullivan, Madeleine Madden, Samara Weaving, Lola Bessis, Yael Stone, Inez Currõ, Harrison Gilbertson, Ruby Rees
Broadcaster: Foxtel
International Premiere

Sleeping Bears
Israel
Creator and director: Keren Margalit (The A Word, Israel, In Treatment, Israel)
With Noa Koler, Yossi Marshek, Alma Zak, Yaakov Zada Daniel, Doron Tavory
Broadcaster: Keshet Broadcasting
International premiere

The Terror
USA
Showrunners: David Kajganich (True Story, A Bigger Splash) and Soo Hugh (The Whispers, The Killing)
Director: Edward Berger (Jack, Deutschland 83), episodes 1-3
With Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, Ciarán Hinds, Paul Ready, Adam Nagaitis, Nive Nielsen, Ian Hart
Broadcaster: AMC, AMC Networks International, Amazon
World premiere

Alongside with the series presented in the Berlinale Special programme, the industry platforms of the festival host the “Drama Series Days” from February 19 to February 21, 2018 – a joint initiative of the European Film Market, the Berlinale Co-Production Market, and Berlinale Talents. The “Drama Series Days” are presented jointly with the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW at the European Film Market. It welcomes creators, buyers, sales agents, producers, commissioning editors and financial backers of high-quality drama to discuss, present and promote new episodic content and projects in development.


Free Speech is Sacrosanct: Uday Shankar Chairman, FICCI Media & Entertainment Committee

admin   February 14, 2018

“To unleash the potential of wealth creation by M&E sector, it is imperative that the right to free speech be protected and the lens through which the industry is looked at be changed,” says Uday Shankar, Chairman, FICCI Media & Entertainment Committee at FICCI FRAMES 2013.

Uday Shankar Chairman, FICCI Media & Entertainment Committee and CEO, Star India

“To unleash the potential of wealth creation by M&E sector, it is imperative that the right to free speech be protected and the lens through which the industry is looked at be changed,” says Uday Shankar, Chairman, FICCI Media & Entertainment Committee at FICCI FRAMES 2013.

Highlighting challenges faced by the media industry, Uday Shankar, Chairman of FICCI Media and Entertainment (M&E) Committee, said efforts to curb free speech in a robust democracy like India was one of the biggest threats that could potentially derail the industry from its growth trajectory.

“When ‘Satyamev Jayate’ points to weaknesses in the medical system,doctors are offended. When ‘Jolly LLB’ creates a courtroom satire, lawyers are offended. Even when a teenager posts a comment on Facebook, some people start baying for her blood,” Shankar said while delivering the theme address at the FICCI FRAME 2013.

Expressing concerns that freedom of speech was still being questioned even after over 60 years of independence, he said it was time to recognize that free speech was “sacrosanct” and not “the right to be offended”.

“We all agree that the role of media is to question status quo. But with the right to question must come the right to provoke and the right to offend. In the absence of these, there is no debate and without debate there is no clarity. But we seem to be regressing in this area,” said Shankar, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Star India.

Shankar said the industry was “capable of creating employment and wealth much faster than most other sectors and with the ability to be a force multiplier, like it is in most countries”. The $15-billion media and entertainment industry employs as many as six million people, he added.

The 14th edition of FICCI FRAMES, the foremost business gathering in the media and entertainment sector that brings the media and entertainment industry and policy makers on a single platform, adopted this year’s theme as ‘Engaging a Billion Consumers’.

“In business and creative terms, the Indian media and entertainment sector still remains much smaller than it should be in a country of 1.2 billion people,” said Shankar, adding that “our collective and individual ambitions should be taking wings around this big opportunity”.

Highlighting other challenges that need to be addressed to unlock the industry’s growth potential, Shankar said: “The lens often used to look at this industry is largely one of glamour and propaganda and the biggest debate is on how to control and contain it. As a result, the growth of M&E has not been supported by policy and regulatory initiatives.”

He said the M&E industry, particularly in India, can be an employment generator without massive public investments and without being hampered by the deficiencies of public infrastructure.

“Why would you not nourish an industry which has the potential to become a huge employer? Why would you not fuel an industry that can grow with more policy support than resource support?” he asked, referring to the government’s decision to double customs duty on import of set-top boxes in the union budget for 2012-13.

“Instead of giving fiscal support to digitalization which can unlock huge economic value, there is an imposition of additional customs duties on set-top boxes. The time has come for all of us to make sure that it is not just industry status that we seek, but a fundamental change in mindset, ”Shankar said.

He also pointed out that the media and entertainment sector lacked reliable data to measure audience response across verticals. He made a call for action by the industry.

“Numbers are supposed to be the foundations of rational business decisions. But how can we make decisions when professionals in the business of numbers can’t get their numbers straight?” he asked the audience.

“The lack of reliable data is not limited to TAMs (Technology Acceptance Models). In fact, as a TV executive, I am surprised sometimes how I am even able to function. I do not know enough about my viewers – in fact I don’t even know how many of them are there.

“There are 140 million cable and satellite homes but the measured universe is 62 million households. The country’s premier media agencies can’t even seem to agree on a fact as basic as the size of the advertising market.”

Warning that the industry was facing an imminent talent crunch, Shankar said: “We hide under the pretense of creativity and have convinced ourselves that creativity gives us the license to be informal and chaotic.

“It is this informality and chaos that has seeped into our approach to spotting and grooming talent. This is dangerous. We must realize that discipline and formality are not antithetical to creativity and if anything they are necessary ingredients to fostering the creative process.”

Stating that the industry has a real crisis on both supply and quality sides, he said: “While it is not unique to the Media and Entertainment sector, what is different is the lack of recognition of the scale of the challenge. While other fast growing sectors like IT and financial services are actively working to find the right talent and building the right skills, we, as a community are complacent in our belief that this sector is different.”

Elaborating further, Shankar said: “In the last 10 years,there has been a manifold increase in the content we have produced, the number of channels, the number of newspapers, the number of radio stations, and the number of films –but there is not even a nominal increase in the number of quality training institutions to support this kind of growth. Fly-by-night training shops have mushroomed,making the problem even worse.”


Porus is an Indian Story Told Globally

admin   February 14, 2018

Siddharth Kumar Tewary founded Swastik Productions in 2007 after a career in the media industry, where he did some fabulous work at SET Max first and then Sony Entertainment Television. Carving a niche for himself with mythological and historical shows and having produced about 22 successful shows across channels, currently he is writing, producing and directing his epic series PORUS for Sony. In this exclusive interview, he talks about his mega series, for which he has retained 100 per cent IP rights, thus becoming the first producer in India to claim IP rights of a TV show.

Tell us about Porus, your 10th anniversary gift to your viewers.

History is written by those who ruled, I like telling stories of inspirational characters. The channel wanted me to make a show that depicts and celebrates the golden age of India. That’s when I thought about Porus, a story set around 350 BC, a time in history when we were the richest nation in the world, we were called the Golden sparrow as sparrows are an easy prey and the invaders started entering our country. Alexander, the biggest conqueror in the world set his eyes on us and it was Porus who stopped Alexander from entering India, with his small army he fought on the banks of river Jhelum, he lost the battle but won the war. This is a story of India’s first defender.

I have been working on it for more than two years now, Writing is the soul of the series, then it’s the characters, costumes, production design of the Golden age of India and the Macedonian world, the biggest challenge was to create the water transport route, which will be the most differentiated aspect of the series.

 How did you manage to get the research material for this project?

When you do research, it is done specific to the subject as also to the specific era, a lot of data is scattered but when we look at the era we get more material to understand the world that existed once upon a time. His name itself was not Porus. It was Puru and his real name was Purushottam. He was called Porus by the Persians and the Greeks. When we do research on that particular era, we get lot of information. We have taken many visual elements from Ajanta Ellora, as that is something there as a reminiscent of that era. Similarly on Porus, there are a lot of researchers who worked on him. Alexander spoke a lot about him. For example, we know where Taxila was around that time and we know about the KuruRashtra. A lot of time goes into such research. Finally, we created that world and it was an interesting thing to do.

What is your objective at MIPCOM?

It’s the first time that a production house is owning the complete hundred per cent IP rights of a series. It is also the biggest production of the country. Porus is an Indian story told globally and that’s what we intend to do. The idea is to show more of our culture to the world. The One Life Studios is basically into distribution. We have taken a stall at MIPCOM to showcase Porus there as well as other people’s work. Its our first step in taking Indian content over a global footprint.

What will make Porus interest global viewers? Is ‘Make in India and Show to the World’ apt for Porus?

I am very clear that we are making an Indian series and we did not try to ape the west. I believe that every country should depict its own culture and that what appeals to a global audience. Our idea is to show the Indian culture – our colours, our world, and how lived and what we believed in. For example, when you see a Chinese historical, they depict their culture. So, the main objective for me is to show the Indian part of the story. We are also showing the Mediterranean world, the Alexander’s world, how he grew up and what made him decide to come all the way to India, what happened with him on the way. But for me, the core of the series is India that we are depicting in Indian way. Our culture should be visible to the world and that’s what Ii believe will generate interest in the series.

What made you to have international IP rights of Porus to your production house?

Yes we do own 100 % IPR and I believe it’s the best way to improve the quality of content as it leads to direct accountability, we have heavily invested in the series, Sony is the anchor broadcaster and they have underwritten part of the cost, They will have the first right of television broadcast in India and wherever the footprint of the channel goes, the rest of the rights stay with us. Yes its is a big risk but we are creating a world class series, which can travel to any digital platform in the world and be showcased in any language across the globe. That’s the way we optimize our business. It’s the first time in India and it’s definitely a great leap for content as it will ensure that the viewer comes first and we don’t make shows for the sake of it, we only create what we believe in and more importantly we put our money where our mouth is. I thank the channel for backing us to take this bold big step.

One Life Studios is also a distribution platform for other production houses. What kind of projects will you be taking to MIPCOM?

We have a very exciting line up of shows at MIPCOM, apart from Porus and some our other series, we have handpicked 40 best shows from the country which are truly worth traveling the globe. We are representing the entire content line of TVF, one of India’s leading digital content company, content from esteemed production houses from South India like Radaan and Viketan, who have created some of the best content in the country and many more extremely unique shows which depict India the best way.

Why are the audience glued to mythology in India across age groups and regions? What’s the difference between mythology and historical series?

I am blessed, as it not just a great creative challenge to but I also learn though the whole process, every aspect of our Mythology has so much to learn from, there is a reason why they are still relevant today, and to write even a word or create anything, first I need to understand what are they actually trying to say, what’s the subtext of the story, then have my own opinion and make it relevant to the viewers today, its not just plain entertainment its got a much deeper message for viewers and that’s what really works for me. It has actually changed me over the years as an individual. I believe our history and Mythology is really cool.

A new area is opening up for creators like you in platforms like Amazon and Netflix. How do you see this medium?

It’s very interesting to see how all these platforms are coming up. These are not limited to the Indian borders. They have content that the whole world can see. I think it’s a great time for content. Language is no more a boundary. It’s great time to create good content.

Have you tried making content for online medium?

We are in talks and when we’ll do it we’ll talk about it.

Do you also plan to release Porus in different languages?

The idea is to make an Indian series and take it to different countries. Many countries should watch what India is all about. People should watch our glorious days and know about our story.

What do you think of Baahubali?

Baahubali is really a mammoth movie and it helps when people have faith in this kind of product. It showed that historical content can also work in Cinema as well, which is a great thing.

What kind of challenges you see in content business?

I believe the viewers’ taste over the years has changed. Now the exposure level people have, it is becoming more challenging and exciting to create content that’s appealing. You should be clear about who are you talking to. Because of the exposure level that people have today, its challenging because your content has to constantly evolve. You have to step up the game at every level and change at a very dynamic speed. The whole equation of content creation for entertainment is very different. You constantly have to look at who you are talking to and then make content which can meet their requirement at global level, according to the exposure levels they have. Today, rural audiences are exposed to the same media that urban audience are consuming.


Technology has Democratised Content Creation

admin   February 12, 2018

VIACOM-18 MEDIA – THE GREAT SURGE – Now in its 10th year, Viacom18 Media has grown more than 40 times since its inception, operating 42 channels and 9 regional feeds with over a dozen beaming content outside India. Raring to go further, Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom18 Media Pvt Ltd, shares his thoughts on how M&E space is getting transformed as he plans to become an agent of change that redefines the entertainment ecosystem in the country.

Viacom18 Media has completed an eventful decade in Indian M&E space. How Group CEO Sudhanshu Vats is looking forward to surprise viewers and competitors with the ‘content-first’ approach

Viacom18 Media is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. How has been the journey so far?

Viacom18 has built a distinctive identity for itself through its strong focus on engaging and disruptive stories. This “content-first” approach is in synergy with our broadcast and digital business lines, and together, films, broadcast and digital form the bouquet of content entertainment that Viacom18 offers its consumers across all age groups. Then there is the sensory bouquet with experiential entertainment and merchandising businesses that complete the entire entertainment ecosystem that the network offers to it consumers.

The business philosophy that drives the organisation is that we want to be an agent of change that redefines the entertainment ecosystem in this country. After 10 years, five lines of businesses, innumerable brands, leadership positions across almost all categories and a good network reach, the journey till now is just a warm-up lap of an exciting future.

From being an outsider to the M&E industry in 2012, you are now well established in the M&E space? How challenging is to get embraced by the M&E sector in India?

There are two similar core thoughts that drive both the FMCG and M&E industry – your product/service is the most definitive ingredient to your brand success and the consumer understanding is the key to your success.

However, unlike FMCG which is a mature sector, media is young and is seeing newer genres emerge. Media’s inclination to be entrepreneurial, and hence be more gut-driven than data driven was also an interesting difference that I considered when I moved to Viacom18. In all honesty, I was anticipating all this. I knew what I had opted for and it was an exciting challenge for me. I must also add that the pace at which M&E operates is truly mind-boggling.

That said, I think the very definition of the media and entertainment industry is changing rapidly. Technology has democratised content creation and is redefining distribution. As technology companies are making forays into premium content, especially premium video content, our industry will have to leapfrog a growth phase or two. In a connected world, mining consumer data, interpreting them as consumer preferences and using these insights to drive consumer offerings, is becoming the new norm.

Women empowerment, skills and collaborative approach are top on the Viacom18 Media’s priority list and differentiate it from others. What are your thoughts on these issues?

Being a JV has its advantages! Collaboration is a natural outcome of it – and this is evinced both internally and externally. That, and building a culture that values innovation, even if it sometimes leads to failures, has driven us to create a vibe that is quite unique. Our hope is that this culture is a key magnet to attract topnotch talent – which further fuels our growth – setting in motion a winning cycle.

Women empowerment is one of the many causes we support socially, but is perhaps one of our most visible attributes. Viacom18 prides itself on being a network with a humane purpose.Our reach and influence on our consumers also puts a responsibility on us – to use the influence to bring about positive societal change.

In a very short time, Viacom18 Media has produced more than half-a-dozen businesses and leaders in various business verticals and looks further to grow stronger. The depth is visible and there is something for all viewers across the country?As the Group CEO how do you see this going forward?

As compared to our own popular channels,Viacom18 is still a young brand. MTV has been in India for 20 years; Nick was launched around the start of the millennium, VH1 in 2006 and Colours in 2008. Not only have we grown more than 40X in the last 9 years, we also operate 42 channels and 9 regional feeds, with over a dozen beaming our content outside India. In addition to a fast-growing broadcast business, we also have a profitable films business known for its distinctive content, including our latest Toilet Ek Prem Katha. We launched our live events business around three years ago and it has several iconic IPs, including Vh1 Supersonic. Last year, we added the video OTT offering VOOT, which is now ranked among the top streaming apps in the country and showcases our future-readiness. As a network, we now operate a profitable set of brands across businesses and we only see this growing further in the years to come. As the Group CEO, I believe my number one priority is to build a Viacom18 that is admired by one and all and is future-ready. In my mind, this is a goal worth pursuing. We’ve started our journey and are committed to it.

Viacom18 Media’s new kid on the block VOOT won IBC’s innovation award in content distribution? How significant was this honour for the company?

VOOT, which launched in 2016, currently hosts over 40,000 hours of content with over 25 million monthly active users.

Winning the IBC2017 Innovation Award for Content Distribution was a huge honour for everyone at Viacom18. We are known for our content business, but to have our company feature on the global technology leader board, was a major acclaim for everyone involved. I’ve said before that the media landscape is changing rapidly and the marriage of gut and insight will be crucial in this new paradigm. Kudos to the team for delivering the innovation in partnership with Google.

COLORS TV channel continues to be the major growth driver for the group? What are your views on the channel’s success?

There is always more room to grow. While COLORS is doing well, we will continue to do more by developing other sub-genres within our general entertainment network. As we grow our portfolio, we will continue to reduce our dependence on Colors. From an ad-sales perspective, our reliance on our flagship offering Colors Hindi is expected to drop from about 4/5th in FY12 to almost half in FY18. Our Kannada channel, from its ETV acquisition in 2012, has moved up from fourth position to the top in the last three years. Today, the channel has 36 per cent market share of the Rs 600-crore Kannada market, growing at over 12-13 per cent annually. We also launched a second Kannada GEC in HD in 2016 and will continue to focus on growing our regional bouquet. India is a macrocosm of many ‘Indias’ and this is evident in the differing entertainment tastes of the various regions of India. In such a scenario, regional is big focus are for us. We will be soon launching our 7th regional offering in Tamil Nadu.

The NDA government led by PM Narendra Modi has completed three years in Office. Do you see visible changes reflect in the M&E sector specifically from the policy and ease of doing business perspective?

The industry is extremely pleased with the proactive, consultative approach of the government. It has set the ball rolling on regulations that have been around frozen for way to long.The government has showcased its commitment to alter the status quo through various industry altering changes. Reform measures such as demonetization and GST augur well for the long-term health of the economy. I have always maintained that as an industry, we have a lot to gain from an economy that is buoyant in the aggregate sense rather than reforms aimed only at our sector. In fact, I must add that the manner and scale at which this government has attempted behavioural change campaigns around Swachch Bharat – we have a lot to learn!

What are the three or four areas that you think M&E needs attention that would further propel growth?

The M&E industry while on a steep growth trajectory can further propel growth by focusing on:

Disintermediation as a business reality and the need to prepare ourselves for a direct to consumer offering and one with direct access to talent if we are to succeed

The need to view technology and data as a potent currency that can revolutionize our success rates and monetization

We need to be able to attract top talent in storytelling, technology and analytics if we are to succeed in the next 4-5 years

Finally, we need to experiment more across the board- in the way we tell stories, the kind of stories we tell, the formats we look at, the people we attract… There’s a lot that is happening but more can be done.

The Indian M&E industry has set an ambitious target to reach $100 billion from the current $20 billion over the next five years. You also head Confederation of Indian Industry’s National M&E Committee? Do you see this happening? What are the challenges of achieving this?

The industry is witnessing robust growth and the need of the hour is to look at our industry from the perspective of ‘convergence’. This alone will recognize our role as a force multiplier. We will soon see the kind of consolidation being witnessed in the West and the $100 billion target will become an attainable reality. The regulatory framework must pre-empt this and prepare for it. This means ensuring parity across different forms of media so that there is no regulatory arbitrage. There is also the need for freedom to price services which will unleash the industry further and equip us to compete with the best in the world. A lighter approach towards regulation, where market forces play and even greater role will also help all players in the value chain compete on the basis of efficiency. Given the way Jio has disrupted the telecom market in India, I see the demand for M&E content only going up – making the 100 Bn USD an achievable milestone –as long as we get our monetisation models right.

As you have been the proponent of ‘Make in India, Show the World’ tagline, do you see India emerge as a digital hub for the world?

For me ‘Make in India’ is about encouraging youth in India and opening up avenues to become enablers and entrepreneurs. This program has in fact placed the global spotlight on India’s economic potential. In this regards also the M&E Industry can be a huge accelerator, in 2016 we employed nearly 5mn people. We would need to double this workforce in the next 5-7 years. Hence we need to plan from today to make those investments in the talent pipeline. This includes talent from the creative, technical and management spheres. The industry needs to collaborate more with educational institutions, the government needs to facilitate these partnerships and parents and teachers need to create awareness and nurture interest in design, technology and creative skills at the level of primary education. At our own level, we have attempted to bring entrepreneurship in the mainstream conversation with our show MTV Dropout.

Finally, disruptions continue to hit legacy M&E industry. But there are very few entrepreneurial disruptions in the Indian media space. Your comments?

I see your point at one level, but don’t agree with it in entirety at another. On the content side, we have seen significant disruptions with independent creators taking to digital and then entering the mainstream. I see our industry’s role as one which is able to leverage this talent and offer a larger canvas for them to play with. On the distribution side, we have seen the entry of a new telco fuelled by entrepreneurial passion of a different order. I believe that in the next few years they will be able to spawn an ecosystem full of innovators working towards both, incremental innovations and those at scale. As the industry becomes even more consumer-focused, the scope for disruption will only increase.

Which one book has influenced you the most?

It’s tough for me to single out any one book. I enjoy reading and several books and authors have influenced me over the years. I will take the liberty of sharing a few books that I think are a must-read for most individuals – Tuesdays with Mory, Tipping Point and The Second Machine Age.

What is your idea of real happiness?

That’s an interesting question. My notion of happiness has evolved over the years. To my mind, ‘real happiness’ is an inner state. Simply put, happiness is a choice. Nothing can keep it from you if you choose to be happy. I have also found that acts of generosity and giving – however simple or small – always dial-up happiness.

Viacom18- Milestones

1997

MTV India launched

2005

Viacom reintroduces Nickelodeon to the Indian Market

MTV launches VH1 as an English Music Channel

2007

Viacom Inc and Network18 Group ink JV

2008

Colors launched with 83 GRPs within Week 1. Ranked #3 on first ratings post debut

Colors ranks #1 within 9 months of launch, beating News Corp’s India channel Star Plus

2009

Ancillary businesses Digital media and Consumer Products gather steam

2010

Films Business Studio18 roped in

2011

24 hour English Entertainment channel, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon’s entertainment channel for teenage kids, SONIC launched Studio18 renamed Viacom18 Motion Pictures

2012

Viacom18 forms organic distribution company- IndiaCast Media Distribution Private Ltd

Launch of Nickelodeon kids channel for 4-12 year olds, Nick Jr launched Initiated acquisition of regional channels- ETV Gujarati, ETV Marathi, ETV Kannada, ETV Oriya and ETV Bangla

2013

New line of business, Integrated Network Solutions (INS) launched Viacom18 turns profitable- records PAT for the first time as a network Rebranding of regional channels. Revenue starts kicking in from the regional cluster

2014

COLORS’ petal general entertainment Free-To-Air channel, Rishtey launched in India

MTV India’s co-branded Indie channel, MTV Indies launched

2015

Colors Infinity launches

2016

Launch of VOOT

Launch of Rishtey Cineplex

Launch of second Kannada GECCOLORS Super

Launch of MTV Beats

Vh1 Refresh- new logo and programming refresh

2017

Announcement of Colors Tamil launch


Small Screen Comes of age to Make VIVO IPL 2018 Retention Event Grand

admin   February 12, 2018

If you’re a firm believer in the might of mobile devices as a preferred platform to consume entertainment in future, then you will be pleasantly surprised that it has already begun to assert its real power.

For the first time in its 10-year history, millions of cricket lovers (8.1 million to be precise) remained glued to their mobile devices and television sets to watch Star India’s presentation of the VIVO IPL Retention event as it unfolded from 7-8 p.m. on 4th January.

Rivalling full-fledged T20 India matches, BARC data confirmed that 4.1 million TV viewers watched the event across the Star Sports Network from 7-8 p.m. on 4th January, while Star reported that 4 million watched the event on Hotstar — the digital and mobile entertainment platform launched in 2015 by Star India.

Now, this data is really something! And, it seems, it’s going to get even better than this.

As Sanjay Gupta, Managing Director, Star India, puts it, “The unprecedented response to the retention event across TV and digital is early proof of what Star’s scale and Hotstar’s technology possibilities can accomplish. By offering the VIVO IPL to cricket fans lovers through both, the Star Sports network and Hotstar, Star India will be with the consumer at every viewing opportunity, unleashing enormous convenience and richness of content for the consumer and the advertiser.”

More digital viewers also meant more buzz on social media platforms. The event dominated conversations across platforms with 35k mentions, making the VIVO IPL retention day comparable to the chatter during a T20 match. It was also trending #1 in India on Twitter in no time at all.

Seeing the unprecedented response to the precursor of the main event, Rahul Johri, Chief Executive Officer at the Board of Control for Cricket in India, couldn’t be any happier. For him it could make a world of difference for the sport itself.

“A quantum increase in the growth and popularity of the VIVO IPL 2018 would immensely scale up deliveries” on “the discovery and nurturing of great cricketing talent and developing the cricketing infrastructure throughout the country,” he says.

Moreover, there are plans afoot to add four more languages — Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Bengali — which will allow cricket lovers in various regional markets to enjoy their favourite passion sport in their first language.

Now, that’s what we call a delivery with perfect line and length!


The 12th Culinary Cinema: LIFE IS DELICATE

admin   February 12, 2018

The 12th Culinary Cinema will be held under the motto “Life Is Delicate” from February 18 to 23, 2018. Nine documentaries and a fictional film focussing on the relationship between food, culture, and politics are being presented this year.

“When it comes to cultural and political matters, sensitive decisions have to be made all the time. It’s like in a kitchen, where it’s also tricky to make, at the very least, something edible and, at the very best, something delicate,” Festival Director Dieter Kosslick says in explaining the motto.

At 7.30 pm, the main programme of Culinary Cinema will present three world premieres, as well as an international and a German premiere. Following these screenings, top chefs Thomas Bühner, Sonja Frühsammer, Michael Kempf, Flynn McGarry, and The Duc Ngo will take turns serving menus inspired by the films in the Gropius Mirror Restaurant.

Chef Flynn, a US documentary by Cameron Yates, will open the programme. The film’s protagonist, Flynn McGarry, was born in 1998 and is already a famous chef. In the film we see how at the early age of ten, he transforms his parents’ living room in Los Angeles into a pop-up restaurant called Eureka and serves multi-course menus. Culinary superstars are impressed by his dishes. The New York press celebrates him as a ‘culinary prodigy’. He is looking forward to the premiere of his film and to cooking in the Culinary Cinema’s kitchen. In addition, at 10.00 am on February 22, 2018, during “Youth Food Cinema” Day, Flynn McGarry will cook together with school kids. Afterwards he will talk with experts about how to prepare tasty food with good, clean and fair products, and the positive impact using them has on living conditions, the climate and sustainable development worldwide. The event is taking place in collaboration with Engagement Global and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In La quête d’Alain Ducasse (The Quest of Alain Ducasse) by Gilles de Maistre, culinary visionary Ducasse defines his task: “We create memories that last.” To accomplish it he tirelessly travels the world, inspects his 23 restaurants on three continents and maintains his 18 Michelin stars. In honour of Alain Ducasse, chef de cuisine Thomas Bühner (three Michelin stars, „la vie“, Osnabrück) will be at the hob.

Vines have been cultivated in Georgia for around 8,000 years. But during the Soviet regime, ancient methods of vinification were almost lost. In Our Blood Is Wine by Emily Railsback we experience how the tradition is being revived. Michael Kempf (two Michelin stars, „Facil“, Berlin) will be interpreting Georgia’s gastronomic heritage.

In Cuba, culinary traditions were also being neglected for a long time. But now they say that “the taste is back” on the island. The road movie Cuban Food Stories by Asori Soto takes us to remote places where delicacies are prepared al fresco. Sonja Frühsammer (one Michelin star, „Frühsammers Restaurant“, Berlin) will be paying culinary homage to Cuba.

After participating in 2016, director Eric Khoo will be returning to Culinary Cinema with his new fictional film, Ramen Teh, set in the multi-ethnic city state and nation of Singapore. Here food serves as a means not only to preserve painful memories, but also to achieve reconciliation. The Duc Ngo (“Culinary Innovator 2017″ at Berlin Master Chefs), who has several popular restaurants in Berlin’s Kantstrasse, will prepare an Asian menu.

The late-night screenings (where no meals are served afterwards) explore many aspects of the culinary cosmos. The Green Lie by Werner Boote unmasks the sometimes subtle, often crass methods of ‘greenwashing’ with which companies deceive consumers. In The Game Changers by Oscar-winner Louie Psihoyos, outstanding athletes show how they maintain a healthy weight and stay in form without eating meat.

Patrimonio by Lisa F. Jackson and Sarah Teale is also encouraging: in this film, Mexicans manage to protect their village from takeover by a US construction company. How a group of women in a Lebanese refugee camp succeeds in organising a food truck and getting out of the camp is recounted in Soufra by Thomas Morgan. In Tuscany, the views of the landscape are magnificent but there is no future in sight for the peasant farmers in Lorello e Brunello by Jacopo Quadri.

“The delicate motif of remembering and forgetting, of reflecting on the past and a new beginning, is typical of food and can be found in many films of the 12th Culinary Cinema,” says curator Thomas Struck.

During “TeaTime” at 5.00 pm on February 19, 2018, this year’s motto of Culinary Cinema will be interpreted from the perspective of gastronomy, medicine, and chemistry. Chef de cuisine Thomas Bühner, medical doctor Thomas Ellrott, and physicist Thomas Vilgis will give theoretical and practical tips and tasters from their “Scientific Cooking Show – T to the Power of Three”, which they developed at the Osnabrück University.

In collaboration with BITE CLUB and Slow Food, delectable Berlinale street food will again be offered daily during the festival at that familiar spot in the Joseph-von-Eichendorff-Gasse, at the corner of Alte Potsdamer Straße.

Tickets for Culinary Cinema go on sale starting at 10.00 am on February 12, 2018 at central ticket counters in the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden, at Kino International, Haus der Berliner Festspiele, Audi City Berlin, and online at www.berlinale.de.

The films in the Culinary Cinema programme 2018:

Chef Flynn
USA
By Cameron Yates
Documentary
International premiere

Cuban Food Stories
USA / Cuba
By Asori Soto
Documentary
World premiere

The Game Changers
USA
By Louie Psihoyos
Documentary
International premiere

The Green Lie
Austria
By Werner Boote
Documentary
World premiere

La quête d’Alain Ducasse (The Quest of Alain Ducasse)
France
By Gilles de Maistre
Documentary
German premiere

Lorello e Brunello
Italy
By Jacopo Quadri
Documentary
German premiere

Our Blood Is Wine
USA
By Emily Railsback
Documentary
World premiere

Patrimonio
USA
By Lisa F. Jackson, Sarah Teale
Documentary
World premiere

Ramen Teh
Singapore / Japan / France
By Eric Khoo
World premiere

Soufra
USA
By Thomas Morgan
Documentary
European premiere


Eight New Drama Series Projects Look for International Partners

admin   February 4, 2018

On February 21, for the fourth time, the Berlinale Co-Production Market will invite producers, commissioning editors, distributors, and other drama series financiers to the Zoo Palast for the exclusive pitch event “CoPro Series”, mounted as part of the “Drama Series Days” 2018 (February 19 – 21). In previous years, “CoPro Series” has hosted drama series projects looking for partners that have since become successful series, such as Babylon Berlin created by Tom Tykwer, Achim von Borries, and Henk Handloegten, as well as Das Verschwinden (The Disappearance) by Hans-Christian Schmid, or Norway’s Valkyrien by Erik Richter Strand.

This year, eight new, selected series projects have the chance to find appropriate co-production and financing partners here. The creators will present a short pitch, followed by an opportunity to meet both at an informal get-together and in one-on-one meetings with interested partners to talk in concrete terms about a possible collaboration.

Two German projects are among those selected – the noir series Henkersbach by director Dominik Graf (Beloved Sisters, Dreileben, In Face of the Crime), with writers Friedrich Ani and Ina Jung, who were nominated for a Grimme Prize for Graf’s Das unsichtbare Mädchen; and the drama Baby Alone, the first TV project by experienced narrative and documentary screenwriters Judith Angerbauer (The Free Will) and Matthias Luthardt (Pingpong, Jesus Loves You).

In the Norwegian project Fury, showrunner Gjermund S. Eriksen, winner of a 2017 Emmy, sends two undercover detectives on the trail of a European network of right-wing extremists. Also selected for presentation at the “CoPro Series” Pitches is the drama series debut of Portuguese director Ivo M. Ferreira, whose feature Letters from War was shown in Competition at the 2016 Berlinale. In his project South, a rather socially inept detective in a heat and crisis plagued Lisbon investigates the murder of women and stumbles into a swamp of corruption.

Experienced Israeli writers Shani Melamed Nitzan (Little Monsters) and Gaya Wildman will pitch In a Heartbeat, the tension-filled story of a heart transplant that becomes a fateful link between two unusual women.

The Icelandic drama series Black Port deals with the consequences of fishing monopolies for a village community, while in the crime series Costigan a female investigator attempts to adapt after being released from prison, while at the same time trying to expose her former police colleagues that got her locked up in the first place.

As in previous years, a further project will be presented in cooperation with the Series Mania European Project & Talent Forum in Lille. The Dutch series The Faction, selected at Series Mania in 2017, will be in Berlin to talk to additional co-production partners. In return, one of the other seven projects pitching for the first time at “CoPro Series” will get an opportunity to present at Series Mania at the end of April.

The main partners of the Berlinale Co-Production Market (February 17 – 21, 2018) are MDM – Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung and the Creative Europe – MEDIA Programme of the European Union.

The Networking Get-Together at “CoPro Series” at the Zoo Palast is held in cooperation with the Norwegian Film Institute (NFI).

The “Drama Series Days” are a joint initiative of the industry platforms European Film Market, Berlinale Co-Production Market and Berlinale Talents, and are organised in close cooperation with Berlinale Series.

Projects selected for “CoPro Series” 2018 (in alphabetical order by production company):

Baby Alone (Writers: Judith Angerbauer, Matthias Luthardt; Dir: Matthias Luthardt), Akzente Film- und Fernsehproduktion, Germany

South (Writers: Edgar Medina, Guilherme Mendonça; Dir: Ivo M. Ferreira), Arquipélago Filmes, Portugal

In a Heartbeat (Writers: Shani Melamed Nitzan & Gaya Wildman; Dir: tba), Black Sheep Film Productions, Israel

Henkersbach (Writers: Friedrich Ani, Ina Jung; Dir: Dominik Graf), Cinecentrum Berlin Film- und Fernsehproduktion, Germany

Fury (Showrunner: Gjermund S. Eriksen; Dir: Roar Uthaug), Monster Scripted, Norway

Costigan (Writer: Gary Duggan; Dir: Neasa Hardiman, tbc), Shinawil & Against the Grain, Ireland

Black Port (Writer: Mikael Torfason; Dir: Bjorn Hlynur Haraldsson & Gisli Orn Gardarsson), Vesturport, Iceland