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FICCI Frames 2013: Bonding with a billion

By Raushni Bhagia , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | March 13, 2013
In a session at FICCI Frames 2013, panellists suggested the best ways to tap the complete viewership pie available to broadcasters.

In the first panel discussion of FICCI Frames 2013, titled "Engaging a Billion Consumers in the Media and Entertainment Industry", panellists suggested the best ways to tap the complete viewership pie available to broadcasters. The session was moderated by Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India.

Uday Shankar

Ravi Dhariwal

Sudhanshu Vats

Punit Goenka

Rahul Johri

Siddarth Roy Kapur

Shailesh Rao

Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India

I think the three things that are required to tap the vast audience are creativity, technology and regulation.

A sports event (say, an India-South Africa series) now costs 15 times the amount it cost only 10 years ago. However, the pricing of the channels has not increased proportionately. Getting returns on niche channels is even more difficult since there is a limit to what one can charge the subscriber. Monetisation is also a major issue if the content is to be floated on the digital platform.

Ravi Dhariwal, CEO, publishing, Bennett, Coleman & Co.

Frankly, there is no magical answer to this! Even we are able to tap just one per cent of the total population of India. As of now, one thing that BCCL is working on is forming smaller clusters of the audiences (segmenting them) and then offering them relevant content and, at the end, aggregation of these groups. Plus, on the business side, we try to put the best creative people together and then, surround them by the marketing ones.

The major thing is to bring the creative and the marketing people together, while technology helps both the functions to a large extent. It helps connect with the customers and advertisers in the most interactive ways possible. Largely, at least for TV, I feel there are lots of opportunities to tap the audience. With a bit of experimentation, all those present can be fantastic business models.

Sudhanshu Vats, group CEO, Viacom18 Media

I believe we are already into the process of creating niches among niche and segmenting the audience base. Moving forward, we have to build this ability to segment and target. Three fundamental strengths that we have are mega consumer trends (meaning that as consumers evolve, customisation increases); multiple screens, including multi-TV households, tablets and mobiles; and lastly, digitisation, which has improved the experience of the two most important parts of M&E, films and television.

Regulatory change is another major obstacle that the industry is facing. However, if all the players in the (broadcast) industry come together, this problem can be tackled. There is a large pie lying out there, untapped. We don't have to compete for each other's share of viewership.

Punit Goenka, MD and CEO, ZEEL

I feel that we (TV broadcasters) are creating more and more of everything, rather than concentrating on what is required on the newer platforms that are available to us. We are not broadcasters anymore, we are content creators and aggregators. We aren't working together enough and hence we aren't aligned to offer solutions and appropriate content.

We have just started taking baby steps in the direction of segmented targeting of the audience. Regulation is another trouble that we face.

Rahul Johri, senior VP and GM, India, Discovery Networks Asia Pacific

Localisation is the essence that will drive the industry to grow exponentially and involve a billion consumers through multiple interfaces. But largely, one has to discover one's strength. As for localisation, regional feed is the basic and widely available form that we have. We are a global brand and beyond a point, localisation isn't possible. Ultimately, there are people in the Indian society who want to know where the world is moving. Localisation helps in connecting with a wider audience base, no doubt.

Also, for a network like ours, longer forms of content are very important, and there are higher production costs involved. Last year, close to 1.3 billion dollars were spent in the production of content.

Siddarth Roy Kapur, MD, STUDIOS, Disney UTV

Earlier, we had a universal kind of cinema in India, something that everyone could watch. But now, it's not the case. If not more, the cinema content can be clearly divided into two types, one of the Bodyguard and Rowdy Rathore type; while the other is that of Barfi, Kahaani and Gangs of Wasseypur kind. There are audiences for both. The power of regional films, parallel cinema, digital content and the Indian diaspora should be given special standing.

For cinema, creativity has played a pivotal role in increasing reach. The challenge for this sector is the lack of infrastructure. India has about 12 screens per million viewers, while the US has 130 screens for the same number of people. Though the content is evolving, we need to expand both execution and distribution sectors.

The major things that the industry can focus on to improve returns are content syndication beyond the theatrical platform and making the content legitimately available on smaller screens. There is no doubt that movies are being massively consumed, but how and when is not being measured properly. A movie like 3 Idiots, which was watched by close to three crore people in the theatres, must have had much higher viewership on other platforms.

Shailesh Rao, head of global operations, Twitter Inc.

The principal means of engaging with a billion consumers is to localise content through multiple media vehicles. As for Twitter's business model, understanding the mood of the audience and how they want to consume media is the salient aspect. Supporting their need for diverse content is the drive to sample newer smartphones.

I don't think the print and TV industries have remained completely ineffective to new media. This is one of the finest and most diverse media industries I have experienced. Creativity, dynamism - we have all the assets and we aspire to grow. But we need to understand people through technology and then distribute content in a better way through the same platform.

Forget web services and internet plans on mobiles, why don't we start tapping people through SMSes, the basic service available in all the mobile phones, considering that mobile usage is massive in India? An SMS talking about an upcoming event on some channel will help. We need to match creatively with the audience.

Is inability to monetise on the digital platform a problem? I think that is a false story. The KPMG report itself states that digital advertising is growing by 33 per cent!

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