Dialogue: Pete Smith, NBC Uni International
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Since taking over as president of NBC Universal International, Pete Smith has been driving an aggressive expansion program that has included the acquisition of the Hallmark Channel's international operations, the acquisition of JSCB2 in Japan, a major joint-venture partnership with NDTV Networks in India and a landmark format deal with ITV to bring "Law & Order: London" to the U.K. The Hollywood Reporter European television editor Mimi Turner recently spoke with Smith to discuss the studio's international growth horizons and how it will deliver on the ambition of NBC Uni president and CEO Jeff Zucker to double the size of international business during the next three years.
The Hollywood Reporter: What is driving NBC Universal's expansion plan at a time when other studios might be cutting back?
Pete Smith: International media markets present a much higher growth potential than the U.S. at present. NBC Uni plans to deliver leading content to viewers and audiences around the world by investing more in local film and TV content for our international distribution network, expanding our branded channels and through the continued growth of our studio film and TV slates, all of which we expect to achieve through a combination of organic growth as well as selective acquisitions.
THR: Which are the most exciting emerging market territories where you see the most growth? What do they promise in terms of opportunities?
Smith: We intend to expand our existing operations outside the U.S., where key growth opportunities exist, with countries such as Japan, Germany, India and Russia presenting a particular strategic focus for us. These markets represent exciting content opportunities for NBC Uni in terms of channels expansion, TV and film production partnerships and digital plays.
THR: You've made significant moves in India, as have a number of other studios. Why is India such a strong investment target?
Smith: India is a truly extraordinary market, with the film and TV sector estimated to grow over 16% in the next two years. There are 110 million TV households in India, 70 million of which are cable, and this is set to double in the next few years. As the Indian economy continues to expand, the emerging affluence is attractive to advertisers looking to access a significant new swath of consumers. Also, we see that the increase in digital take-up in India through DTH platforms and digital cable is providing new demand for high-quality TV channels and increased content.
THR: How does the gloomy economic outlook impact your expansion targets?
Smith: We are very aware of the effects of an economic slowdown in certain territories of the world, and as a global company we are very responsive to these conditions. However, our expansion plans are targeted in high-growth markets where key media opportunities exist.