<b>Simon Spalding</b>, Regional CEO, Europe and Asia Pacific, Fremantle Media
In the areas of factual entertainment, there hasn’t been any success here yet and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because potentially it doesn’t make a lot of noise. One of the reasons that some of the shows like ‘Idol’ or… ‘Millionaire’ have been successful is because they are big. It’s that second tier of international formats that have worked well in the western countries that have not yet picked up for the Indian market.
In the areas of factual entertainment, there hasn’t been any success here yet and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because potentially it doesn’t make a lot of noise. One of the reasons that some of the shows like ‘Idol’ or… ‘Millionaire’ have been successful is because they are big. It’s that second tier of international formats that have worked well in the western countries that have not yet picked up for the Indian market.Simon Spalding was appointed to the new post of Regional CEO – Europe and Asia Pacific, Freemantle Media, in September 2008 and is responsible for 16 production companies across continental Europe and Asia Pacific, overseeing the company’s production and format sales business across the region. He has recently directed the start-up of production in India along with the complete restructuring of the company’s European operations. This extends the role he held from September 2005 as Director of Operations, Asia Pacific based in Sydney.
Formerly CEO Licensing, Worldwide, having joined the company in London in December 1999, he was responsible for exploiting Fremantle Media’s many strong brands off screen across brand licensing, music publishing, interactive, Internet, wireless, sponsorship, clip sales and home entertainment, developing product and promotional associations that enhanced and extended consumer’s experience of each property.
Spalding was previously Head of Consumer Products at DreamWorks, covering Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Australasia, where he was responsible for establishing this new division. Prior to moving into licensing, he had spent 14 years in the toy business, latterly as SVP Strategic Marketing for Hasbro Europe’s Toy Group. He has a degree in Politics from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Simon is married with four children and lives in Amsterdam.
In conversation with exchange4media’s Tasneem Limbdiwala, the man behind the brand. Q. Fremantle is one of the first international production houses to set base in India. Then the likes of Endemol came into the picture. How has the India experience been so far? Given that this is the third time that we have come into the market, it would be fair to say that the expectations are mixed. I think that historically, we came in at the back of a commission from a broadcaster and built an organisation in order to service that commission, but didn’t spend the time ensuring we had a solid enough foundation. So, if that commission has disappeared, there wasn’t enough revenue coming in to support the infrastructure that we put in place. So, this time we have taken a long term view as to figure out what returns we want on the investments we’ve made. We have also spent time looking at shows that other companies have previously produced before us as we have now taken the production responsibilities ourselves. Thus, we have a broader base. Clearly, at the time of opening during the economic crisis, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do in hindsight, but I am very pleased with progress we’ve made so far.
India is a potential market, where we expect significant growth, specifically in the independent production sector. It’s a market that traditionally and historically has welcomed the sort of formats that we have produced. So, it seemed time that we should come in and take control of our business. However, for us the bigger opportunity was to manage the production side ourselves, rather than simply licensing our formats and allowing others to produce them.
Q. It would appear that reality and format shows are dependent on the more negative side of human traits such as voyeurism or even sleaze to attract audience attention – is this really true? I think there was a period where that type of entertainment was very popular, where audience wanted to be challenged and wanted those kinds of controversies. I think that the difficulty in that area is that it is tough to keep raising the bar. So, in that sense there is always a danger that one goes too far and the audience rejects it. But for us, that’s really not the space that we are in. However, the factual entertainment area is one that at the moment the Indian audience has not yet responded to and clearly the amount of fiction that runs in this market is higher, perhaps compared to other western markets.
Q. When any broadcaster takes an international format and adapts it to a market, what are some of the points that he must keep in mind? Two things - One is, do they really buy the core idea. The core idea would then depend on what the format is. When one is looking at that format, there are two elements which are the core programme idea, which is then locally interpreted. Post that, the format owner needs to draw a line so as to see that the local adaption that the broadcaster is asking us to make should be complimentary to that core idea or make if it so it does not underline it somewhere. If it’s the former, then it’s alright, but if the latter happens, then they should not be buying that in the first place since they are looking at a different show altogether. For instance, if they bought into an ‘Idol’ and they want to incorporate dancing as well as singing; that’s not the ‘Idol’ format. The format is finding an individual singing star. Thus, such a change will not fit in with the demands of the format.
Q. With the RTL Group tie-up with Reliance, do you think the interests of Fremantle, the content production house, suffer in India, since you are aligned with another media owner, even though at a Group/ Super Parent level? We are an independent company that works for all the broadcasters. This tie-up is done by our shareholders who have broadcast interest. It will run Fremantle content, but it will be taped content. However, the content that is developed by us elsewhere in our network will be available for sale for the Indian market.
Q. How’s 2011 looking for Fremantle India? It’s too early in the year. We certainly have a strong foundation for the business. We have some great work to do in terms of bringing in some of the shows that we are in talks with the broadcasters here.
Q. In terms of projects and ground visibility, Endemol seems to have quite a lot going. Is something like that competition to you at all or is the approach to business too different to let something like that be a bother? There are a number of worldwide competitors in the format business and Endemol is one of them. But essentially, we look at each of the businesses as local business that has the advantage of being able to access the huge library of intellectual properties that Fremantle has and continues to add to. So for me, it’s more important that the business here in India is seen as one that is uniquely suited to serve Indian clients, but is able to access that bank of formats/ intellectual properties in order to do that. But I hope over time we get a good mix of utilisation of the international pool together with the local business.
But of course, the more people fighting for the same slot, the more competitive it is, but I think each of us bring unique product hopefully and we think with the range of formats that are currently available, we have some of the strongest in the market and our business across the world reflects that.
Q. Let’s speak a bit on content that works in India – given your experience, what would you say are some of the things that work for the audience here? Out of the kind of stuff we do, it’s primarily good strong entertainment. So, whether that is ‘Idol’ or an ‘X Factor’, game shows historically have been very successfully here for us. However, less successful has been factual entertainment. One of the big issues in this territory is if a particular style of format is successful on one channel, it very rapidly gets replicated somewhere on other channels. That’s why it’s very difficult to remain unique.
Q. If you had to chalk out ingredients to form a good television property, what would they be? The ingredients that I would consider in any format would be - if there is a story to the format that engages the viewers or are the viewers going to care about the characters in the story in the process to deliver a satisfying end result. With that result, the format should help re-engage the TG in the event to do the show again. For us, the show isn’t successful unless it’s re-commissioned.
Q. Does similar content work in different markets – Any formats that may have been a huge success is Europe but didn’t take off in India? As I said, in the areas of factual entertainment, there hasn’t been any success here yet and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because potentially it doesn’t make a lot of noise. One of the reasons that some of the shows like ‘Idol’ or hopefully ‘X Factor’ or whether it is ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Millionaire’ have been successful – it is because they are big. It’s that second tier of international formats that have worked well in the western countries that have not yet picked up for the Indian market.
Read more news about (internet advertising India, internet advertising, advertising India, digital advertising India, media advertising India)For more updates, be socially connected with us on
WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook & Youtube