Growing US, India ties in films and sports industries

New York, Oct 18 (IANS) A US-India sports and entertainment conference here noted how the cross-pollination of the Hollywood and Bollywood film industries and growth of sports in India has led to an expanding relationship in the two fields.

Organised by the US-India Business Council here Thursday, the conference on "Crossing Over: The Sports & Film Industries in the US and India" attracted over 80 professionals.

New York based global sports and media business IMG's venture into tennis, where they have groomed top talent from India, has grown into the joint venture with Reliance and the growth and success of the Indian Premier League, the top cricket league in the world, noted USIBC president Ron Somers.

With India emerging as the world's third largest economy in the world, Somers emphasised the importance of film and sport in grooming role models for the 600 million plus citizens who are under 25.

Tony Stupore, partner in charge of Deloitte's Sports Business Group, said Disney's upcoming film "The Million Dollar Arm", was based on the true story of baseball pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel who were discovered by sports agent J.B. Bernstein after winning a reality show competition.

Kunal Merchant, VP of Strategic Initiatives for the Sacramento Kings, a professional basketball team based in Sacramento, California, shared the story of how an Indian American ownership group saved the Sacramento Kings from leaving the city.

"Something about sports transfixes people and transcends cultures," he said observing the team's affiliation with India is natural with Indian businessman Vivek Ranadive at the leadership of the Kings' ownership group.

The IPL was discussed as a model that despite some challenges has been a success. IMG's Bobby Sharma mentioned that by 2030 IMG predicts that the global market for sports will be $900 billion - five times the current size - with growth taking place in emerging markets like India.

Anand Krishnan, the executive chairman of FidelisWorld, a private equity firm focused on sports financing in India said that there is growth opportunity beyond leagues and in support sectors like infrastructure and merchandising.

Joining the film-focused portion of the conference via Skype, the lone Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera noted that the "real potential" in the Indian marketplace is in regard to sports and film.

Looking at "the appetite for sports" in India during his recent visit, Bera believes basketball can be a much bigger player in India. "The barrier to entry is pretty low and the potential of a marketplace is huge," he said.

Similarly, noting that "the Bollywood brand is very successful in America", Bera said "there is no reason that we can't forge these relationships that are mutually beneficial."

Los Angeles based attorney Arnold Peter with experience working with both Hollywood and Bollywood producers, led the discussion on "Cross Pollination of Hollywood and Bollywood: Current Landscape and Production Opportunities in India".

Discussing the current interaction between the two largest film markets in the world industries and challenges preventing the relationship from growing, the panellists noted how outfits like Yash Raj films operate in both the Hollywood and Bollywood arenas.

Panelists mentioned that filming and producing content in India is met with taxation challenges and the lack of tax incentives, too many required permits, as well as lack of full intellectual property protection.

To date, Hollywood and Bollywood have largely been operating independently of one another but all of the experts saw opportunity for partnership and collaboration as the industries learn the rules and navigate the cultural norms of working together.

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