Over the past few years, both popular and academic writing on the changing mediascape in India has focused mostly on Bollywood – take one look on Amazon and you’ll see for yourself. To be sure, there are countless topics to explore and a growing group of scholars and graduate students are mapping and analyzing the substantial changes in the film industry (mostly Bollywood). My own research is very much a part of this space, and I decided to focus on relationships between film, TV, advertising, and the “new media” sector for my dissertation.
But now that I’ve had some time away from the dissertation, and as I begin to think about turning the diss into a book, I find myself looking more closely at developments in the TV sector and wondering about how much more dynamic the TV industry has been this past decade. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that all the experimentation going on in the film industry is largely being underwritten by TV – be it through the entry of TV companies like UTV into the film business, the fact that TV rights allow producers to recover half or more than half of a film’s production costs (link), or the countless film-based shows on TV that serve as promotional vehicles and much more.
It did not come as a surprise, then, to hear about NBC’s decision to acquire 26% share in NDTV Networks (link) and the possibility that NBC will raise this number to 50% in the near future. NDTV has expanded beyond news and launched NDTV Imagine (a general entertainment channel), NDTV Good Times (supposedly India’s first lifestyle channel), NDTV Emerging Markets (a consulting unit), and NDTV Convergence (a digital media business that controls all Web/mobile content). And NBC isn’t alone here – both Sony and News Corp. have been involved in the TV market in India for much longer, and just last year, Viacom and Disney entered the picture as well (Viacom teamed up with the TV-18 group and Disney bought a 15% stake in UTV). It’s becoming increasingly clear that all the buzz surrounding the growth of the Internet and gaming sectors has been a distraction at best (mobile phones are a different story). It’s time we paid closer attention to developments in the TV sector – not only in terms of mapping changing ownership patterns but also re-assessing TV’s role as a cultural center for every imaginable audience demographic.