Talking Movies, Television and Sports with Salman Iqbal – Founder and President ARY Digital Network.
Talking about movies, ARY Films has taken over the cinema industry of Pakistan with major projects in the yester years. What expectations do you have with the developing year and industry ahead?
ARY Films has achieved great milestones in a very short span of time. And yet again we have two more movies coming up with Farhan Saeed playing the lead role in one project and the other with Humayun Saeed. Moreover, we are planning to release many films in the coming year with many other projects in the loop. So, with expectations always on the rise, all I can say is that every year is a year of success with struggles when it comes to the cinema and that is the charm itself.
You once said that the media industry is going through an evolution, what motive do you now have with the growing era of digitalization in Pakistan?
The Digital Industry in Pakistan will take over the linear field I believe, and I being a TV channel owner also find myself watching television shows and dramas less on TV and more on my smartphone. There is no doubt that the digital space has become more dynamic in this era and Pakistan is working day and night to overcome the revolution. However, I think that the market share will spread if not rapidly then gradually.
Keeping in view certain topic of discussions in the dramas and movies we see today, where do you see the censorship board and its role in maintaining the content you deliver?
The censorship boards both for television and films are very active nowadays when it comes to content check and release. Their perspective and selection of which content should go and which not is also correct, they have to balance the trends along with cultural norms and values. With the digital era taking over, we are evolving all together and need to curb the actual problems of the society. It is unfortunate to accept that the dramas that win the best TRPs are those that depict a certain level of violence and harassment on women, as that is the sort of content that our audience, including you and me, want to see. However, as a nation with cultural boundaries we tend to balance the script with an empowering message through the content that is portrayed on our platforms.
How do you tend to maintain the growing legacy and name of the media group in such a competitive market?
“We try to lead with the Trends”
As of now, your channel is seen in over 100 countries worldwide. What would you like to say for the team that is working with and without your presence in making this journey nothing less than a successful one?
I feel extremely blessed when I think about ARY being watched in so many countries worldwide. Our team has always been dedicated and consistent in hard work and providing factual news. Our reporters and representatives are spread over 120 countries worldwide with more or less 4700 employees working in Pakistan and offices around the globe.
PSL season 4 played with much hype and passion, Karachi Kings were unfortunate to miss out the finale though played in Karachi. But, how did it go all together?
Karachi Kings is a franchise not only for Karachi but for Sindh. We have dedicated fans from across the country and the entire globe. When PSL started, Karachi Kings had the highest fan rating compared to other teams, because it included players from Sindh, KPK, Punjab, covering all localities nationwide. With Wasim Akram on our side this season, we carried forth additional recruitments from interior Sindh prior to the season in search of more raw talent that could be polished for a more diverse and brighter future of Pakistani cricket. You may have noticed that we focused on hiring cricketers and not famous names last season. We selected 15 domestic and 6 international players all together. Nonetheless, with PSL played in Karachi from the Play Offs to the Grand Finale, it gave much hype owning the suitability of ‘cricket back at home’ alongside initiating television rights increasing up to four times the regular pace; which in itself was an immense growth for the economic sector of Pakistan.
PSL season 5, what do you have to say about it?
It’s already great news that PSL is now completely happening in Pakistan. This will have far reaching effects for us locally and internationally. I think this year we will finally see the long effort of PCB and the teams bear fruit in shape of a month long cricket tournament happening in Pakistan. Each team has developed immense fan following which can draw large crowds towards the stadiums. We have everything going right, just need to see it through for PSL 2020 and make it a success.
What new ventures have you planned for the year ahead?
Firstly, in Pakistan we are making a platform by the name of Kings Foundation for cricket lovers, in which people will be given a healthy diet to follow with proper trainings in order to be polished in their respective forte. Moreover, we are planning to open schools in Karachi and other cities of Pakistan that can groom students in various ways for a brighter future of Pakistan. Apart from these there are other plans about which you will find out in the near future. Our number one priority is the entertainment industry and well-being of our people who we keep in mind while planning our ventures.
What do you have to say about the current Government and what role are you playing for the wellbeing of Pakistan alongside?
Being part of the media industry, plus owning a media channel of my own, I would not name any particular political party as my favorite. However, I believe that everyone out there has a politician inside him/her but that does not mean that I am interested in joining politics, in fact I have no plan of joining politics at all. ARY Network or I are not supporting any particular party; we only try to show the reality to our viewers. We criticize anyone who is not fair with the country be it a politician, actor, businessman or anyone else.
What message do you have for the young readers out there?
“Optimism is the way forward!” Our country is blessed with all kinds of resources, where it is a positive sight that we are coming out of the bad phase and entering a good one. Moreover, media is evolving and that will take Pakistan to a different level. So, the forum of networking with one another is going to grow exponentially soon in Pakistan.
ARY Digital Network just celebrated its 19th Anniversary. What would you like to say?
It’s been an incredible journey. I would like to thank all the viewers and supporters of ARY Digital Network, without whom we would not have made it this far. Also I am proud of the ARY family who stood by all my decisions and the ARY team without whose continuous hard work all this would not have been possible.