Why India’s Frames Conference Matters

Martin Haake

James Murdoch, Hugh Jackman and Taylor Hackford are among the Westerners flocking to the media confab.

When the new Delhi-based Frames conference gets under way March 23, all eyes will be on James Murdoch. As chairman and chief executive of Europe and Asia for News Corp., Murdoch will deliver a keynote address at the three-day event, which bills itself as a cross-platform media conference dedicated to everything from film and TV to gaming, visual effects and animation.

This will be Murdoch’s second appearance at Frames. In 2002, the heir apparent to the News Corp. throne took the podium to address attendees and proceeded to take no prisoners, openly confronting India’s cable operators for denying satellite channels correct subscription revenue and pressing the government to allow direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting to “introduce a more competitive environment.”

Eight years later, DTH has taken root in India, and the industry has evolved to a point where Hollywood and the West are increasingly seeking partnership opportunities in India. While it’s anybody’s guess what Murdoch will say this year, one thing is clear: Frames has solidified its global reputation as a must-attend event for anyone interested in how India is adapting to meet the demands of a rapidly changing entertainment landscape. Indeed, the confab has become a crucial gathering place where locals can talk shop and foreigners can gain insight into the future of one of the biggest entertainment markets in the world.

Organized by the industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Frames’ 2011 theme, “Unlocking Profitability for the Media and Entertainment Industry: A Vision for the Next Decade,” is the latest step in FICCI’s goal to turn India into a major player in the global media sector.

“Frames has become an important platform for the industry, especially for younger and upcoming executives and talent who would otherwise not have such an opportunity to network with all aspects of the industry,” says Reliance Big Entertainment chairman Amit Khanna, who was one of the driving forces behind the event’s inception and is chairman of FICCI’s Convergence Committee, which organizes its own event focusing on digital and related topics.

In a first of sorts this year, the event will be imbued with a bit of Hollywood glamour when Wolverine star Hugh Jackman takes part in the closing “valedictory address.” In the past, the valedictory session has featured industry executives and rising Bollywood talent discussing the event’s theme. Jackman’s presence, along with that of director and DGA president Taylor Hackford, is another clear sign of changing attitudes in the West toward India’s place in the global media pecking order.

Local attendees and organizers will no doubt be thrilled. But as UTV Motion Pictures CEO Siddharth Roy Kapur points out, Frames is not about star power. The opportunity to network with global players is invaluable, he says, and it also offers a crucial strategy session for the very people who will be shaping India’s media future.

“More than just the international element, Frames is quite important for networking within the Indian industry since we hardly get any time or place to meet often,” Kapur says. “It’s great to share perspectives on industry trends amongst your peers, which makes some of the panel discussions quite useful.”