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India: Programmers aim to reach growing middle classes

Mipcom 2005: Territory report

NEW DELHI — Localization is the buzzword for Indian broadcasting execs this year as they head to Mipcom in search of programming to attract new viewers in an expanding market fueled by a growing middle class.

The major payboxes have indicated they will be looking for international formats suitable for localizing for Indian viewers to emulate the success of “Kaun banega crorepati” (“KBC2”), the Hindi version of the Celador-owned format “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

Series drew the year’s top auds (21.5 million) for a one-hour show when it launched its second season Aug. 5. It catapulted Star Plus from the No. 3 slot to India’s highest-rated Hindi-language satellite channel during its first run in 2000.

“We are always looking for new innovative and successful formats that we feel can be adapted to Indian sensibilities,” says Deepak Sehgal, Star’s exec VP of programming. “Our thrust is remaking programs with Indian talent in Hindi.”

Tarun Katial, Sony Entertainment TV’s exec VP of programming, says he’s always on the lookout for reality, talent, quizzes and games that can be localized.

Katial already has had hits with “Jassi jaisi koi nahin” (There’s No One Like Jassi), based on Colombian telenovela “Betty la fea,” and with his “Indian Idol” pop star search. Now he’s scooped rights to an Asian version of “Fear Factor.”

“It is the perfect time for the Indian audience to watch an action reality show. Indians have an insatiable desire for action adventure and on-the-edge thrilling stunts,” says Katial.

But competition for satellite auds is growing more intense as India’s middle class expands. The number of middle-class households in India is expected to rise from 10.7 million to 28.7 million by the end of the decade.

According to execs, the localization drive that satcasters believe will allow them to tap this burgeoning market involves either making Hindi versions of successful international reality formats or English versions in which Indian viewers become involved in the show.

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