Interview with Cherian M. Chacko, Berserk Media: Indian films find a ready market across Africa


Most people in the industry know that Bollywood is one of the largest film producers in the world. But far fewer know that one of the largest potential markets for Indian film is Africa. Sylvain Beletre talks to Cherian M. Chacko, Director of Berserk Media Limited, an Indian film and TVcontent distributor.

Q: Is there a market for Indian Films in Africa?

A: There seems to be a market for Indian films in Africa. If we just look at the Indian Diaspora across Africa, South Africa has in fact the largest population of people of Indian descent outside of India in the world: the country has 1,160,000 non-resident Indians and persons of Indian origin. Mauritius has 855,000, Reunion 220,000, Kenya 100,000, Tanzania 90,000 and Uganda 90,000. There are also many educated Indian descendants and migrants in Madagascar - about 28,000 - who have contributed their knowledge to the development of the country. Lastly, Nigeria, Mozambique,Libya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Seychelles, Ghana, Eritrea, Côted'Ivoire and Namibia also have Indian communities including Indian descent ranging from a few thousands to a few hundreds.

Altogether, the overseas Indian population in Africa is estimated at about 2,800,000 people which is less than in Europe and the Americas but more than in Oceania (Australia, NZ, Fiji, etc).

Q: Why would the Indian diaspora in Africa be interested in watching Indian movies?

A: Instinctively, migrants often want to find their roots. When people move to another country, some of them decide to just follow the customs of the new country. Others prefer to keep their own customs. Most migrants do both: keeping their own customs helps people maintain their differences and identity, but it also helps people learn about other cultures as they can compare habits, religions, reactions and attitudes.

Q: What about the non-Indian population in Africa: why should they be interested in watching Indian films?

A: Learning about Indian culture and society will help you tremendously and avoid faux-pas if you have Indian friends, if you deal with Indian people, communities and companies, or if you work in a school and take care of Indian children or adults. A country's culture is complex and often reflected in its national films. Watching them usually helps break cultural issues and communication barriers. Cultural skills has become a core requirements for peace, solidarity, friendship and improved business.

Q: How do you work as a distributor?

A: We are one of the largest syndication companies of Indian movies, TV programmess, documentaries, life style, mobile and video content. We attend markets like DISCOP, World Content Market, Cannes film Market, etc. to identify new TV channels and distributors. We submit our catalogue, exchange screeners and when programs get selected we close syndication deals.

Q: Who are your key clients?

A: TV channels, VOD Platforms, Pay TV channels, Mobile Operators, Home Video Distributors.

Q: What exactly do you provide to Mobile Operators?

A: Music syndication: we partner exclusively with several mobile phone operators in Africa and Europe for Indian Film and Music content on their mobile platform.

Q: Have you secured any major, long-term contracts with African companies?

A: Not yet. We are talking to several players and we are hoping to clinch some good deals in the next 3 months. We are hoping to make Indian Movies popular and offer good return on investment for TV channels.

Q: In which African countries do you see the largest potential for pay-TV technologies? And also for Triple Play?

A: English and French speaking African countries.

Q: Do you support interactive TV and DTT?

A: Yes I do support interactive TV. However all content must be valued. Content is king. Hence it has to be valued and priced. We are very open to offering movies on DTT.

Q: How do you see the market for HD in Africa?

A: HD is the way of the future. However we think HD is still a bit far for Africa.

Q: At what level are you addressing security issues given the levels of piracy in the market?

A: There is huge problem of piracy on home video. Some of the channels ask for screeners and even telecast the DVD on their channels.

Q: What is your view of the African market compared to Europe, the USA or India?

A: Africa is developing and hence has huge potential. But it is still very early to draw any comparisons with either Europe or the USA.

Q: Will you be attending any content events in Africa? What will you be offering there?

A: Yes, we are attending DISCOP2 Africa. Here we will be offering a new Telenovela in English. The title is: A Mouthful of Sky. It has 226 episodes x 25 minutes. It is the only Telenovela made in English from India. It features the top fashion models of the Indian fashion scene.

We will also be offering 7 children Animation movies and TV Series, about 1000 hours of Life Style programming made in English. We can provide up to 70 movies made in English which have never been telecasted or distributed in Africa and more than 1000 movies made in Hindi language. We keep a library of more than 250 Music Videos from Oscar winner A.R. Rahman for TV, Mobile or Video on Demand. For the French-speaking countries, we are offering around 26 Indian movies and an Indian TV drama titled “Commeres De Haute Societe” - 26 episodes x 45 minutes - dubbed in French and available for licensing. I would like to highlight that we have over 25 Documentary films made in English. To help introduce this content, educate and inform on Indian culture and Bollywood films, we can also offer a weekly news - “Bollywood News” - made in English and subtitled in French as optional.

Here are some of the movies with French dub I would like to recommend. We can help to license them.

Q: On IPTV, would you consider it as a major opportunity for Africa and why?

A: Yes. In the coming years, with these kinds of new technological services, content will be increasingly required across Africa. Since India produces lots of content and we have a majority of them for syndication, we will be able to assist IP-TV players.

Q: TV rights are an issue for many African players: due to budget issues, lack of published information, many sellers and buyers have expressed worries about paying too much for TV rights. What is your view on that and what are the typical amounts you are selling at in Africa? Is there a difference with other continents and why?

A: Pricing is different depending on continents and broadcast channels. We are willing to license at a reasonable pricing in Africa. Both TV channel and our company should grow with syndication deals. Depending on the film quality, contract terms, country, audience, channel and technology type, we would be willing to license Indian movies for between US$ 2,000 -15,000.

For example in South Africa, we would sell content in the range of US$ 7,500 to 15,000. For English-speaking African countries, we are looking for a license fee for US$ 2,000- 3,000 for films and US$ 400-500 per 30 minute episode for Telenovelas. Regarding French-speaking countries, we are looking for a license fee of US$ 4,000-5,000 because (of the need for) French dubbing. Lastly, we are not looking for a one-time association. We are looking for long term business relationships.

For more information and to set up a meeting at Discop 2, please contact:
Cherian M. Chacko, Director, Berserk Media Limited: