23 Nov 2017
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Disney will not abandon local content production in India, says Andy Bird

MUMBAI: The Walt Disney Company has no plans to abandon local content production in India, the company’s chairman Andy Bird said at Asia Pacific Operators Summit (APOS) in Bali.

Bird said that the decision to close down Disney’s Bollywood film production operations last year has been misunderstood by the industry.

Andy Bird“It was widely publicised that we decided to pull out of making movies for the local market. That was misinterpreted that we were getting out of making local content. It’s far from it.”

In fact, Disney has a development slate of more than 12 projects in India, he said, adding that “India is a really interesting opportunity for us.”

While noting that India is often overshadowed by the growth of China, he noted that the prospects for the country are very bright.

“I’ve never been more excited about India. That comes after a decade of frustration,” Variety quotes Bird as saying.

He further stated that Disney acquired UTV in India a few years ago to accelerate its story telling ability in that market.

However, the decision to scale down Bollywood was due to growing popularity of Hollywood movies in India, Bird said. The company tasted success with ‘The Jungle Book’, which grossed over Rs 100 crore in box-office collection.

Bird also pointed out that the growth of bandwidth and internet speed provides Disney an opportunity to look at various business models.

“In India we’ve had content which debuted on Facebook, then went to YouTube and then to traditional TV in third place. The economics of the Indian cinema industry are just not catching up,” said Bird.

Asia continues to represent some of the fastest growth rates in the world for Disney, Bird said. Asia is also at the cutting edge of the analogue to digital transformation.

He said that “in two to three years Disney will be a digitally focused, mobile-first, multi-faceted company”.

Bird also spoke about the direct-to-consumer SVOD platform DisneyLife. Though it is “now growing very successfully”, scaling it up to compete with the OTT platforms like Netflix is not a priority.