Globalization Stressed at FICCI Frames India 2004

By Janet Fine, TBS Contributing Editor

The fourth Federation of Industry Chambers FICCI FRAMES 2004 (March 15-17) annual Indian global convention on the business of entertainment held in the Renaissance Hotel in Mumbai, India counted more than 250 entertainment companies from twenty-five countries in addition to a large Indian participation discussing media in a global framework.

Globalization was stressed to the point that one participant said, "If all goes well, premier Pakistan cities will have fancy multiplexes built by the Chinese and show Bollywood films and then come home to Arabic programming on their cable TV." The Chinese government has submitted a proposal to construct 200 multiplex theatres across Pakistan. The Muslim country enjoys a wide assortment of Mid-east Sat TV, still yet to penetrate India, except for Dubai and Saudi channels.
"The Indian film industry is increasingly becoming global and we need to start thinking big and differently with the Government of India to consider every demand of the media industry to open up trade," said Indian Information and Broadcast Minister Ravi Prasad in the opening speech.
"A new Digital Age has dawned and India is a global player with an estimated 1,000 films, 5,000 music recordings and 200,000 TV series made a year. The animation industries marks the wave of the future and Indian professionals should come up with a plan to carve out a share of this 25 billion dollars global pie."

Expanding Global Ties

Different countries looking to expand Indian ties included a British delegation led by UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, who said that collaborations between countries marked a new age in global filming, a 18-person Australian delegation led by Indian-Australian filmmaker Anupam Sharma specializing in co-productions, and a delegation of Canadian film and TV schools looking to link up in India. International Indian stars Hema Malini and Amitabh Bachchan received the "FICCI International Legends" at a glittering ceremony featuring appropriately Western fusion and Indian classical music to "represent the global trend." For the first time in 40 years, a delegation from the Pakistan entertainment industry attended the conference and forged new links.

A panel comprising the Pakistan Film Producers Association Chairman Mian Amjid Farzand Ali, Evernew Entertainment CEO Saijad Gul and other representatives from Pakistan TV and media signed for the first time distribution and co-production deals. Pakistan and Indian Sat TV also resolved to exchange popular programs and do joint ventures together, furthering the transnational interaction between both countries. An estimated 85% of cable-connected homes in Karachi receive Indian channels and with DTH opening, revenue of Indian satellite channels will get a boost from these new initiatives.

"So far, Indian artistes have been crossing the border to act in Pakistan serials. It would be a better idea to tie up with production houses in India to produce serials jointly," said Evernew executive director Mohammed Seja.

Some of the seminars included "Funds and Projects" which explored ways for Indian producers to tap the global pool of funds and the role of venture capitalists and global lending institutions in the entertainment industry. The seminar on "Growing digital cinema opportunities in India" featured representatives from Hughes Communication, Barco Digital, and Mukta Adlabs who predicted there would be 590 digital screens in India next year to help lighten the burden of expensive film prints. Some of the American animation industry has been outsourcing to India and this was discussed at the "Animation Network Anticipation" seminar with Disney South East Asia/Korea VP Raymond Miranda, Turner Ent. Networks Asia director Marc Buhaj, and Ramesh Sharma, CEO of Moving Pictures Company, who has a high tech TV studio in New Delhi; the seminar discussed globalization of animation to incorporate universal characters. Disney Int. president Andy Bird said that he estimated an annual 30% growth for Indian animation and an increase for the Disney TV group's current twenty-nine hours per week programming to India.

"Market-led development is the global model for Pay TV growth and despite no present Pay TV in China, STAR is prepared to wait since there are more than 50% of 90 million households that have TV penetration," said STAR TV CEO Michelle Guthrie from Hong Kong, in India for the first time, at the panel "Asia-Pacific TV Markets: Lessons from a Decade of Development." Zee Telefilms chairman Subhash Chandra went one step further to say there was no need to regulate the cable TV industry. Guthrie agreed. "Globally the deployment of set-top boxes is market driven and nowhere in the world is it mandatory," she said. Presently, although the Indian parliament has passed the set-box rule, it has been postponed for the political election times after June.

The Asia Pacific entertainment market is expected to grow from $209 billion to $263 billion by 2007, according to an Asia Price Waterhouse report who said that broadband penetration is expected to increase from 13.5 million Asian households in 2002 to 169 million in 2007. A FICCI-Ernst & Young report held that the Indian TV sector is almost three times the size of the movie segment and grew at 14 percent in the year, including cable TV subscription fee and revenues for broadcasters from Pay TV.

The mood at FICCI FRAMES 2004 was one of looking to the future and unabashed hype. The FICCI chairman, Amit Khanna is a director of Reliance Entertainment. Reliance, a booming company is better known for its yarn and oil output and is striving to get a foothold in the lucrative tech and entertainment industry. Khanna, a producer and perennial organizer, replaced a protesting FICCI founder-president, Bobby Bedi, producer of such global films as "Bandit Queen," who apparently objected to the choice of speakers-seminars were peppered with Reliance Infocom representatives. So it was inevitable that the closing speech was by Reliance CEO Mukesh Ambani, who in keeping with the other speakers presented a commercial power-point presentation, predicting widespread digital entertainment opportunities with sweeping Broadband inroads—mostly by Reliance Infocom. The presence of fifty million cable TV households and forty-five million telephone fixed lines in India represents a potential growth trigger for Broadband and Reliance and others are scrambling with fiber optics to launch what they call the "New Digital Age" in India.
"The FICCI FRAMES goes beyond just a conference. We have the Knowledge Series throughout the year to interact with others such as our trip to Germany to visit Bertelsmann in the area of media, publishing and TV," said Film director Yash Chopra, chairman of FICCI's Entertainment committee. "FICCI FRAMES has helped in building bridges with the global entertainment industry."

This year's FICCI FRAMES 2004 certainly supplied an enthusiastic backdrop for transnational dreams and schemes of an ever energizing and globalizing world entertainment industry. TBS

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