BBC Studios is exploring newer digital partnerships in India: Stanley Fernandes & Sameer Gogate

BBC is celebrating its centenary this year. India has been an important market for the BBC Studios, with its properties like CBeebies and Sony BBC Earth – the JV with Sony is completing five years. It has well-established partnerships with key broadcasters and digital platforms that carry its brands and shows such as the ‘BBC First’ branded deal with BookMyShow to offer its shows on MX Player, Lionsgate Play, and Discovery, etc.

BBC Studios is exploring newer digital partnerships in India, which is an important market, say Stanley Fernandes, Vice President of Distribution, South Asia, BBC Studios, and Sameer Gogate, General Manager, BBC Studios India. In this interview with Adgully, both of them talk about BBC Studios' India plans, content strategy, trends, outlook, etc.

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We are laying the groundwork for more growth in digital, entertainment and the edutainment spaces: Stanley Fernandes

What is your content strategy and approach for the Indian market, which is fiercely competitive with several players?

Indian audiences, those clued in to English entertainment, are aware and value BBC brands and the multi-genre content line-up that we showcase year-on-year. The BBC is celebrating its centenary this year, and we have always had a big presence in India, serving our audiences, whether, via our established branded services; CBeebies, our pre-school channel that focused on education through play, or via our JV channel Sony BBC Earth, our factual entertainment channel that educates, entertains and informs on subjects such as, natural history, science, wildlife, and issues that matter to humanity. Aside from our channels, we have well-established partnerships with key broadcasters and digital platforms that carry our brands and shows such as the BBC First branded deal with BookMyShow to offering our shows on MX Player, Lionsgate Play, and Discovery, to name a few.

We target a specific set of audiences, those with a curious mind and an appetite to go beyond the expected. The content that comes out from BBC Studios is known for its editorial and creative integrity and our audiences appreciated and engage with the bold, British, creativity that we bring to the country.

What are your outlook and growth projections for the Indian market? And do or will you have partnerships with broadcasting or streaming companies for distributing BBC Studios’ content?

Yes, we do. We have well-established partnerships with the industry and our content and brands have had much success with our partners and our audiences. India is a priority market for us with high growth potential. To cater to the market, we have a multi-genre catalogue of 52,000 hours; last year itself we produced 2,500 hours of original content globally. We are one of the biggest distributors of content outside of Hollywood and Bollywood. People know some of our branded shows such as Frozen Plant and Planet Earth, Top Gear, but might not know that we also produce shows for leading platforms such and ‘Pre-Historic Planet’ narrated by Sir David Attenborough on Apple TV or ‘Inside Man’ on Netflix, a drama-thriller television serial developed by Steven Moffat, featuring celebrated actors like Stanley Tucci and David Tennant. 

With the Indian media and entertainment sector growing at a rapid pace, it’s a growth opportunity for the BBC commercially. We aim to establish more and even deeper relationships with innovative deals. We are laying the groundwork for more growth in digital, entertainment and the edutainment spaces. We are also focused on growing our customer base. For example, earlier this year, we announced a new partnership with MX Player (AVOD), the entertainment super app, for premium BBC Studios dramas, including ‘The Watch’ and ‘Critical’, and more recently with BookMyShow (TVOD) for a BBC First branded deal showcasing some of our lead titles such as ‘Chelsea Detectives’, ‘Ragdolls’, and ‘Sherwood’, to name a few. These deals are seeing tremendous growth, which only validated the appetite that audiences in India have for the BBC.

Our partnership with Sony grows from strength-to-strength; this year we complete five years of Sony BBC Earth being on air. This partnership allows our factual entertainment and natural history programming to be seen not only on Sony BBC Earth, a linear television platform, but also across SonyLIV.

We are also exploring newer digital partnerships and are excited to see where the FAST channel space leads us to. Additionally, CBeebies and BBC World News are both widely distributed in India. CBeebies is reaching over 54 million homes, helping to grow our popular kids brands with meaningful commercial opportunities.

What are your innovative strategies and marketing campaigns?

When it comes to the BBC, our brand is our biggest asset; we are known for setting the gold standards with our editorial integrity in everything that we bring to our audiences. The royal charter that the BBC signed when it was established 100 years ago was to inform, educate and entertainment, and that’s been at the DNA of what we do. We are the gold standard in news, known for our reportage that’s without fear or favour. We are the gold standard in documentary filming, that most producers want to emulate; some of our shows such as ‘Blue Planet’ and ‘Frozen Planet’, besides highlighting environmental crises they have also been instrumental in bringing about change. We are biggest UK Studio with an established global presence. Our ability to grow has been our ability to have an in-depth understanding of our brand and its meaning to our audiences, who are always at out heart.

What kind of trends in the content and broadcasting segment do you foresee in 2023?

  • Innovative deal making will be the mantra. Hybrid commercial models will define subscription patterns.
  • Audience will continue to expect the best, opening the space even further for brands and branded properties with its ability to target segments of audiences
  • Edutainment will be an underlining factor – audiences are more curious now than they have ever been before
  • And finally content made with heart, purpose and relatability will have more inroads.

Growth will come from the regional markets: Sameer Gogate

What is your content strategy and approach for the Indian market, which is fiercely competitive with several players?

At BBC Studios our content strategy is to leverage our diverse and vast library of premium content, whether format catalogues or original developments, to enable our partners to deliver a robust slate or fill in the gaps in their programming. At the moment, we are focused on a few key original ideas based on real events, some interesting book rights and plenty of ideas in the young adult genre outside of the Key Tentpole Formats that are launched by BBC Studios London every year.

To execute this strategy successfully, we take a dual approach towards content. Firstly, we keep our ears to the ground for global trends coupled with insights around our shows from BBC Studios internationally. Through this lens, we analyse which genres are in demand. For example, globally, we’re starting to see early signs of fatigue in the crime genre; however, it will be interesting to see if variety in storylines and themes in crime shows will emerge that continue to engage audiences and if those can be adapted for Indian audiences as well.

With content becoming extremely globalised, it’s important to understand such trends that allow us to stay ahead of the curve. Secondly, we continuously engage with our partners across all the platforms, who understand the nuances of the content their audiences want to watch. They have insights into genres or the shows that people enjoy and want to see more of. We are therefore positioned to service their audiences better by delivering content they enjoy.

What are your outlook and growth projections for the Indian market?

It is an exciting time, with the outlook for the Indian market extremely positive. We are just getting started here as the audience base is still discovering content they want to watch. Audiences have moved beyond daily soaps, they are looking for differentiated content and the proof of the pudding is the success of shows such as ‘Out of Love’ on Disney+ Hotstar, ‘Criminal Justice’ and ‘Rudra – The Edge of Darkness’, which we produced for Applause Entertainment on Disney+ Hotstar, or ‘The Brokens News’ on ZEE5, among others. In addition to this, we also believe that growth will come from the regional markets, which are still underserviced for premium dramas.

What will be the trends in the content and broadcasting segment in 2023?

As I mentioned earlier, it’s essential to keep a watch on the global macro trends. This helps understanding how those audiences are evolving and to leverage some of those insights to develop original ideas that can be adapted to our market as well. Moreover, keeping a close eye on the shifts in audience consumption dynamics by being in touch with platforms helps in understanding what’s in demand. For example, in India, crime shows are here to stay despite us seeing signs of fatigue for the same globally. However, the key will be to provide a variety of storylines that keep audiences engaged. On the other hand, we see an increased interest in the young adult and premium family drama space and expect that more content will be developed to cater to demand.


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