Timing just right for CBS joint venture with BIG

Timing just right for CBS joint venture with BIG

BIG CBS Networks Pvt. Ltd, a 50:50 joint venture between Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd (RBNL) and US-based CBS Studios International, which launched three English general entertainment channels on Tuesday, said they will make local versions of its popular shows such as Entertainment Tonight and pioneer Indian concepts that can be replicated worldwide.

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BIG CBS expects its three channels—BIG CBS Prime (a general entertainment channel), BIG CBS Spark (a youth channel) and BIG CBS Love (a women’s entertainment channel)—to reach 25 million households following an October launch. Armando Nuñez, president of CBS Studios International, and Tarun Katial, CEO of RBNL, a media arm of Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani group (R-Adag), spoke about their expectations from the Indian market in a joint interview. Edited excerpts:

What will this partnership bring to TV viewers in India?

Nuñez: It’s a very unique partnership and a combination of two big media companies. CBS brings in class content, which…has worked incredibly well in almost 200 different markets around the world. Reliance is a powerhouse from a marketing and promotional perspective. We are bringing these two assets together to enter the English general entertainment space, which is very small at present, and work hard to grow it.

Katial: The English language space is actually growing very quickly, whether it’s the metros or the mini-metros and especially with the youth. For instance, we have a slot for weekend movies, and we have a good slate from our partnership with Dreamworks Studio, which will be utilized on the new channel.

Can you outline the broad contours of the deal between CBS and BIG, and how it came about?

Katial: It is really a 50:50 joint venture on everything. The deal took about six months to complete.

Nuñez: We are even splitting the dinner cheque tonight! We at CBS had been looking at what opportunities there were for us as a media company in India. It’s something we have been looking at strategically for years but the timing was just right for this venture.

Can you elaborate on developing content for the Indian market and concepts that can be replicated worldwide?

Katial: What we find is that a lot of good international formats can find their way into India in the English language. At both levels, whether it’s international content which is world class or local formats produced in English, both have a large market in India.

Also, if we have a great idea or a format that we develop here, CBS has a distribution system across the world to take that and develop that intellectual property into a format.

Nuñez: For example, Entertainment Tonight is the wor-ld’s most watched entertainment news magazine show. Though it is only an idea and not a firm plan, we could have something like an Entertainment Tonight Mumbai and base it on Bollywood news.

Advertising spends on English entertainment channels haven’t really grown. So would your revenue model hinge more on distribution?

Katial: It will follow the trend of what happens with digitization on the ground. If it grows rapidly as it did last year, the subscription revenues would be very healthy. On the other hand, potential for advertising revenue is significant but hasn’t been tapped because of very few channels (being) available.

How many households are you looking to reach?

Nuñez: We hope to reach at least 25 million homes through the DTH (direct to home), digital cable and analog networks.

Some of CBS’ popular television shows are already aired in India through other channels. What will happen to them?

Nuñez: We will fulfil whatever licensing obligations we have but as it makes good business sense we will move over new content to our channels. The plan is to bring our new shows…to India shortly after their telecast in the US so that it is fresh and current.

A lot of production houses have been looking to produce shows in India as it is cost-effective. Would you look to do something similar?

Nuñez: I think this venture opens the doors for a lot of opportunities and that’s one of them. So yes, that is a space that we could expand into.