Asian Domination of Entertainment

In future sequels to Spider Man, Sony will have to ensure that when Spiderman takes his mask off, he is either Indian or Chinese. Or they will loose out on 75% of their market.
This article appeared in Bussiness India last year.

The film, Spider Man grossed US $ 150 million in its FIRST week in the US. It went on to gross over $ 600 million world wide, not counting ancillary sales such as Video, DVD, TV, Cable and retail franchises. That would bring the figure close to US$1 billion.
In 10 years, expect Spider Man, sequel no.5 to gross US$ 1 billion in its first week. Expect total grosses including ancillaries to be 7 times that, or US$ 7 billion.
Also expect 70% of those revenues, or US$ 4 billion to come from Asia.
Expect also, that when Spider Man takes off his mask in Asia, he will probably be either Chinese, or Indian. And he will no longer swing from the high-rise buildings in New York, but from Shanghai or Mumbai.
Revenues from the Entertainment business are expected to touch around US$ 1 trillion in 10 years. This includes Film, Radio, TV, Music, DVD, Video Games and new technologies on the anvil, mostly to do with Mobile Entertainment. Like through your Cell Phones. Or Dual Mode satellite linked Sun Glasses.
A full 70% of these revenues, or almost US$ 700 billion will come from Asia. Other than sheer population, consider the following:
Entertainment demographics (population in age groups that are the highest consumers of entertainment) are more acute indicators of the future of the Entertainment business: Currently North America has 65 million in that demographic, while just China and India alone have almost 700 million. Just in India alone, over the next ten years, another 40 % of our existing population will join this demographic. The corresponding figure for the US is just 15 %.
As Asian economies grow, the %age growth in disposable income levels of the entertainment demographic will be far higher than in the West.
This will lead to a far far greater growth in demand for entertainment than in the West.
Here lies the biggest business opportunity of the next 10 years. In Asia. In India.
As the Asian consumers flex their financial muscle, they will demand product that is more in line with their own cultural identities.
While the Western Media companies will continue to take advantage through aggressive marketing in these rising economies, they will essentially remain Western in the their culture. They will experience a pull between the cultural requirements of their own markets and those of Asia.
The ones that will succeed most are the ones that create spin-offs that are centralized in Asia, catering specifically to the needs of the Asian markets. The most interesting example of this being MTV. Even which, interestingly, cannot stand against a Bollywood musical channel in India unless it incorporates that music within it’s own channel.
However, the theory is that while McDonalds could adapt by offering variations on it’s hamburgers in Asia, it is never going to make Chop Suey. An American Company will find it difficult to don an Asian identity in an Industry that is so driven by cultural tastes. And essentially even MTV will never become an essentially Asian company. It’s commitment and management is Western. The theory that Sony are essentially Asian is not true, because all their entertainment software divisions are essentially driven from the West and caters to the West.
The business opportunity therefore lies in an essentially Asian Media Company that encompasses the cultural needs of the Asian people, driven by Asian people that understand that market place and are committed to it.
There is an assumption in this argument that there is a common Asian identity, as against (say) a Western identity. While it is true that there are cultural differences between (say) India and China, it is safe to say that there is a commonality between an Asian identity as against a Western identity. Just as there are significant differences between German and French identities, yet they have much more in common with themselves than with Asian cultures.
This is seen very easily in the similarities in themes that traditional Chinese, Indian and Japanese films use. From the use of Melodrama in story telling. The use of faith, superstition and Myth.
Predominantly this arises from a philosophy of the East, where man is considered more powerful in encompassing his/her fate and Destiny. While in the West, Will is considered more powerful than Destiny. In fact Will creates Destiny.
Does this rise in the cultural power of the common Asian market then indicate the decline of the domination of the large Western (mostly US) Media companies? Certainly these companies continue to depend on growth of their revenues from the international market place. While at one time Hollywood films use to get 80% of the Box Office from North America, now it is not unusual for the reverse to be true. Certainly 60% from non – American markets now seems to be the norm.
As the Asian the markets become the greatest source of revenue from the entertainment business, the US Media companies will naturally look for growth in those countries. Certainly the success of Harry Potter in China, and of Spider Man in India points that there continues to be growth potential for Western product in Asia.
However, a strong home market has traditionally formed the base for international domination of the market place. US has traditionally had the strongest home market for the entertainment industry. This has provided the base for the domination of the international market place. And therefore American culture has been the dominant culture in terms of international entertainment.
But what happens when the strongest home market becomes Asia? Surely by the same token, Asian culture should gradually take over and become the dominant culture of the world.
Aided by no small means by the large number of Asians that now have made the West their home, Asian culture will find it easier to make inroads into the West. Proven not only by my personal experience with the West End smash hit musical – ‘BOMBAY DREAMS’. There are 30 million people of Indian descent that live outside the India. Most of them still identify with their home culture. Their combined is probably quite close to the current GDP of India.
Add to this the Bangladeshi’s, Pakistani’s and Srilankan’s, and you have a nation of almost the population of the UK.
I have used the word “opportunity”. How much of the US$ 700 billion will accrue to corporations in India? We should be able to have at least a third of that pie, or approx $ 300 billion. But we need to get away from the mindset of a Cottage Industry and think like Global players. We need to do all that NOW.
We need to understand that convergence will change the way people consume culture and entertainment, and therefore look towards technological leaps. There is a market for at least another 15,000 theatres in India. It is feasible at this moment to create low cost Digital theatres all over India and Digitally feed film and other entertainment through fiber optic cable, cutting out piracy, cost of prints etc. Our film business will increase 10 fold.
India has the highest number of trained IT technologists in the world. It also has the highest trained Entertainment technologist and crew in the world. I am surprised moves have not been made to marry the two. India could be at the forefront of technological development.
We need to stop thinking of ourselves as country of back office support economy. We need to think of ourselves as cutting edge.
The Government needs to recognize that when you sell culture, you sell life styles. The American’s sold MacDonald’s, Jeans, Tourism and a whole host of other businesses through the export of Entertainment. The Government needs to look upon Entertainment in the same way that it looked at the IT business.
The old guard has to let go. Historical data projections need to be discarded. Fresh creative, managerial and financial talent needs to be inducted. As does massive financial investment.
Or the greatest business opportunity of the next 10 years will be lost.

19 thoughts on “Asian Domination of Entertainment

  1. Hey Shekhar! I have just attempted to leave a post on your article about Suchitra’s artwork… I was just hoping it would get to you. Glad you did this blog thingy for it allows me to know what you are up to. Looking forward to hear from you soon. Jim and (soon) BoB 😉

  2. interesting, but i would think in a world which gets smaller and smaller it wouldnt matter if Spiderman was chinese or indian – that we would be quite content to see him as Tobey Maguire. It would have been quite something had they taken Mr.Bacchan for Saladin in Kingdom of Heaven but he was considered and thats a start i reckon.
    Hong Kong cinema had a major influence on Tarantino who in turn had a major influence on cinema of the 90’s. Now we have some incredible Chinese films like House of Flying Daggers and The Hero who have made their mark on the audience as well. Point is you dont necessarily have to be the face of things, spending some time creating the worlds wouldnt hurt(because thats what the cultural effect of things would be towards – the worlds not the individual)Anyone in their right mind would sign up the cinematographer for The Hero on a long term enslavement contract.
    there isnt any movement towards anything, a good product in the end sells and what sells is right.

  3. Although i am not sure how will this happen , but i am fully aware that it will eventually happen in the near future…………..but i want to know Shekhar what should we do now , how should we start to make the difference , i mean bollywood is still miles away to make any difference or impact whatsoever , and India is hardly a market for western films ( i mean i hardly know people who have any sought of idea about hollywood movies , i am talking about people working at Infosys with me….so leave aside others ) but still my heart says it will happen and will happen soon.
    I want to be part of this revolution ,not just a part but make the difference…but i just want to know how will it happen ..where and how will it start?
    Sony will produce Bhansali’s next venture…..Aishwarya and Colin Ferrell…..Daniel Craig with Gulshan Grover…

  4. Very interesting but i have a mixed viewpoint on
    regional characterzation. For the last couple of years i have been producing 2d digital animation films based on English Language Programs for “Discovery Interactive” streaming web site – this streaming channel is accessed by schools throughout the United States and some foreign countries. These films are being built on stories which are more then four decades old and have become very popular medium of primary education. When i started characterzation, my indian artist in pune created sketches which according to my co-producer in the States had a South Asian look to the characters. I had to correct him, that the characters looked
    more British because of the colonial influence still existing in indian school textbooks.
    Now with the MTV brigade coming in, even the rural man in India sports ‘the yankee look’ but school books still depict ‘the colonial look’.
    It is true there is a huge market in India for regional educational content, low cost live action cum animation films which can be marketed as vcds for the common man home viewing. Producers should concentrate on producing low cost content for the masses which is educative and at the same time entertaining.

  5. On another count i read the in the news that you were considering producing animated vignettes using a roach as your protagonist. Roach is a creature that requires no national or regional identity.He traverses throughout the earth as a universal being. I suggest U could cleverly use your roach as a hero in your vignettes to catch culprits in all acts of abuse and could prove to be a good educator in campaigns against abuse, HIV awareness etc. I am sure ‘ The creature’ will be loved by all for his heroic deeds for human survival in to-day’s rat race.

  6. Hi Shekhar,
    I am keen to know more on the projects that you are working on that intend to convert this theory into reality. my expertise is media. I would be delighted to be part of these projects. I do hope to contribute in whichever way possible. I think too Asian dominance whether visual, cultural, academic or otherwise is inevitable.
    I hope you will involve me.
    Sarita Vijayan

  7. Hi Shekhar,
    As a fellow journeyman on the path of bringing Asian themed storylines to the screen etc, although on a comparatively miniscule level to yourself – I’m keeping tabs on interesting developments, eg the Virgin Studio etc….

  8. Interesting comments and it remains to be seen what is in the pipeline.
    •The Memoirs of Geisha had a chinese in the lead and Ken Watanabe in a supporting role.
    • James bond has done it in the past with supporting actors from all over the world, the latest news is that Gulshan Grover may be the next baddie.
    With the success of Crouching Tiger…. I feel people don’t really care about regional characterization, if the product is good-language or regionalism does not matter.

  9. Dear Mr Sekhar: Sept 11,2006
    For the first time I drifted to your blog to day and I am happy to say that it happened as I enjoyed reading many items therein. As an astrophysicist myself I wont give any credit to God for the happening of this small event simply because He is too busy running the Universe and that is why He has let us think for ourselves.
    Ok! I agree with you that Asia may come to dominate filmmaking in the near future.
    With ref to your historical movie on Elizabeth I was interested to note your direction of war between English and Spanish fleets. And I also note your new direction in cartoon strip making with Virgin although I havn’t seen them.
    That brings me to suggest why not make historical flick (movie/cartoon/game variety) on Ottoman Empire and The great Moghul Empire. Now u will ask where is a detailed and historically accurate script with war scenes et al.,?
    Some years ago I chanced on a pb copy of The Moghul Dynasty by Alan Savage (he has also written on Ottomans but havent read it). It gripped me then and even after reading it a dozen times by now it still grips me. Its first chapter would make you direct an ocean voyage by english adventurers to Goa in the 15th century.Befor eulogising the book, may I ask if u have read them ? If still interested ask me and I will gladly send publisher’s details etcetra.
    Best wishes and regards, Anandaram

  10. Hi Shekhar..
    I read in the Business Standard(Date 27/06/07) that you are planning to raise $500mn and set up a team to manage the fund.
    I would be highly interested.Would be really excited to hear from you.
    Rahul Garg
    Alumnus (Indian School of Business,Hyderabad)

  11. “We need to stop thinking of ourselves as country of back support economy.We need to think of ourselves as cutting edge.”
    “Fresh creative, managerial and financial talent needs to be inducted. As does massive financial investment.Or the greatest business opportunity of the next 10 years will be lost.”
    Dear Shekhar,
    I have seen u feeling strange about Amitabh Bachchan not bothering to respond to you.I have also now seen you asking for someone’s email or phone.
    I guess than I couldn’t be too wrong for what I have to say here:
    I am an alumunus of Thapar Institute of Engineering and Tech.(TIET),Patiala and Barry John Acting Studio(BJAS),now at Mumbai.Passed out from TIET in 1998 and got inducted into the Punjab state Electricity Board as a Govt. Officer in 1999 feb.
    Saving my self from every corruptible opportunity,taking voluntary without pay leaves at times and fighting back at times I could,I did not let my dreams of creating tommorows worlds on Cinema die.
    I do not want to do the typical bollywood type films(no arrogance intended).And I have written about my dreams on your ‘New Beginning’ post.

  12. But why I write here is to mention another potential fundraising oppurtunity.You see Punjabi NRIs have done exremely well for themselves in the western hemisrhere.Thru some very well established contacts and thru them the whole NRI community I sense we realise some 300m$ for independant development of Asian Film making.
    But ofcourse this campaign will require your name (brand-equity) and involvement.And for that first you might like to check me out whether I pass your personal benchmark of a good companion and a fresh,cutting-edge creative talent.
    If u rescue me this one time from my present job and let me too droop to the gates of chaos for greater harmony lateron-I WILL OWE U ONE FOR LIFE.
    Oh!dear me, am I being presumptuous!!

  13. Dear Sirs and Madams
    Lunafilm is a german production company, which is now existing for more than 25 years. We are producing feature films mostly for german cinema.
    Next year, Luna is planning to shoot a feature film in India and Germany: KOLKATA.
    The story will be about a 40 year-old german manager of an international company (Frank Tacher), which has a production site near Kolkata. 13 years ago, Tacher was the one who was responsible for building up the place – and who let a slum, situated on the building ground, burn down.
    Now, he is back in India, and his past starts to chase him: Nesha, a 27 year-old journalist, wants to find out who was responsible for the fire. Tacher pretends to be in search of the culprit as well and the two go on a journey, during which Tacher falls in love with Nesha. The drama starts when Tacher finds out that her whole family has been killed in the fire and that they are now travelling towards the man, who eventually put the slum on fire. So it is only a question of time when she will find out about his guilt. Tacher loses everything in the end – her, his job, his status…, but finds kind of a calmness for the first time.
    Now we are looking for an indian coproduction company for the planning and realization of this film. At the moment we are in the treatment phases, but if the financing of the project goes well, we hope to shoot KOLKATA end of 2008 on locations in Kolkata, Varanasi and Berlin/Germany.
    The director will be Heiko Aufdermauer who has just finished his first feature film “A Time For Fishes”. This film has been a coproduction of Lunafilm with several TV stations in Germany.
    Heiko Aufdermauer has already done the short film DIVINE DURGA together with arte in Kolkata in 2005. This film won the Radisson Best Direction award at the First Frame Festival in Dehli this year.
    If you should be interested in our project, please do not hesitate to contact us for further information (treatment e.g.), or to organize a meeting with Heiko Aufdermauer. He will be in India from the 27th of July till 9th of september for research reasons.
    If you wish to contact Heiko Aufdermauer directly please write to
    With best wishes from Berlin
    Annette Niehues

  14. Max Muller,dear Anne.
    A biographical sketch under the new Indo-German Film making pact.
    regards dear Heiko Aufdermauer.

  15. sir,
    send me the sub culture & dominant culture for infosys in detail for my projec.plz send me
    as quickly as possible.
    thanq sir,

  16. Shekhar,
    As I’m working on a story on the impact of rupee’s appreciation on the Indian film industry, may I request you to please reply to my following queries_
    1Q What is the impact of the rupee’s rise on the global film industry in general and the Indian film industry in particular?
    2Q Which kind of problem are you facing in this scenario and how are you coping with it? What are the measures being taken by the industry to protect their money?
    3QHow are you hedging your earnings in this scenario? What would you like to suggest the Indian film industry to do in this context?
    4Q You have said in a recent media interview that you are working on an idea of developing an investment to finance the Asian media & entertainment companies and all set to begin with a fund of $1 billion for the purpose. Could you elaborate your comeback plan to India?

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