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Broadcast and Film magazine in conversation with Ramki Sankaranarayanan, CEO, Prime Focus Limited

January 2, 2014

Broadcast and Film magazine in conversation with Ramki Sankaranarayanan, CEO, Prime Focus Limited (India) and Founder, Founder & CEO, Prime Focus Technologies.

Q1. Hearty congratulations on completing 16 years and launching True North. What is the significance of True North?

True North is the world’s largest digital media services cloud. It virtualizes the way the businesses and content processes work within the M&E industry – helping build better creative processes, drive efficiency and enhance monetization for content businesses.

The 24x7x365 Global Content Operations Hub spread across 106,000 square feet, manages over 300,000 hours of content, over 100 TV shows a day and is the digital backbone for over 200 TV channels.

With True North, Prime Focus Technologies is offering two compelling solutions to the industry: Digital Lab for Cinema and a Production Hub for TV.

True North is built on a 17 giga bit media network and powers CLEAR, PFT’s award winning Media ERP platform. True North is a Digital Media Services Cloud performing unified transcoding, preparation, packaging and delivery for clients in a virtualized space.

True North is where our technology and talent come together to create innovative solutions for our clients. As a global content operations hub, True North will add to the already existing 300,000 hours of content under our management, which has led to a robust growth of 300% over the past three years for PFT. True North is a confluence of many things. It will enable the future today.

Q2. True North is a very unique name. What does it mean?

Why True North? The compass always points to True North, the geographic North Pole. It stands for “Absolute”, “Unambiguous” and “Certainty” just like PFT’s solution, CLEAR.

Q3. Changing tracks, which markets are going to drive the growth for Prime Focus?

Prime Focus is present in all major content markets around the world. Its services bouquet for the media and entertainment industry spans creative and technology domains. VFX for Hollywood continues to be a major growth driver. With the super success of Gravity recently for which Prime Focus World was the exclusive 3D conversion partner, the audience interest levels in 3D films have climbed comparable to the time post Avatar. For stereo 3D conversion Prime Focus World continues to hold global market leadership.

Prime Focus Technologies’ CLEAR media ERP platform is transforming the business of content for media and entertainment enterprises through virtualization of business processes around content. CLEAR has enjoyed tremendous success with Indian broadcast networks and foreign networks increasingly adopting the solution. PFT with its unique mix of media and IT skills is best placed to address the challenges faced by content enterprises today: an increasingly digital landscape, automation of BO&E (broadcast operations and engineering), international distribution and business agility.

Currently only 25% of PFT revenues come from outside India. In the next 5 years we want to reverse this trend.

Prime Focus has also entered China through a JV with a local partner and set up shop in Beijing. China is already the world’s second largest box office market and the number of 3D screens there is multiplying rapidly.

Q4. Can you share geo wise revenue split– across US, Europe and India?

Geography wise revenue split would be roughly 20% India and 80% overseas

Q5. Elaborate on some of the recent developments at Prime Focus

Gravity | Prime Focus World is the exclusive 3D conversion partner for Warner Bros’ Gravity which grossed over $500 million at the global box office and received rave reviews from Hollywood heavyweights, critics and audiences alike.

Sin City 2 |Prime Focus World is the exclusive VFX partner on Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, Robert Rodriguez’s long-awaited, ultra-stylized comic book sequel. A major part of the project will be worked on from Prime Focus’ Mumbai facility and the rest of it will be executed from the company’s Vancouver office. With this movie, Prime Focus World has become the first company from India to be an exclusive VFX partner for a tent pole project like Sin City 2, and will be working on more than 2000 visual effects shots across their global locations.

Raising Capital – In March 2013 AID Partners Capital Limited, a private equity firm focused on the media and entertainment sector, valued Prime Focus World NV (PFW), a 100% subsidiary of Prime Focus Limited at US$250 million. The Hong Kong based PE firm invested US$10 million in optionally convertible preference shares of PFW, which are convertible into 4% equity. In June 2013 Prime Focus World secured an investment of Rs 313 crore from Macquarie Capital, the capital raising and principal investing arm of Macquarie Group, valuing it at Rs 1,770 crore. The investment will be deployed in two phases – Rs 224 crore committed in the first phase and Rs 89 crore in a second transactional phase, both of which are designated for strategic growth. The capital raised will be used to build the global creative services platform, near-term strategic acquisitions and deleveraging debt in the parent company, Prime Focus Limited (PFL).

Prime Focus’ foray into China market –In June 2013 Prime Focus set up a joint venture with AID Partners Capital and local partner Zhejiang Jingqi Wenhua Chuanbo Company Limited (浙江旌旗文化�播有限公司) to offer visual effects and 3D conversion services to the movie industry in the Greater China area. We officially launched our China operations on the sidelines of the Shanghai International Film Festival and opened an office in Beijing.

PFT partners with Deltatre and RSG Media| After delivering startsports.com successfully, PFT and Deltatre entered in to a partnership in April 2013 to offer customers a solution that will allow direct consumer outreach and enhanced viewer experience. PFT’s award-winning CLEAR Hybrid Cloud enabled Media ERP platform can now be integrated with Deltatre’s digital media technologies including their market leading CMS, Forge, and world renowned data integrated video application, Diva. In September 2013 PFT and the global leader in enterprise rights and royalty management solutions RSG Media Systems engaged in a partnership agreement. PFT’s CLEAR can now be integrated with RSG Media’s RightsLogic Rights and Royalty Management solution to help content enterprises manage end-to-end their digital media supply chain spanning rights, operations and monetization.

Q6. In the broadcast industry, what is the kind of technology that has seen highest uptake?

Broadcasters are increasingly being challenged by the evolving digital landscape, changing content consumption habits of consumers, international distribution and keeping BO&E lean and agile. Today they are open to harnessing the power of new technologies like Cloud, Mobility, Analytics and BPM to drive creative enablement, ecosystem efficiencies and sustainability, and content monetization while keeping costs low. We are also seeing broadcasters starting to adopt media ERP solutions to virtualize and manage their business processes around content.

Q7. With global multi-nationals such as IBM, Sony, HP, CISCO launching similar technologies in the M&E industry how does Prime Focus Technologies manage to handle the ecosystem? Increasingly M&E companies are adopting cloud technologies across the enterprise content operations. Your take?

As opposed to pure play technology providers, PFT’s domain depth in the M&E industry, coupled with technology and services strength, helps us standout in the way our offerings are used by our customers in realizing larger value. The biggest enabler towards realizing this larger value is the concept of ‘virtualizing the business processes’ – the ability to handle business processes virtually and remotely by a combination of technology, services and infrastructure, at the same time overcoming the apprehensions of typical Cloud solutions – Security and Availability.

This approach also simplifies the handling of granular functional tasks – Cloud based storage, transcoding, archival, digital publish etc., on a pay-as-you-go basis and also offers end-to-end functionality, courtesy a Media ERP solution on a PaaS model, with the possibility of seamless transition from modular (single point) solution to enterprise scale Media ERP, with tight integration of services in parallel.

The incremental benefits of CLEAR vs the competition are mobility and flexibility provided to the workforce, process visibility, modular solution (pick and pay for only what you need) and rationalized cost model (pay-as-you-grow).

Q8. Some of the work done in the recent past with regards to cloud implementation of PFT?

Today PFT works with the biggest names in the broadcast industry globally. They run their revenue and time critical content operations on our platform CLEAR. Over 300,000 hours of content is being managed on CLEAR. That apart we facilitate Syndication and VoD fulfillment of over 10 million files annually, complete 30,000 hours of subtitling/closed captioning every year, manage over 90,000 TV episodes every year, deliver advertisements to over 200 channels and files to over 500 destinations worldwide, and over 10,000 hours of dubbing annually.

STAR TV, ZEE TV, Bloomberg, Disney, The Associated Press, A & E TV, HBO, MTV, National Geographic Channel, Discovery, MAA TV, Colors, BBC work with us.

Q9. With India considered as a pool of skilled and affordable talent as far as visual effects are concerned, what has actually impeded the growth of VFX and animation in our country so far?

One of the principal reasons is the lack of trained manpower capable of doing high end VFX work. We have been working with training centers for the past so many years to enrich curriculum and offer exposure through internships. Initially the work that used to come was basic. But with organizations like Prime Focus proving to film makers in the West that we can indeed deliver high end creative services and at lower cost, today there is an enhanced demand for our services. Prime Focus is one of the few global players in VFX and 3D conversion who efficiently operate a sustainable global digital pipeline.

Q10. As per the FICCI-KPMG report, the Indian animation and VFX industry will grow substantially by 2017. What are the things, you believe, will drive the growth?

We have always had impeccable creative work happening in the film and advertising space in India. India is growing as a global creative hub, providing world class techno-creative work. To continue this momentum of growth, and deliver high quality creative services, the industry must invest in training the immense talent pool that’s available to the VFX industry. The effort to nurture and build creative talent will then become a critical differentiator for India, vis-a-vis other countries providing similar services. We have been and will continue to work with all ecosystem stakeholders especially educators and industry bodies towards this.

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