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Investors to fuel India media boom

Rural poor starting to subscribe to pay channels

Foreign investors will help revenues in the Indian media and entertainment sector grow at nearly 20% per year to 837 billion rupees ($19 billion) by 2010 from its current $8 billion, according to a report released Wednesday.

The boom, said the report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry, will be led by the television industry as the rural poor benefit from rising incomes and start buying TV sets and subscribing to pay channels.

Cinemas are being upgraded to multiplexes across the country, while new technology is helping to spur the Indian movie industry.

“With our vast pool of software engineers and creative storytellers, India is poised to leapfrog from a mere outsourcing destination to the holders of new intellectual property,” said FICCI president Saroj Kumar Poddar, who released the report to executives in Mumbai.

According to the report, big business is buying into the media and entertainment sector, with several production and distribution companies having gone to the market to sell shares to the public.

Report also predicted a sea change in the radio industry after the government opened it up to foreign investment last year.

“The Indian entertainment and media industry today has everything going for it, be it regulations that allow foreign investment, the impetus from the economy, the digital lifestyle and spending habits of the consumers and the opportunities thrown open by the advancements in technology,” said the report.

“The entertainment and media industry has all that it takes to be a star performer of the Indian economy.”

The country’s economy is forecast to grow 8.1% in the financial year ending March 31.

However, the report highlighted the industry’s need to tackle piracy and said the Indian government was inconsistent in rules governing foreign investment.

It has set a 49% investment cap in television distribution companies and 26% in TV and print news content providers but allows 100% for non-news television content.