Rules and regulations are created to ensure smooth and continuous growth of an industry. However, when it comes to India’s media and entertainment industry, it seems to be a different story going by what industry leaders said at the recently concluded CII Big Picture Summit held in the capital. From the 10+2 cap on advertisements to the pricing of television channels to the present system of television ratings, each of these time and again emerged as the villain of the piece.
Uday Shankar, CEO of Star India, began the discussion by talking about how inconsistent policies and arbitrary curbs on freedom of speech and expression are the two major challenges that have stifled innovation in India’s media and entertainment sector. “A web of processes, regulations and norms have stalled India’s economic growth and the future of the country hinges on our ability to embrace new ideas. No renewal can happen, either in our economy or in our industry, if we are not brazenly open to new ideas,” said Shankar.
Shankar further added that even though the media and entertainment industry produces more than a million hours of original content every year, the sector’s inability to charge fairly for the content has severely compromised innovation. “Ironically, a regime that was brought to protect the consumer has ended up doing the most damage to consumer choice and quality,” said Shankar.
Despite the grim situation, the Indian entertainment and media industry witnessed 20% growth in revenues in 2012 touching R965 billion against R 805 billion in 2011, according to the CII-PwC India Entertainment and Media (E&M) Outlook 2013 report that was released at the summit. As the media and entertainment industry continues to grow in spite of a relative slowdown in the broader economy, the category has tasked itself to turn into a $100-billion industry. Ronnie Screwvala, managing director, Walt Disney India, pointed out ten areas that the industry needs to work upon to achieve its goal. “There is a need to create intellectual property and franchisees through the creation of unique content. Further, the industry needs to focus on another sector—edutainment — as viewers would like to watch content that educates as well as entertains,” added Screwvala.
However, information and broadcasting (I&B) minister Manish Tewari emphasised that the government was ready to walk that extra mile to give the industry the necessary infrastructure. “We are trying to initiate the process but before that we need to make sure that the whole process is transparent and hassle-free. By next month we would be able to roll out the Phase III auction process for FM radio.” He also said that the government is mulling raising the foreign direct investment limit for news channels.
Speaking about the changing dynamics in the media and entertainment sector, Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom18 Media pointed out how the proliferation of multiple screens has encouraged the habit of snacking/binging content amongst viewers. Agreeing with this, Rajan Anandan, head, Google India, said, “One of the reasons behind consumers watching content online is the rise of mobile phones, especially smartphones and internet. Currently, India has about 150 million internet users and every month the number of users increases by 4-5 million. Consumers are now willing to pay for content which is interesting as well as entertaining, another reason behind the rise of snacking.”
Rahul Johri, senior vice-president and general manager, South Asia and head of revenue, pan-regional ad sales and Southeast Asia, Discovery Network pointed out the opportunities that these changes have effected. “If ten years ago companies were known as television firms, today they are known as media companies which offer content across various platform thanks to the evolution of technology,” he said.
Television ratings continue to be a sore point with broadcasters. Sanjay Gupta, COO, Star India said, “As creator of content we are heavily dependent on data rather than trying to understand the viewer.” He further said that TAM Media Research data represents 40% of Indian viewers through 10,000 people meters, which was “a gross misrepresentation of the actual fact”. To which ad film director Prahlad Kakkar replied that the entire process of media planning and buying is a trial and error method as cricket and movies are the two things that click with the Indian consumer. Vikram Chandra, Group CEO and executive director, NDTV stressed on the fact that TAM needed to expand its services to other screens as well so that broadcasters can monetise their websites as well as applications on mobile.
However, LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM had the last word when he said that there are two aspects of data and the issue was how the industry used the data. “On one hand the industry loves to look at the analytics to drive their business. On the other hand, they love to politicise the same data. The data reflects the pulse of the common man and problem arises when it is used a transaction currency,” said Krishnan.