Since the advent of satellite television in India that ushered in private Television channels, Intel
lectual Property Rights (IPR) of the majority of the creative content aired on General Entertainment Channels (GEC) rests solely with the broadcaster and not the production houses. Production houses believe that ownership and exploitation of IPR will help them go up the value chain and increase monetisation opportunities. And testing the waters by retaining its IPR for its next big ticket venture Porus is Swastik Productions. Swastik Productions, which owns the IPR for the historical mega series Porus, has licensed it to Sony for three years with limited repeats, as per sources. While media reports have pegged the production cost of the series at Rs 500 crore, sources estimate the investment for the one-year finite series to be around Rs 250-350 crore, still making it the most expensive Indian TV production. Siddharth Kumar Tewary, Founder & Chief Creative, Swastik Productions tells us more...
Swastik’s next big ticket project is the historical mega series, Porus. Why did you pick this subject?
Historically, there was a time when we were the richest in the world. We were called the ‘Golden Sparrow’ by the West as a sparrow is easy prey. Invasions over the years have led us to where we are today. Porus was a king who stopped Alexander the Great, the biggest conquerer in the world, at the battle of Hydaspes in 326 BC. He lost the battle but won the war. Alexander died soon after the battle, after Porus sent him back. It’s an inspiring series about the life and times of the golden age of India. We have explored every aspect of their lives, though creating a series of this magnitude has been a great challenge.
Swastik holds the IPR for the show. Why did you take this model as against the commission model that is prevalent in the industry?
Yes, we do own complete IPR of the series, and it’s a first in India. The moment production houses start owning content, they will become more accountable and the quality of content will go up. Internationally, the person who creates the content owns it, as the risk is divided between the channel and the production house and together as partners, they can make a bigger property. So it is high risk, higher reward. This is a great leap for content in our country as it will ensure that the viewer comes first and we don’t make shows for the sake of it. We only create what we believe in, and more importantly, we put our money where our mouth is. I thank the channel for backing us to take this bold big step.
What is the arrangement with Sony?
With Porus, the IPR rests 100% with us. We are licensing it to Sony Pictures Networks India. Internationally, the channel is the anchor broadcaster and they don’t pay the entire amount for the production. The broadcaster gives a certain percentage for the production and they only look at their part of the business, which is television broadcasting. The rest we will monetize by selling it to other platforms, it can come on any digital platform in India or across the world or be showcased in any language across the globe. We have licensed the product to Sony for a certain number of years and limited repeats. This gives us more opportunity to recover our money. If the series works, everyone makes money.
Have you sealed the deal on the OTT front?
Currently we hold all the digital rights for India and international. We are also looking at the regional market, where it can be dubbed or remade, and also looking at the mobile platform. As creators, we will sell the content to whoever buys it. Tomorrow, if Sony wants the digital rights of Porus, we are willing to share it, provided it is a different commercial agreement.
How are you funding the project?
We have invested our own money. What people need to realize is that owning IP is a huge investment. It is 20 times the normal investment compared to making a daily soap. This is our biggest bet, we have put in everything we have.
What are your plans to distribute Porus internationally?
Distribution of content and how to monetize it globally is not our expertise. However, we have started our own distribution set-up, One Life Studios, which will showcase Porus at MIPCOM this October. The objective, of course, is to sell Porus, but in time, we will also represent other content-owners like us at a global level. We are also in talks with international distributors who specialize in this to partner with us. An in-house team is looking into this aspect. India is our core market, but I want the whole world to see Porus. Let’s see where we land up.
Which show would you term as a game-changer for you?
Our thought process and the way we approached things changed with Mahabharat, which was telecast on Star Plus. Uday Shankar, Chairman and CEO at Star India, was the reason behind Mahabharat coming to life and we are proud of how the series shaped up. The channel owns the complete IPR and after the show ended in August 2014, I asked Uday Sir if we could discuss getting a share of the revenues. He agreed, and now we get a part of the syndication revenue share from Mahabharat. Now, we also have deals with other channels for other shows.