Balaji Telefilms recently hired former Star India head Sameer Nair, as its Group CEO. According to Ekta Kapoor, Joint Managing Director and Creative Director of the company, Nair has been brought to raise the level of professionalism in her family business. Nair talks to Ajita Shashidhar about his vision for Balaji Telefilms and how the broadcast industry has evolved in the last few years. Edited excerpts:
Q. You have made a comeback back to the media industry after a hiatus of over three years. What made you join Balaji Telefilms?
A. I have been part of Balaji's advisory board for the past six months, where we have been continuously discussing how to take the company forward. One of the outcomes of these discussions was (the realisation) that in order to scale up, Balaji needs to get new people on board from varied disciplines. You know my association with this company dates back to early 2000, when I was at Star TV. I share a comfortable equation with Ekta (Kapoor) and Shobhaji (Kapoor), so everything fell in place.
Not much is known about what you have been doing in the last three years...
I have been investing in media and hospitality companies. I have invested in a production company called Pride Rock and also in a company called One Network.
Q. So, what's the big change that you are looking at bringing to Balaji Telefilms?
A. The aim is to multiply growth, and Balaji is perfectly poised for growth. Its TV content business with six shows is doing well, and there are lots of other new businesses to look at, may be digital, sports, who knows.
The company's movie business has not done particularly well in the last one year, and one hears that the focus is going to be more on TV shows.
Some films doing well and some not doing well is the nature of the business. While TV is going to be the mainstay, we are also going to invest in films in a big way. The idea is to have a slate of 10-12 releases per year, instead of the four to five films that we are currently doing. It will be a mix of both big star cast films which will get us volume growth, as well as high concepts.
The same goes with TV too. There was will be the regular shows which will get mass appeal, as well as high concept, finite shows (like 24 on Colors or Yudh on Sony), which is the latest trend.
Q. Most of these high concept shows cost the broadcaster/content company in the region of Rs 2 crore to Rs 3 crore per episode. Do they really make economic sense?
A. If you are doing it right, it shouldn't be a risky proposition. There is a direct correlation between ratings and the revenue of a show. If the concept is good and connects with the audiences it will definitely get the show the required ratings and the desired revenue. One can do both high concept shows or shows that have mass appeal (like Jodha Akbar) with a reasonable amount of science and art.
Q. In most matured markets the content creating company holds the Intellectual property rights (IP). Why is it that Indian content creators haven't been able to work out similar deals?
A. IP has become a romanticised idea. But the truth is that the IP should have the potential to be monetised. Most of the content created by Indian content creators is meant for the Indian market. Unless the content has the potential to appeal to global audiences, monetising it becomes difficult for the content company.
Chota Bheem is one of the few franchises in India where the content company decided to hold the IP. It was a risky proposition but it paid off.
Q. Where do you see Balaji Telefilms in the next few years?
A. There is a hunger for content in India in both films and television, and Balaji Telefilms is well placed to satisfy it.
Q. What is your take on your former company, Star India's growth story?
A. They are doing a great job. Their bet on sports has taken them to an altogether different pedestal.