Global markets tune in to India


CANNES -- India is stepping up its visibility on international television screens with multimillion dollar investments in made-for-the-U.S. brands, high-profile feature film funding and Indian content dubbed in local languages for, among others, China and Russia, MIPCOM participants heard during the market's India Day on Monday.

The total value of Indian content sold outside India is about $200 million, according to Ernst & Young figures presented in a new report, "Indian Content on the Move."

"As India becomes the flavor of the day -- economically and culturally -- this number is expected to grow at over 20% every year," the report said, adding that the overseas market brings in about 20% of the revenues for any major release in India.

Keynote speaker Subhash Chandra, founder and chairman of entertainment and media conglomerate Zee Network and the Essel Group, said the goal was "to cater to audiences across the globe seamlessly."

Chandra plans to spend a total of $200 million on his new health and wellness brand, Veria, which launched in the U.S. on Wednesday with an HD channel and plans for branded retail outlets.

Currently delivered to 15 million U.S. households, the Veria channel was conceived in India and produced in the U.S, Chandra said.

This is part of what Chandra says is a growing tide of English-language content out of India for global audiences.

Veria will roll out globally in the next five years, beginning with a dubbed Spanish channel for Latin America, followed by launches in Europe and Canada. "And slowly it will come to India," he said.

India's increasingly confident presence abroad runs alongside explosive domestic growth.

Ernst & Young figures put an $11 billion value on the country's media and entertainment market. The TV industry is worth $5 billion ($3 billion from subscriptions and $2 billion from advertising). Film is worth $2 billion. About 70 million households have access to multichannel television of a total 120 million households.

"The good news is that the industry has grown because of the substantial lack of regulation," said second keynote speaker Ronnie Screwvala, founder and CEO of the UTV Group, which sold its kids' channel, Hungama, to Disney and is now launching teen platform Bindass.

Screwvala is the producer of such feature films as "Life in a ... Metro" and "The Namesake" and executive producer of "I Think I Love My Wife," directed by Chris Rock. He also is backing M. Night Shyamalan's new film, "The Happening."

Screwvala's feature film ventures were not a result of being enamored by Hollywood, he insisted.

"We're not going to Hollywood. We are enamored by the content and the marketing. If we have that, we can take our content anywhere," he said.