India and China: Scoping two vast markets
Barriers, opportunities and next steps are discussed at Edinburgh TV Festival
India — A Booming OTT Market
The demand for more relatable content from India’s younger generation and their adoption of newer technology has kickstarted the OTT market in the country, according to speakers at the Edinburgh TV Festival. An estimated 65% of India’s population of 1.3 billion is aged 35 and under, and the way that generation is driving fundamental change, was assessed in a session entitled Content Curating Culture: High-End Drama in India’s Booming OTT Market.
“India never got its HBO and Showtime moment,” said Mansi Darbar, head of acquisitions & operations at content creation studio Applause Entertainment. “We were always busy producing telenovelas rather than content that was realistic.”
The linear television market in India is led by the four main general entertainment channels: StarPlus, Sony Entertainment Television, Zee TV and Colours TV, which each have their own digital platforms: HotStar, Sony Liv, Zee5 and Voot respectively. Beyond these platforms, there are additional OTT services from a mix of local players (Eros Now, ALTBalaji) and international players (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video).
“India has traditionally been an ad-supported linear market, so its content has really served the lowest common denominator,” said Aparna Purohit, head of India Originals for Amazon Prime Video India. “The people on the fringes who want more compelling, more international content have felt alienated.”
India’s under 35s not only make up the majority of the population but also make up 89%of the country’s OTT users, according to a recent consumer survey from Counterpoint Research. Their adoption of these platforms would not have been possible without the declining costs of data.
Speaking at the OTTtv World Summit in London in 2018, Neeraj Roy, managing director and CEO of Hungama Digital Media Entertainment said: “The pricing for data went from $3.50 for a 1GB to as little as $0.75 for 30GBs of data. After two to three gigabytes of [general] data usage, the biggest beneficiary can either be peer-to-peer calling or video consumption.”
Back in Edinburgh, Purohit highlighted both Comicstaan (a stand-up comedy competition format) and Made in Heaven (a drama series about two wedding planners in Delhi, one of whom is gay) as more liberal shows that have connected with Amazon’s young audience, and flagged Jack Ryan and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as two “international shows that have worked beautifully in India”.
While referencing Applause-produced “comedy erotica” Rasbhari, Darbar said: “It’s progressive content, these are topics that we haven’t spoken about and we can finally talk about them and discuss them.”
China — Dancing with Dragons
China offers opportunities too, as discussed in the session Dancing with Dragons: How to get a commission in China, though the intricacies of the market are considerable. Working within the government’s regulations can sometimes feel like “dancing in the shackles”, according to Jean Dong, chairman of UK/China production and licensing group Zespa Media.
State managed China Central Television (CCTV) offers over 40 channels to more than one billion of the country’s residents. Additionally, there are a number of commercial satellite networks, such as Beijing Television, Dragon Television and Jiangsu Television, that are based in specific provinces but broadcast nationwide. These commercial broadcasters have been slow to adapt (if at all) to digital distribution, which has allowed the so-called BAT companies (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) to take the lead. eMarketer estimates that Tencent Video was China’s leading OTT platform in 2018 with Alibaba owned Youku and Baidu owned iQiyi placing second and third respectively. Much like the way that Amazon has combined online retail and SVoD services, the BAT companies’ e-commerce, social media and internet service platforms have reinforced the standing of their video services.
This clear split between linear and digital distribution has led to direct collaborations between companies whereby a provincial network takes exclusive linear rights to a programme and one of the digital platforms takes exclusive online rights. They then premiere the show together in an attempt to generate the maximum exposure and viewing.
Following a 2016 resolution by Chinese state administration, the satellite channels are currently restricted to airing two adaptations of international primetime entertainment formats per year, in an attempt to encourage domestic creativity.
This ban has affected the sale of formats into China but has created consultancy opportunities for international creatives to help Chinese producers develop their own formats.
Li Wei, vice president of Golden Dreams Media & Communications (the UK subsidiary of Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation) said: “We need help, advice and consultancy from international experts during development… and we now sell some of our popular formats to international companies.”
Following a 2017 equity investment, 127 Wall Entertainment is funding television and film projects developed by The Ink Factory, which included recent BBC One mini-series The Little Drummer Girl and film Fighting With My Family.
“We finance projects that are mostly targeted towards an international audience, and it’s that type of content that Chinese platforms want to create these days,” said Julia Song, a development producer at the Hong Kong based firm. “Stage one is A-list Chinese actors [appearing] in random movies. We’re moving from that stage to a second phase where companies produce local content that is aimed at international audiences.”
Song also highlighted the (slightly) more relaxed censorship standards for international content compared to domestics. She said regulators accept content originating in the US or UK to be more edgy than domestic shows but that there is still a “red line” that producers must not cross.
Local for Global
Panellists from both sessions ultimately echoed a line that could be heard from UK and US based panellists across the festival: that rooting content in specific locations is no barrier to global success and that failure to do so can sometimes be detrimental.
Ian Katz, director of programmes at Channel 4, highlighted the poor performance of US co-production The First as an example where “the desire to produce something glossy got in the way of thinking what would connect with a British audience”.
Amazon Studios director of European Originals Georgia Brown added: “I don’t think it’s possible to say to a writer: can you please just create a global hit. We feel confident that if you’re rooting something in a specific market and you have themes that resonate, then you can connect with an audience emotionally. Those shows tend to travel very well.”
This article was originally published on 30th August 2019 by Broadcast Intelligence, part of Media Business Insight. This article remains the intellectual property of Media Business Insight and has been re-published here with their permission.