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Keshet International to expand content biz in India, plans Mumbai office

MUMBAI: Having sold content to two leading broadcasters in 2016, television format distributor Keshet International is keenly looking at India for growth. As part of its expansion plan, the company intends to set up an office in India this year.

Keshet International Gary Pudney“Our game plan is to establish an office in Mumbai in early 2017 with the intention of building our production capabilities in India and throughout the region. We have big plans for the business and hope to multiply our output in the coming years. India is a dynamic exciting country which presents endless opportunities for us,” Keshet International, Asia head, Gary Pudney told TelevisionPost.com.

Bullish on India, Pudney said he will be travelling here this month for the premiere of ‘Rising Star India’. The plan is to also expand in Asia.

“We will be expanding our presence in Asia. We already have offices in Hong Kong and Beijing. In 2017, we will add offices in Singapore and India,” he said.

Formats that worked in 2016

Looking back at 2016 in terms of the formats that resonated the most with broadcasters in India and Asia, Pudney noted that traditionally non-scripted formats such as game shows from Japan have travelled more easily.

“Korea has been strong in exporting scripted content within Asia and outside. We earlier acquired international rights to a Korean dramatic comedy show called ‘You Will Love Me’.

“I think more Asian countries are likely to follow suit. What we have on our side now is that the world is really open to good storytelling no matter where it originates or what language it is in. We’ve shown that foreign-language shows and formats can resonate with broadcasters and audiences like ‘POW – Bandi Yuddh Ke’, ‘Rising Star’, ‘Loaded’ and ‘Traffic Light’ for Keshet International. So many new content platforms in India and the Asian region will need good-quality shows and formats to offer exclusively now, as it gives them an edge when building a subscriber and audience base.”

Talking about the progress the company made in India in 2016, he said, “It’s been a fantastic year for us in India, having placed our largest scripted and non-scripted shows with the country’s two largest broadcasters.

“’P.O.W. – Bandi Yuddh Ke’ (Prisoners of War India) is a premium, cinematic and gripping drama series. It is based on the same original Israeli format ‘Prisoners of War’ created by Gideon Raff, which was the starting point for the smash hit US series ‘Homeland’. It has created a huge buzz on social media, trending in the No. 1 spot on Twitter in India.

“We also sold our trail-blazing interactive talent show ‘Rising Star’ to Colors/Viacom18. It will launch next year and will be the nation’s first ever real-time voting live talent show.”

Expansion plans

With these deals in place, the company is now looking to expand quickly and aggressively in 2017. “What excites us most about the Indian market, unlike other Asia countries, is their pragmatic approach and wiliness to embrace new programing opportunities and take risk,” Pudney said.

The company is speaking with the full spectrum of content buyers and producers in the market, from linear TV channels to digital operators and independent production companies. “They are all looking for exciting, captivating, and engaging content that’ll resonate with their audiences and increase loyalty to their brand/increase their subscriber base—and for online platforms the millennial audience in particular is a target,” he explained.

In terms of what the company expects from a broadcaster before selling formats, he noted that his company looks at their profile and work with them to find the best fit of programming for their audience and their brand. The company is also speaking with India’s OTT players.

Role in production

Pudney also elaborated on the role that Keshet plays in the production process. “Each time we sell a format, the deal includes a dedicated KI consultant and an attached producer. The consultant, who has worked on many versions of the show around the world, works closely with the broadcaster and/or production company from the date the deal is signed all the way through to the launch. They are on-hand to impart experience in order to make the production as efficient and effective as possible. By doing so, we deliver the highest possible standard of show that adheres to local production sensibilities and requirements.”

Recipe for success

When asked about what makes formats successful, Pudney pointed out to selection, production, delivery (to the viewer) and viewer experience.

“If a format is original enough, it can break through anywhere. The world is borderless. People in Mumbai and Shanghai are in talks with people in LA, London, etc. They communicate daily and are learning what works, what’s trending, what’s being produced and what excites.”

Working with experienced and respected partners is absolutely the way forward, Pudney said. That is because they have the local knowledge, relationships and an understanding of what will and won’t work, which obviously saves both time and money.

“What we are experiencing is a rapid growth of potential partners as the industry expands and matures, so we’re looking to secure a number of such relationships in the near future, across both linear and digital TV.”

Demand for format IPs rising in India

Pudney believes that the Indian market has matured to a large extent and there is now respect for format IP in the country.

“India has evolved quickly to respect global IP rights and the benefit this brings. Some other countries in the Asian region have not yet reached this stage, so that presents more challenges,” he said.