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Business News/ Companies / People/  ‘Platforms need breadth of content to retain subscribers’
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‘Platforms need breadth of content to retain subscribers’

Matt Forde, managing director, international production & formats, describes as a long-term opportunity for the BBC Studios the impressive line-up of scripted and unscripted shows under production for the Indian market.

Matt Forde, managing director, international production & formats, BBC Studios.Premium
Matt Forde, managing director, international production & formats, BBC Studios.

With a clutch of its shows such as Jhalak Dikhlaa Ja, Criminal Justice,Out of Love and RudraThe Edge of Darkness, among others, running successfully on linear television and streaming services in India, BBC Studios is on a roll. It has an impressive line-up of both scripted and unscripted shows under production for the Indian market, which Matt Forde, managing director, international production & formats, describes as a long-term opportunity for the BBC Studios. In Mumbai last week, Forde said smart linear TV networks will prosper despite the rise of streaming services which need breadth of content to retain subscribers. Edited excerpts from the interview:

Do you have long term partnerships with streaming services, TV channels and production houses?

We work across genres, and with all customers. We have a strong tradition of working with linear public service broadcast network customers like ABC in Australia, TF1 in France or RTL in Germany. But increasingly we’re working with Apple where we delivered two shows: Trying, a comedy and another show called Prehistoric Planet. So Apple, Netflix, Amazon, HBO Max …our business is increasing with a lot of the SVoD (subscription-led video-on-demand) companies.

What kind of content works across the world?

It’s broadly similar. So I would say crime is number one, but relationship dramas, like Dr Foster are now proving popular, particularly because platforms need more variety to retain their subscribers. It’s slightly less about gaining new subscribers. It’s now a game of keeping the subscribers that you already have. You need the breadth of content. That may well be another reason why comedy is doing extremely well.

What’s in the works for India?

So The 1% Club is a quiz show that we have seen succeed in the UK and France, we’re hopeful about that. Ghosts (comedy) is a really interesting show. We have a drama on Disney+ Hotstar coming in the next few months which is yet to be announced.

Will linear broadcasting vanish?

I don’t think linear TV will disappear but it will change. We see that big and smart networks like TF1, RTL, BBC or ITV thinking through their digital strategies and thinking through how to use combination of linear and digital to increase their audiences. Maybe you only get 4 million viewers on a Saturday night but you’ll get another 4 million on the catch-up services over the next seven days. So, I don’t see the big networks going away. What the traditional broadcast networks have over the digital players is ‘experience’. They’ve been working in the business for an additional 20, 30, 40 or in the BBCs example, 90 years. We know what good content is in a different way to the new players. There are good reasons why the traditional linear networks will continue to prosper.

What about the saturation in subscribers for streaming services?

I think at this stage, it’s still so young…what we’re experiencing is just changes and so what you used to gain your initial subscribers is very, very high-end premium content, that may not be what you need now.

When I was talking earlier about crime, that seems like a good place to start, but relationship dramas help you sustain and build new audiences. I suppose one of the questions is how much like a traditional network will those SVoD companies become. But you know, I’d say we don’t know the answer yet.

What is the big challenge for content producers–is it competition, talent crunch or cost escalation?

All of those. We are living in extraordinary times. The opportunity far outstrips the challenges. But there are inflationary issues with respect to cost of production at the moment, with a lot of economies having a tough time. There are so many more shows being made. There is competition for talent, and that in itself makes tech talent inflationary. With the economic situation globally, you can see the changes at Disney, at Warner Bros. Discovery, HBO. You can see Netflix having to think a bit harder about what they need to do now.

But we’re still living in a world where people are consuming more and more TV. There seems to be a relatively unstoppable desire to watch high quality television, either on broadcast networks or now on any number of either local or global SVoD services.

Is this your first visit since the pandemic receded?

This is the second time to India since things opened up. I come at least twice a year anyway to see what we’re making. They’ve (India office) had a great amount of success making Criminal Justice for Disney+Hotstar. They just finished the third series so they’re talking about whether there’s possibility of future series and talking about strategy across our production studio in both scripted programming which we make a lot of and unscripted programming which we are making an increasing amount of.

In unscripted our specialty area is shiny floor shows. So big primetime entertainment shows in dance or music. Or we make the famous show known around the world as Bake off. So, cookery or lifestyle programming. Some these formats—for example, Dancing with the Stars—we have made in 61 different countries.

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Published: 29 Nov 2022, 09:23 PM IST
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