Eularie Saldanha
May 04, 2023

FICCI Frames 2023: TV viewing audience is not going anywhere

The panel comprising Anuj Gandhi, Gaurav Dwivedi, Ravish Kumar, Sunil Lulla, and Avinash Pandey discussed the future of Indian broadcasting and the way it can reach newer heights

FICCI Frames 2023: TV viewing audience is not going anywhere
The first day at FICCI Frames 2023 hosted a session which discussed the future of Indian broadcasting. It also highlighted what broadcasters need to do, in order to keep television as important as it’s always been. 
The panel comprised Anuj Gandhi, founder, Plug & Play Entertainment; Gaurav Dwivedi, CEO, Prasar Bharati; Ravish Kumar, head, regional entertainment - Kannada and Marathu clusters), Viacom18; Sunil Lulla, founder and chief evangelist, The Linus Adventures and Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network and president, IAA and NBDA. 
The session was moderated by Gaurav Laghate, senior editor, Mint. 
Scope for TV 
Gandhi pointed out that the advantage that digital has is that it doesn't get confined by three hours of prime time. Speaking about how important TV in general is, he said, “You cannot stop people from buying a TV today. However, even in a market as small as Gorakhpur, most TVs sold are smart TVs. Four out of five buyers will never use a smart TV for a smart TV. But the fifth buyer will and that itself is a big market. If you don’t create a product for them, they will end up killing linear television, because they will be happy with only YouTube." 
Talking about the oldest television channel in the country, Laghate asked Dwivedi what he thinks is the future of Doordarshan. 
Stating his biggest concern in terms of content, he said, “Not just Doordarshan, but most broadcasters are probably not experimenting enough. While there are a certain number of content producers coming up with new content, there’s also pressure on many of us about some kind of programme that is a big hit at that point in time. Everything boils down to that.” 
Dwivedi shared that one of the strengths of Doordarshan in the past was that it hadn’t left any genre uncovered. “We had the widest range of content. However, today we’re not focusing enough on a wide range of content. We’re asking viewers to stay with us if they want to and leave if they don’t like our stuff. I don’t think that’s the approach to take. We will always attempt to cover a wide range of things. At a sector level, everyone needs to start thinking about the nature of discourse that we want to bring to the audience,” he added. 
Along with agreeing with Dwivedi, Kumar also pointed out that prime time is finite and so how much content gets done in a limited time is a challenge. He said, “Kids might not be viewing the content at the same time as their parents. Different people have different needs. We’re still called GECs - but we’re not general anymore. We’re used for movies, reality shows and so on.”
What TV needs 
Lulla stated that television needs to choose a sharp position, since there are more than 600 channels in the country today. “TV has to understand technological possibilities. They need to choose who they are for, and who they’re not for. The rich have gotten richer, but the middle is still big. The broadcasting business is not grappling with this as well as they should. You can't just recycle the same content in multiple languages. Somebody giving an interview is not going to give it 300 times. It’s important for this industry to innovate,” he added. 
Getting down to the heart of the matter, Pandey stated that the incentive for the industry to create good content is a problem today. He explained, “Advertisers in the end want to pay you for the views you bring. You can say that you don’t want to do things for money, but in the end it’s a business house. The incentive structure for this medium is really bad. If you want a good news item, you better start paying for it. All the money goes to the platform operators, not to us. So, that’s the kind of news you’ll get.”
Pandey also spoke about the need for incentives and why the sector deserved them. “There’s so many components, including the hours of work that journalists put in, the risk of going to a place and shooting it. It’s not a fertiliser subsidy that you must get for free. Good content on news television is very hard to deliver unless there are incentives around regulators, broadcast operators and creative agencies.” 
Challenges for the medium
Since customisation has been the talk of the town, when asked about what TV is doing in this regard, Kumar shared, “It’s very difficult to customise our offerings to different people with a mass media product. What TV will continue to do is give you a bang for your buck and mass awareness. When you’re launching a new product, TV is the first place you’ll go to. However, if you’re experimenting with a new product or a new variant, digital does a far better job.” 
Kumar directed a question to Gandhi, asking him if TV would ever be able to be customised like digital. Talking about mechanisms that would help TV evolve and make it as targeted as digital, Gandhi said, “With the new tech, it’s possible. There have been successful experiments on reality television, interaction on the mobile. Very soon, there will be different techniques for the same programme. As a sector, it’s not possible for us to change the structure. We have to innovate within this to be able to churn out better content.” 
Food for thought 
Lagate asked the panellists to state one thing each that they felt was needed to take television to newer heights. 
What they had to say: 
Lulla: "Sharpen the position. Don’t be afraid to take risks and make a lot more money." 
Kumar: "As long as you’re getting a superstar and doing blockbuster content, it’ll always work. Regulators need to help us reach that." 
Gandhi: "We just need to innovate, not worry. The broadcasting ecosystem needs to look at itself as a content creator." 
Pandey: "We need to stop thinking of broadcasting as only TV. Create good content and find the right way to reach the right audience. They’re not going anywhere." 
Campaign India

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