Business Today

Poor show

Ronnie Screwvala        Print Edition: Jan 8, 2012

It has been half a decade since Young India redefined not only the way it consumes content, but also what that content should be. But the industry is still looking at content in a linear fashion.

In 2007, projections were made that the Media and Entertainment, or M&E, Industry would be a Rs. 100,000 crore sector by the year 2011. Well, 2011 is ending and we are at just Rs. 76,000 crore. People are calling Media and Entertainment the 'sunshine' industry but we've done 11 per cent CAGR growth while sectors like pharmaceuticals, healthcare and even FMCG are seeing growth at 17-18% CAGR.

We need to understand the consumer and what he is consuming.

Do we really ask ourselves who our audience is? Do we really know it well? Do we hear what it is saying or are we just following a herd mentality - where as soon as something new works everyone claims it as the next big thing to follow, mostly even without probing why it worked first place. Young India wants content to be beyond just entertainment - it wants a 360 degree experience. Content needs to be personal, Interactive, community and social based, offering immediate gratification across all the technology platforms they have adopted.

If we go segment by segment, then in the movies space blockbusters are few and far between. So what we need is much more research and feedback, innovation, sharpening the art of storytelling and thinking of building franchises. While TV broadcast forms a big chunk of the M&E industry today, what has been the last innovation for the consumer on this platform? How will the broadcast segment see scale when the biggest player enjoys just $50 to 70 million profits in the largest emerging market in the world? Pay TV needs to change the fortunes of this segment but are we really prepared for it? When Pay TV arrives, the consumer will be brutally selective of his viewing habits and may demand commercial free and on demand viewing. That's a transition only mature and really focused players can make.

A few things that can change the M&E story in India:

-Games, while currently ignored, have a huge potential with the advent of Smart Phones, 3G, Broadband and Payment gateways on digital. They can overtake the 100 year old movie Industry in less than five years. 

-Mindset towards the small screen has to change. It does not have to be a TV set and the delivery does not necessarily need to happen via cable or DTH. What we need to create is content that offers a 100% new experience and not just re-jigged linear TV shows & Movies.

-The potential of the Rural Market must not be underestimated. Rural folk learnt to SMS even though they were not literate, they adopted DTH services which grew faster in rural areas than what it did in cities but most importantly they have a growing agricultural income and more free time for content consumption.

-Content is usually brought down to 'entertainment' but the power of innovative storytelling and strong creativity with effective communication if used in sectors like education, career enhancement, healthcare and wellbeing can explode this nascent Rs. 76,000 crore industry manifold. Traditionally we are not used to paying for content. Pay possibility is likely to come from kids and youth which is a very circumspect audience - so what will be the offering?

-Audience Democracy has emerged as the most powerful tool,  which can influence the fate of a product / service instantaneously. Its word of mouth, user generated and most of all interactive and is therefore scoring big with young audiences.

-Franchise is a big hit globally especially cross-platform, but in India the thinking is not there yet.

My deepest regret has been that over the last decade all segments of the M&E ecosystem could have and should have worked together to create a sector of global scale, rich with IP's and a strong recurring consumer base across platforms. That has not happened.

I will end by saying if we don't want to let the next decade pass as this one has done, Media and Entertainment has to be part of the 'India consumption story' and that's not a simple task as the growing consumerism is creating new pull for consumption but the industry has not risen to the occasion. We should get our act together and walk the talk!

The author is Founder & CEO, UTV


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