Star India CEO Uday Shankar today spoke on the rise of the digital media and the role of advertising in the business of content at the Pitch Madison Media Advertising Outlook 2014.
Excerpts:We consider the advertising fraternity of fundamental value to us. There is no one who believes that business of content creation can exist without advertising support. Also television is critical to advertising. As a medium, television in India reaches out to 600 million viewers for three hours every day, 365 days a year.When we started cable and satellite, television had a strong urban reach. But today, according to the C&S report, the rural reach is marginally higher than urban reach. And as the rural urban continues to evolve, this will only get better.We, at Star Network, don’t see ourselves as broadcasters. Lately, a lot of discussion has been taking place around digital and television or print and digital, but for me digital is just another mode of delivery of content, with both content and consumer being the same.Digital is just another pipe that has come in to deliver content. I do not understand when satellite and cable transmission is not considered a business of broadcast, why do you want to call broadband as a completely different digital business, which is positioned as being at loggerheads with broadcasters.Earlier, often the business got named on the technology. But over a period of time, the enigma around technology has reduced, and the service and value that the technology delivers has become more important.Digital will also go through that phase. No one today refers to television as a plasma screen business, because they no longer are enigmatic. Similarly, the next generation will not refer to digital as digital business. And that is where I see the fundamental role we play.The way I see it, we are in the business of telling stories. And this is what we do day after day. And when you do that for such a long time, you do not wither away just because the technology has changed.The nature of the delivery pipe changes. We are here to stay and stay till the society has an interest in the story that we tell.A new medium like digital will get added and it’s a reality. Just as print even today continues to exist despite television becoming so huge, we as storytellers are very much a part of this reality, because this reality cannot exist without the power of content and storytelling. We will continue to be fully relevant, no matter how the technologies evolve.Whether it is YouTube, Netflix or Hulu, it is the power of high quality, intense stories, content and narrative that has not changed so far and will not change.In India, YouTube is being consumed, but it is the one-year old content of Star, along with catch-up content of Colors, Sony and Zee Network, which constitutes not less than 30 per cent of the entire content consumption on YouTube.So, we are relevant and central to the business, regardless of the pipe through which content is delivered.When we launched Satyamev Jayate, we became popular not only on TV, but got a whooping 1.2 billion online impressions, 40 million views on digital and it was also the content that shook the entire nation on TV, it was also a content that was most written about, than any other piece of content. So the point is that the power of content will drive the industry.The new media will arrive, then something else will come, which will be very relevant. It is good for all of us, because it challenges us to re-invent ourselves. It makes sure that we do not lapse into a slumber. But the centrality of creativity does not shift.The problem is that this debate is happening today, primarily because, we as content creators have become broadcasters. We have been regulating our business to old structures and statues, but those structures were designed to do business in a very different world and that world has changed and that is why, last year, the standoffs that we saw, were the manifestations of old ways of doing business and that’s what we need to change, or else we will continue to see those tensions.While we as a network at Star have acquired the skill to hold the attention of 600 million viewers for over 3.5 hours every week, hardly does any advertiser come to us to ask for solution in figuring out a deeper strategy for the same 600 million viewers whom we hold for 23 minutes for every content. The perception is that there is a completely different genotype that is required to hold the audience for 10 seconds. That is the mindset of the old world and this mindset will not hold for future.Through digital medium, through reduction in advertising inventory, through different generation of consumers and above all the changing landscape of economic growth, we need to find ways of creating constructive relationship between advertiser and content creator that will be relevant, robust and constructive to both parties.If this doesn’t happen, the standoffs will continue. The world around us has changed, we have one common goal, we both need to give message about our products. If we can work together, we can create a huge value for both the parties and continue to do that regardless of the shift in technology.