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Disney India looks beyond ad sales

News, 29 March 2016

MUMBAI: Disney India is overhauling its business model in India in order to reduce a reliance on ad sales while also exploring alternative distribution methods.

"The subscription business needs to overtake the ad sales business over the next three years and that will change the entire ecosystem," according to Nikhil Gandhi, VP and Head - Revenue, Media Networks at Disney India.

"We were at about 65:35 [advertising:subscription] ratio, now we have become 60:40 so we are moving towards that direction," he told Indiantelevision.com. "Over time the target is to make it 40:60 or 30:70 for that matter."

The rationale is simple: "An MSO cannot then threaten me with a switch off and that's what we are targeting".

That possibility is all too real in India's fragmented cable TV ecosystem and for the past six months Gandhi's team has been negotiating with distribution partners to impress on them the value of the Disney offer; he reported that his carriage bill had fallen 30% while subscription revenues were up 14-15%.

And the focus will remain on distribution partners for the immediate future, as Gandhi indicated that plans for a Disney OTT service were "at a very nascent stage".

He added that Disney would be available on all OTT platforms, "but when it comes to launching our own venture we will evaluate when the time is right".

Meantime, it is about to launch its first-ever web-series on Facebook's video platform. New episodes will be shown there first before being run a day later on  youth entertainment channel Bindaas, and then released on YouTube.

"The idea of having a phased release serves two purposes, Gandhi explained. "It gives scope for the content to go viral on digital and, at the same time, does not isolate the TV audience that Bindaas has."

The series also features brand integration, with automobile lubricant Castrol and e-commerce company eBay both woven into the script. But that forms only part of the revenue model, Gandhi told the Business Standard, adding that the series is not an advertiser-funded programme.

Data sourced from Indiantelevision.com, Business Standard; additional content by Warc staff