The merger of BBC Worldwide and BBC Studios has brought several key functions of the media conglomerate — content development, production, commissioning, sales and distribution, as well as creation of new IPs — under one umbrella. BBC Studios’ Myleeta Aga tells Sonam Saini about how the merged entity offers an edge in serving different market requirements, the focus on SVoD, and the potential of branded content. Edited excerpts:
How has the merger of BBC Worldwide and BBC Studios panned out? How has it impacted the India business?
It was a strategic move. Traditionally, BBC Worldwide was the content distribution company, and BBC Studios was a production house based in the UK, but did not exclusively create content for the BBC channels. With the merger, we integrated the creation and distribution of content. This allows us to leverage the full suite of content skills. The network can effectively compete in the changing media landscape, where there are both global and local SVoD players, as well as local broadcasters with different content requirements. In most Southeast Asian countries, there is a lot of interest in BBC channels’ content; in India, there is a lot of interest in BBC’s production capabilities; whereas in Germany, we have content partnerships with existing free-to-air broadcasters. Now, we are able to serve each of these markets.
In India, production has been BBC’s primary business. Now, production is the bigger part of the overall business; there are more synergies and shared learnings. Particularly in SVoD, there is a much bigger appetite for content. Now, content can be created in one country, produced in another and broadcast around the world. We did not have this ability before.
Are you exploring partnerships for the pre-school channel CBeebies in India?
Yes, we are in talks with some players. It is a priority for us to do a partnership for CBeebies.
The partnership will likely take place in the OTT space where we see a lot of interest in our content and brand. Kids mostly consume content on phones or iPad. Their relationship with content is more with the device that is in their hand, as opposed to the television screen.
What is the scope for the factual entertainment genre in India on SVOD?
It is a bit early to say. I think the audience is growing and maturing, with a lot of global SVoD players coming in. People will start consuming different genres of content. We see potential for all the genres including kids and drama.
What’s more profitable: putting out content on TV or on OTT platforms?
We have consumers on both TV and OTT platforms. Convenience has become a very important part of the decision making factor in the consumption of content. Our philosophy is: if you want our content, we will make it convenient for you.
In Southeast Asia, we are witnessing a lot more cord-cutting. People are moving towards OTT and internet television; but in India, that’s not the case yet. There is an expectation of growth on both OTT and linear TV.
How big is the branded content segment for BBC Studios?
Last year, we focussed on building up our scripted formats, while branded content took a bit of a backseat. This year, we are increasing the talent pool in that department. We are using our branded production skills for markets outside India as well. Currently, the branded content segment is not big, but it is going to be more important to our business. We see opportunities for advertisers to integrate their brand within the content much more.
Why is regional language content not a priority for BBC Studios?
We are going to focus more on scripted formats, content on SVoD, and branded content before we go back to regional. We had a lot of success with regional in the past, but we see more opportunity for these three segments. It is not that we are not doing projects within regional, but it is not the focus area for BBC Studios for now.
What is in the pipeline for BBC Studios?
We are producing many shows this year for both linear TV and OTT. Some of the shows under production include The Office on Hotstar, Midnight’s Children on Netflix with Vishal Bhardwaj, and Luther. On linear television, Khatra Khatra Khatra is on air on Colors. That apart, there are other shows in the early stages of production.