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What Is a Media Company?

An excerpt from The Indian Media Business: Pandemic and After by Vanita Kohli-Khandekar. Published by SAGE Publications India, 2021, 332 pages, Paperback, Rs. 695 (ISBN: 978-93-5479-090-4), SAGE Response.

Book excerpt from the 5th edition of The Indian Media Business - Pandemic and After.

The post-pandemic era will begin, possibly, in 2023. It is estimated that only by then will everyone—kids, grown-ups—be vaccinated. It is only when schools and shooting schedules resume, when we go back to work full-time, walk into theatres without fear or meet again for coffee can the rebuilding begin. Till then, we will continue to lead these half-lives, staring at some screen or the other—working, studying, attending a prayer meeting, gaming, watching a film or a video, listening to a song or reading. That is the second point going into the future.

The internet’s ubiquity in our lives was evident even before the pandemic. Now, it has been raised to entirely another level. For years we read and wrote about convergence, the ‘digital era’ and all that. Well, it is upon us. It is more ubiquitous, more overpowering than it was post-2016 after Jio took off, data prices crashed and all of us discovered the joys of streaming video.

The internet is now fully integrated into the M&E ecosystem comple­menting TV, films and music. And adding to the time spent on consum­ing news, songs, films and short videos, and chatting with friends. You will read that again and again in this book.

How digital has rescued the music business, how it is joining hands with TV to widen its user base and how it has helped in the creative liberation of films. The book is broken up into media segments such as print and TV simply for con-venience—digital is the common theme throughout.

What Is a Media Company?

That brings this to the third point going into the future. What is a media company?

The kaleidoscopic effects of digital are now settling down to reveal a clearer picture. It is one in which telecom, technology and media firms are collapsing into one simple search for audiences. Google, Amazon, AT&T, Facebook, Disney, Comcast, Apple, Netflix among others are leading this search.

In this world, scale is defined not just by having a massive platform. It is identified by the ability to serve a maddeningly diverse, global audience for information, entertainment, learning, friendship, a personal life and whatever else that media has now become.

This new world is being shaped by a strange osmotic relationship between humans, technology and a perpetual digital mirror. Think about it: more than 2 billion people across the world are on WhatsApp, sharing pictures, short videos or simply chatting. What then is WhatsApp?

A chat app, a media company, a short video brand or an aggregator? There are millions of Indians watching Narcos (Spanish, Colombia), French watching Sacred Games (Hindi, India), Americans watching The Crown (English, Britain) or Turks watching Dark (German, Germany) on Netflix. Is it a studio? A broadcaster? Or a superbly designed aggregator of content?

This new media world is not about technology or content or lineage. Many of the movers and shakers have large, profitable, linear businesses. Disney controls three large OTTs (Disney+ Hotstar, Disney+ and Hulu), one of the world’s biggest film studios and a pay TV business. At 2 bil­lion users and $20 billion in revenues, Google’s YouTube is the biggest competitor for Netflix which, with 210 million users and $25 billion in revenue, is one of the world’s largest OTTs.

The world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, has a Prime Video service only to get people in for shopping. ‘When we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sell more shoes’, said Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at a technology conference in 2016.

In India, Flipkart and Zomato got into video in 2019 to increase the amount of time people spend on their online retail and food aggregation businesses, respectively. Media companies are becoming retailers and technology specialists, while the latter are getting into media to keep audiences with them.

This search for audiences across geographies, technologies, lan­guages, tastes, formats and devices is redrawing the M&E map globally. It is what defines a media company now. (see Table 0.2)

What Is a Media Company?

An excerpt from The Indian Media Business: Pandemic and After by Vanita Kohli-Khandekar. Published by SAGE Publications India, 2021, 332 pages, Paperback, Rs. 695 (ISBN: 978-93-5479-090-4), SAGE Response.