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Abu Dhabi Media Summit: Viacom's Bakish touts local content that travels

‘Glocalisation’ was the topic of conversation between Bob Bakish, CEO of Viacom International Media Networks, and Sai Kumar, group CEO of Network 18, during an Abu Dhabi Media Summit panel called Two-Way Streets.

The traditional distribution model has seen many local audiences make do with one-size fits all global content. But Viacom and Network 18’s joint venture Viacom 18, which owns and operates Viacom channels in India, is an example of a business model that is also attempting the reverse: hosting hit local content that travels.

Bakish explained why media conglomerate Viacom, which owns the likes of Paramount and MTV Networks, chose India as the destination for 50-50 venture Viacom 18: “When we were looking for international growth, we wanted to have a larger stake in India for obvious reasons: it has a very large population, a largely business friendly culture, growing GDP and industry growth and a well established TV market.”

Bakish described the JV as a perfect synergy of global reach and local knowledge: “It’s a fusion of global expertise and format with local connection and production – that is the secret to Viacom 18’s success. We believe in ‘glocalisation.’”

Viacom 18 hit it rich early with the major success of channel Colors, which is now available in 60 countries worldwide, and as Kumar explained, that success prompted the company to look beyond the Indian market: “We started thinking about audiences in India. But then we changed the lens and started looking across the world. That’s what led us to forming a content monetisation engine. We created something called India Plus, which takes a step back and thinks about how we can repackage content in linear or non-linear form in different regions. Rishtey was an example of that thinking. It’s off to a commendable start in the UK.”

Hindi TV channel Rishtey, first aired in the UK, now transmits in Canada and the Middle East. “One of the great opportunities of working with Network 18 was leveraging the killer content outside of India,” commented Bakish.

The trend for globalising local content looks set to continue, according to Bakish and Kumar: “Today 7-8% of Bollywood box office comes in from markets outside of India,” said Kumar.

“The term emerging markets is a misleading and outdated term,” added Bakish. “Today, as long as you have world class content, created on a scale, you can distribute it in other markets. That’s one of the most exciting things about the next decade.”

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