India: Growing middle class increases content demand, puts greater burden on buyers

NEW DELHI — With India’s middle class numbering somewhere around 300 million and rising, television here is growing up quickly to meet the ever-increasing demand of viewers.

As audiences become more sophisticated, international markets such as MIP have become more important, say industry analysts. According to Hong Kong-based analyst Media Partners, India will become Asia’s leading money-earning pay television market by 2015.

The stakes are high. The region’s television industry already represents some 60% of the $4.5 billion value of the Indian entertainment industry, which is expected to grow to $10 billion by 2009.

The real tussle is taking place in the television-movie genre: hough Hindi fare is popular, the younger generation want English-language pics.

In February, Sahara One network launched its Hindi movie channel “Filmy” with a dazzling Bollywood party and a promise “to redefine the way cinema is consumed on television.”

Not to be left behind, Sony brought Hollywood actor Will Smith to Mumbai ahead of the April 1 start of its new English-lingo channel Pix, which promises new and classic films to target India’s growing urban-based youth.

The battle for programming will be intense at MIP, where acquisition heads of all the major India channels will be competing for everything from movies to reality, from quizzes to format gameshows.

Rupert Murdoch’s No. 1-watched paybox Star is observing its competitors very warily.

Star’s Ravi Menonthe former programming head promoted to general manager last year, will be making the trip.

One Star source comments: “MIP is the where you can make out where the market is going to be headed in the next six months, so we need our best people there.”

1. “Raaz,” Doordarshan

2. “Yeh Hawayein,” Doordarshan

3. “Dil Hai Phir Bhi Hindust,” Doordarshan