The ‘M’ of TMT is on a roll. The increasing number of channels has triggered demand for television software, be it sitcoms, soaps, thrillers, fantasies. One of the prominent players in the content arena is Balaji Telefilms, a company now looking at going public.
Started in FY92, Balaji currently has 1,390 hours of library content (as on 31st August 2000). Its library comprises of daily soaps (1,235 hours), Sitcom (54 hours), children’s programme (49 hours) and others (62 hours). Currently Balaji is providing 30 hours of television software per week on various channels. The company boasts some of the most popular serials.
The company proposes to utilise a part of the issue proceeds towards expanding its infrastructure facilities that include postproduction facilities and equipment that are necessary for shooting. This is expected to increase the average shooting hours per week for the company (30 hours per week as of August 2000). Till now, the company has been outsourcing its requirements, which accounts for 25%-40% of total cost of making television programmes. Moreover, since the business is highly dependent on working capital (it takes atleast 6-8 months for money to flow, in case of sponsored programme), BTL proposes to augment nearly 28% of the issue proceeds towards long-term working capital requirements of the company.
Prospects for content providers are encouraging. The export markets offer a good potential to market Indian software to the non-resident Indian community. BTL has exported some of its programmes to Mauritus, South Africa and Singapore. Moreover, with a slew of new channels expected to be aired in coming months, demand for television software is expected to skyrocket. This would benefit content providers like BTL.
However, there are some grey areas:
The skilled labour in the content provider business involves creativity, which is scarce.
BTL has to face competition from the existing as well as the mushrooming newer players in the content provider business.
Nevertheless, given the past track record of the company in generating successful content coupled with its effort to cater to niche and regional segments, one can assume that the best it yet to come.
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