Saumya Tewari

Sameer Nair on how digital is disrupting the media and entertainment business

At the Indian Advertising Association India Chapter's Silver Jubilee Summit in Kochi, Balaji Telefilms' group CEO, Sameer Nair, spoke on how digital has changed the way distribution happens and why other platforms must brace themselves.

Armed with two decades of experience in the traditional media business, Sameer Nair, group CEO, Balaji Telefilms, spoke on the impact of digital on traditional media, at the Indian Advertising Association India Chapter's Silver Jubilee Summit in Kochi. Nair noted that while India is not yet completely overtaken by digital when it comes to media and entertainment, digital has certainly disrupted distribution in traditional media.

As businesses, he said, companies have to take note of digital and smartly integrate it in their systems to stay relevant. He spoke about how traditional media, print, broadcasting, movies and music are adapting themselves to the digital disruption.

Sameer Nair on how digital is disrupting the media and entertainment business
To make his point, Nair asked the audience if they remembered the headline in any newspaper on the day. "Morning news is no longer news, owing to 24*7 television and news channels, and an over-active social media," he stated.

Realising the potential threat, he pointed out that almost all print publications have very well adapted to digital media. Publications have started delivering news through social media platforms connecting with readers who do not necessarily read their papers.

Even the most effective medium to distribute video, broadcast, is under threat from digital. He observed that the TV shows being broadcast today have repeat telecasts which can be recorded and also viewed on YouTube.

"Online technology is killing the broadcaster monopoly. The decision making power of a programming head, about which video is interesting, is decreasing. For example, American TV series 'House of Cards' which premiered on online streaming platform Netflix won many Emmy awards," he said.

Nair added that television content was always driven by programming heads, lowest common denominator and rating-supported advertising. Highlighting the positive aspect of digital revolution, Nair asserted that the online medium allows broadcasters to build a direct connect with consumers.

In his opinion, news broadcasting business (especially Hindi and regional) was the most democratic phenomenon that happened to India. "It distributed information to every individual," he pointed out.

Nair observed that channels have found a new formula of 'talking heads'. It is a format where debates are held on topics of national importance with individuals renowned in their respective fields. It attracts good advertising rates and for the consumer "it is like watching a street fight in slow motion." These channels have immediate feed on social media to involve the netizens.

Talking about disruption in the movie business, Nair noted that digital distribution completely killed the concept of negatives. Word-of-mouth has become the world of social media - the fate of a movie is decided over social media platforms within hours of the release.

In the music industry, he noted, disruption happened 15 years ago, when FM radio was introduced, crushing the sales of audio cassettes. However, he shared that music companies sprung into action, settled their rights and collaborated with digital platforms like Saavn and Gaana.

"The only way digital platforms can disrupt the music space is by doing a Netflix for music and creating their own content," Nair quipped.

In his opinion, digital disruption has brought in opportunities for brands to get personal with consumers and to bring emotions into technology. Nair believes that if digital monetises itself (like Netflix, based on subscription model), that will be a true disruption in the media and entertainment space.