New Delhi: This is Andrew Lack’s third visit to India this year. During the last visit, the CEO of Bloomberg Multimedia signed up with Ronnie Screwvala’s business news channel UTVi for the entry of Bloomberg’s television into India. UTV’s business news channel has since been re-christened Bloomberg-UTV. Lack, who was president and COO of GE-owned NBC before he joined Sony Music Entertainment, spoke about his plans for Bloomberg TV. Edited excerpts:
Bloomberg TV is very late in coming to India. The business news channel market is already very crowded.
We are very late in coming to India. I am embarrassed and surprised and I don’t know why we are so late. I have been with Bloomberg only for a year. When I first came to the company and I asked what are the things you’d like me to focus on, the top managers told me “India”. I immediately began to look at the market. The timing, as it turned out, was very good for us. There were a number of potential partners who were interested in Bloomberg.
Going strong: Bloomberg Multimedia’s Andrew Lack says the challenge is to bring the product to a larger, broader consumer audience and that the firm is making a transition from financial news to business news. Rajkumar / Mint
One of them being NDTV. You were in talks with them. What happened?
I don’t want to speak about that. It is ancient history. They are a very fine group.
But you were negotiating very hard with them.
It wasn’t a matter of negotiation.
So what clinched the deal in favour of UTV?
To be honest, I knew in half an hour after I had met Ronnie (Screwvala) and Govind (Raj Ethiraj) in their offices that they were the right partners for us. Actually, I am just a television producer and a journalist. I’ve been kicked upstairs to a corner desk. When I walk into a newsroom I am looking for that connection to the right editors, reporters and producers. And in Ronnie’s case, to the right leader. The decision was straight from the gut.
How much equity are you picking in the channel and, if more foreign direct investment is allowed, will you increase your stake?
We still have to go through the approval process in India and I am not able to speak about the details. As for FDI (foreign direct investment), we are not looking at the venture from that perspective. We need to make the product first before we think any further about the investment.
But worldwide, CNBC continues to be the market leader, including in India.
CNBC is the leader only in the US and not anywhere outside the US. I have seen the figures for Europe and Asia and Bloomberg is doing just fine. I have affection for CNBC (its part of NBC where Lack worked) but it is not a leader outside the US. We have a global business that is very strong.
But where do you stand in the US?
We are No. 2. To be fair, Fox Business is also No. 2. Bloomberg has been in the market for long but it has not been focused on providing a consumer product. Competitively, there is room for all in the US but may be not in India. But India is too big a market to ignore. Maybe CNBC will not be so dominant and the marketshare will change.
It is believed that channels that focused on business news rather than the stock market news have not worked.
Today, a global business executive wants to know about the markets but he also wants to know about good stories, good companies, good CEOs and even the ones that are not so good. The world is changing so rapidly and markets such as India, China and Russia are having such a dramatic effect on the way global business is done that just to focus on a market or the markets is half a channel. Also, to just focus on global business economy and not bring the excitement of the markets is to miss a big story.
Is the multimedia division of Bloomberg profitable?
I have no joy in saying this, but no. It is not profitable and it will take a while to get there. The multimedia piece includes television, Internet and radio.
Bloomberg has such a strong professional audience and the Bloomberg terminal is so well regarded that Bloomberg Multimedia was in its shadow.
That’s my challenge to bring Multimedia to a larger, broader consumer audience. We are making a transition from financial news to business news on the multimedia side.
How did you transform from being a producer to being a CEO?
I was trained by one of the masters in the business. Jack Welch of GE. He was my business teacher. He brought me to NBC.