Benita Chacko

Navigating the future of M&E: Experts debate

  • Viacom18 CEO advocates against sports content paywalls, highlighting advertiser interest in widespread availability

  • Meta India focuses on AI, reels, and business messaging, revealing AI's role in user safety

  • Warner Bros. Discovery executive stresses the importance of incorporating "when" in media platforms for diverse scenarios

  • Amazon Prime Video discusses diverse monetization models catering to consumer preferences, including SVOD and Mini TV

Restricting access to sports content through a paywall is not ideal, especially considering the sizable audience eager to access it without charge, said Kevin Vaz, CEO of broadcast entertainment at Viacom18, during a panel discussion at FICCI Frames in Mumbai. He emphasised the significance advertisers attribute to the widespread availability of sports content and their willingness to invest in it.

Sandhya Devanathan, vice-president and head of Meta India, spoke about the company’s three key drivers of growth- artificial intelligence, reels and business messaging.

“We use AI to keep the platform user-safe and provide more engaging content. 25% of content recommended on Meta is by AI. An early test reveals that advertisers save around five hours using Gen AI tools on our platform. In terms of the growth of Reels, its shareability is only growing. When it comes to Messaging, 60% of people send messages to businesses.”

Growth in Indian TV sector
Growth in Indian TV sector

Arjun Nohwar, senior vice-president and general manager at Warner Bros. Discovery for India and South Asia, emphasised the significance of incorporating the "when" alongside the conventional factors of "who," "what," and "where" in media platforms. Media platforms need to leverage consumption moments in diverse scenarios, like during airport layovers or while waiting to collect children from school, through the development of pertinent content tailored to these moments.

“It's going to be important for networks to think of making derivatives out of their traditional content and figuring out how to create moments of truth with consumers that are increasingly watching content on different platforms and make content that's relevant to them in those bite-sized, snackable moments,” he said.

Growth in Indian Digital Media sector
Growth in Indian Digital Media sector

Sushant Sreeram, country head, Amazon Prime Video, talked about the company's approach of providing a variety of monetisation models to accommodate diverse consumer preferences.

“Consumers sit across the spectrum of accessibility, affordability, language and content preferences. Our SVOD model is Prime Video’s frontrunner across the globe. Mini TV service has been seeing 4X growth in watchtime. Movie rentals and channels partnering with us are also seeing phenomenal growth,” he said.

Growth in Indian Print Sector
Growth in Indian Print Sector

Gaurav Dwivedi, CEO, Prasar Bharati, voiced his confidence in the expansion prospects of DD Freedish and underscored the ongoing importance of set-top boxes in media consumption. He anticipates the adoption of DD Freedish to surge from the current estimated range of 40-45 million to 50-60 million within the next 4-5 years.

“Despite growth in other media, set-top boxes are holding their ground and showing steady growth. Set-top boxes are well-established, actively engaged, and likely to continue growing in the foreseeable future,” he added.

Growth in Indian Online Gaming Sector
Growth in Indian Online Gaming Sector

Shripad Ashtekar, chairman and managing director of Signpost India, emphasised the expansion of out-of-home (OOH) advertising and the rising integration of digital technologies within the medium, including QR codes and data analytics.

“It’s an obligation for authorities and private players to create value for the commuters and brands on OOH. When it comes to digital adoption in OOH, we are seeing an increased usage of QR codes, data and image analytics. Investments in DOOH are only growing,” he said.

The Indian Media and Entertainment (M&E) sector grew 8% in 2023 to reach Rs 2.3 trillion (US$27.9 billion). However, the growth of Rs 173 billion was half of the Rs 371 billion growth that took place in 2022. The FICCI-EY report launched on March 5, attributed this to the headwinds in advertising during the first half of the year. Advertising contributed only 0.33% to India’s GDP, much lower than developed large markets, which are between 0.6% to 1%.

“It has been a while since the media and entertainment (M&E) sector grew slower than Indian GDP, but that was 2023 in a nutshell! Headwinds from geopolitics, the uncertainty of war, a funding scarcity and regulatory implications impacted advertising spends and reduced consumption,” said Ashish Pherwani, M&E Sector Leader, Ernst & Young LLP.

(With additional inputs from Shubhankar Sen.)

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