Is internet killing viewership of English GECs?

27 Jun,2012


By Meghna Sharma


Dying to watch the latest season of Big Bang Theory or want to know who’s going to win the current MasterChef Australia series? Then, you have two options: either download it or wait for a channel to telecast it here.


Of course, many of us opt for the first option as Indian channels still lag in getting the latest seasons of these international shows to India . MxM India explores if the internet is indeed posing a threat to the genre.


Internet, a menace?

Anurag Bedi

Consumer trends have changed over the past few years; and if one gets his dose of entertainment, it doesn’t matter it’s on which platform. “The viewer is platform-neutral. So, as far as one gets certain amount of entertainment quotient, it doesn’t matter even if he’s doing it illegally i.e. by downloading. And with the internet reaching out to every nook and corner of the country, it won’t be wrong to say that internet poses a threat to content owners or channels,” explains Karthik Sharma, managing partner, Maxus.


The internet remains the biggest threat to the English general entertainment channels. Most of these channels are not able to telecast various popular international shows like Games of Throne, Weeds, Sherlock and others, hence viewers log online.


Saurabh Yagnik

“Today, the television audience is experimenting with content. They are quite receptive to exploring new, innovative and unconventional content. Considering the change in lifestyles and the impact of globalization, our audience is more aware than ever. Viewers have the knowledge of the scope of entertainment available on various platforms,” said Anurag Bedi, Business Head, Zee Cafe.


Saurabh Yagnik, GM & senior VP, English Channels, STAR India Pvt. Ltd added: “STAR World’s constant endeavour has been to bring international shows to India , at the same time as their broadcast in US. We, in fact, had the World Television Premier of shows such as Missing, Touch on our channel. Even for Masterchef Australia Season 4, we are broadcasting the show very close to its telecast in Australia this time. This also becomes possible due to our strong and exclusive associations with international production houses such as Disney, Fox, and others.”


Ricky Ow

On an optimistic note, Ricky Ow, executive VP, Networks, Asia, Sony Pictures Television feels that though the internet adds to the competition, it helps one realize what the market is looking for: “If one studies the internet, then it can definitely turn out to be an asset as it gives us an opportunity to look at what the audience is interested in. For example, it helps us know what the India n audiences’ interests are outside AXN.”


However, the newest entry on the block, Comedy Central’s Ferzad Palia, senior VP and GM – English Entertainment, Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd feels that internet should be seen as a complimentary asset rather than just as competition. “With technology, the social mindsets of people are changing too. And now people have become more accepting towards western culture. Thus, it’s good for us as more and more people identify with the content.”


Ferzad Palia

The buying game

There is no doubt that the English-language general entertainment market is developing. Almost every channel is trying its level-best to keep the audience hooked on by getting more and more international shows to the living rooms. One question still remains: why are channels not able to show what their TG wants?


“It is difficult to bring popular international shows to India , especially at the same time as their release in other markets. However, we have been driving our efforts to realize this for a long time with our property titled Torrentz, wherein we brought international shows very close to their release in other markets,” said Mr Yagnik.


New channels coming up are giving a tough competition to the likes of Star World, Zee Cafe and AXN. Media professionals feel that, though the competition is good, it can become a burden on English channels as they have a limited TG. This has lead to rise in the cost of procuring rights. So, if a channel is paying more for an acquisition of shows which are popular abroad, they might not be able to recover money as mass channels do.


Mr Ow added that though it cannot be categorized as easy or difficult, the onset of more channels has definitely risen the costs: “If we want a show, we try our level best to get it. AXN’s programming formula is simple – we are an action-adventure destination. Therefore, it narrows down the competition as we look for series, movies or reality shows which cater to that genre.”


On the other hand, Mr Palia feels that though procuring rights is a complicated process, nothing is easy when it comes to running a channel. “It’s a part and parcel of starting a channel. What is more important is the selection process of the shows which will interest the India n audience. Demand for international shows has increased in the country of late and people have become choosy about what they want to watch.”


Hence, many channels are now associating with production houses or producing their own shows as they feel it will help them grow their market without too much of a trouble.


Vishal Rally

“There could be 100 popular international shows, but we cannot telecast them all. So, a channel needs to choose what their TG wants. Thankfully, we are backed up with a studio and a JV which allows us to telecast shows simultaneously in India as well. We telecast shows like Survivors, NCIS at par with their international seasons. That’s our USP,” said Vishal Rally, business head, BIG CBS Network.


Nevertheless, most channels agree that it isn’t an easy task to get good international shows to India , but to keep the competition at bay, they have to try to out-do internet but also each other by bringing the latest shows to their audience’s living rooms ASAP.


Many broadcasters are also aware that the internet viewership of popular shows is small, and the public still prefers a bigger screen experience. As one broadcaster said, high speed broadband connections exist, but not with everyone. And the buffering is a pain. It’s a huge negative for the viewers who watch English GECs.


But low broadband speeds and poor connectivity will soon be a thing of the past, right? Yes and so will dated soaps and old seasons be, says the broadcaster, requesting anonymity. “Right now, we are catching up with old seasons since most people haven’t watched them… For instance, how many people have watched The Newsroom, which has been receiving rave reviews?” There’s also an issue of copyright and picture quality. “Some of what you see on YouTube is pirated and is being yanked off the site when caught in the act. And if it is available somewhere, it appears to have been recorded on the microwave oven… Who wants to view Masterchef where a tomato looks like a potato!!!”


Hmmm. Surely reason for us to wait and watch. Or in this case, watch and wait.


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