Varun Ramdas, Legal Analyst, Koan Advisory
“We are here to take every story to its audience and every audience to its story”
A candid conservation between Anant Goenka, Executive Director, Indian Express Private Limited and Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO and MD, Viacom 18 Media Private Limited, at FICCI Frames, spanned a range of topics from advertising to content to elections and even education. The scope of the conversation titled ‘Frames@20: Looking Back as We Go Ahead’, was initially limited to reflecting on the media industry’s journey over the past 20 years. However, the engagement with a lively audience led to a more wide-ranging, vibrant and interactive discussion.
The New Landscape @ 20
Mr. Vats briefly highlighted some of the catalysts that spurred the explosion in the Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry over the previous decades. He discussed how content delivery has shifted from traditional linear broadcasting to microcast and multicast. Mr. Vats traced a stark departure from the age-old trend of focussing on content that appeals to the masses; content curators are now moving towards picking stories that appeal to niche audiences. Mr. Vats attributed this shift to a convergence of the creator, the curator, and the consumer. With the advent of newer content platform models, technological innovation, and an increased emphasis on customized content, the line between creator, curator and the customer is becoming increasingly blurred.
Mr. Vats pointed out however, that greater consumer engagement with Over the Top (OTT) platforms does not diminish the continued relevance of linear broadcasting or theatricals in India. For instance, regulatory changes in the extant broadcasting tariff regime, he predicted, could make the subscription model viable for television which could, in turn, alter the broadcasting landscape once again.
Data and VOD
Data forms an inexorable part of video content distribution today. As Mr. Karan Bedi, CEO of MX player noted in a later session on ‘The New Order: Local vs. Global’, what was originally an equation that involved only content and distribution now centres on content, distribution, and data. Mr. Bedi posited that data enables the identification of individual consumer preferences, thereby allowing platforms to choose content that appeals to smaller groups. Such models, he added, inform the nature of content developed today. For example, Aafat, a programme that deals with the theme of extravagant Delhi weddings, appeals to specific consumer-demographics. He added that data has shifted the focus of platforms similar to MX player from ‘India’ to ‘Bharat’. That is, data-driven content curation now allows such platforms to target previously neglected markets such as Tier-II and Tier-III cities, where there is strong preference for vernacular content.
Traditional theatrical releases have also witnessed a sea change over the last 20 years. The transition in the manner of the theatrical release of a movie was spurred not by creativity in content but with the novelty in the mode of delivery, according to Mr. Kapil Aggarwal, Joint Managing Director, UFO movies. Movies are now released harnessing both the digital as well as traditional celluloid modalities. Mr. Aggarwal, speaking at a subsequent session on ‘Frames of Change’, attributed increasing film revenues to this new paradigm of dual forms of dissemination. For instance, in 2005, movies struggled to cross the INR 30 crore revenue barrier. Fast-forward to 2019 where INR 300 crores serves as the new benchmark – predominantly due to the digitization of movie reels. Mr. Aggarwal pointed out that digitization of the movie reel was aimed at curbing piracy and enabling simultaneous releases which would result in more revenue accruing to the theatrical releases. Gone are the days where cinephiles would have to wait for a reel to arrive at the nearest theatre or settle for a pirated copy in its stead. With digitization of the movie reel, a movie can be screened in multiple theatres on the same day of release, which was not the case 20 years ago.