Mumbai: Star India Pvt. Ltd chief executive officer Uday Shankar said on Wednesday that a tectonic shift was underway in the traditional television sector and the consumption of digital content was on the rise in the country.
In his address to Ficci Frames, an event devoted to the media and entertainment industry, Shankar started by discussing the status of various sectors such as direct-to-home (DTH) television and cable TV, among others.
“Cable TV continues to struggle; struggling to improve its business case, struggling to improve its talent and technology quotient and, above all, to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world. DTH, that set out to revolutionize distribution, increasingly seems to be intent on locking its destiny inside an isolated box in a networked world,” he said.
“Even the story of digitalization that started six years ago remains incomplete. The advertising revolution of the ’90s, when a large number of international and Indian brands were built on television screens, doesn’t seem to be breaking new ground in terms of what I call brand revolution 2.0. Content creators, a community that I belong to, generally seem to be caught in a time warp with the same themes playing in a loop again and again.The quality of news, of course, seems to cause only national consternation, with now even our friendly neighbour taking a potshot at our news channels. Overall, it seems the more things change, the more they remain the same,” he said.
Referring to the fast pace of growth in digital content consumption in India, he said, “Beneath the surface of entrenched stagnation, there is a gigantic disruption playing out.”
“In just about a year, hotstar has been downloaded over 50 million times. More people have watched the English Premier League on hotstar last year than on television. Even for a mass sport like cricket, in the larger cities, hotstar’s watch time is now starting to reach 50% of television. This infant service is already becoming a product of habit in India, and now this year, we have set our sight on creating the first global media and entertainment product born out of India, when we take hotstar to the rest of the world in a few months,” he said.
Shankar also referred to online content creators such as All India Bakchod (AIB), with whom Star India worked with last year for a television show called—On Air with AIB—as drivers of this change.
“This is a group which has the audacity to have a name so offensive that our news media calls them by their acronym AIB. Yes, I am talking about All India Bakchod, who are perceived as comedians, although this is not a group of people who make imbecile jokes while dressed in a funny manner. More than once, they have set the news agenda for the nation. They have the gall to take on the combined might of big telcos and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook when they felt that the freedom of the Internet was being parcelled away.”
Even Ekta Kapoor, who runs Balaji Telefilms, wants to go digital, he said.
“Very recently, one of the pioneers of television entertainment told me that she was so frustrated by the frozen state of traditional media that she was going to create a digital enterprise to tell the stories that traditional media has been too scared to tell. Of course, I am talking about Ekta Kapoor. The person who created the archetype of saas and bahu feels the need to break away from these stifling constraints of the medium that she herself created,” said Shankar.