Fusion 2012, a day long conference on media, sports and entertainment was held in Mumbai on 1 February 2012. The conference, organised by Indian Merchants Chamber, was inaugurated by Ajay Maken, Union Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports.
In a session on real-time engagement through television, L V Krishnan, chief executive officer, TAM Media Research, explained the relevance of commercial breaks during programmes from both the consumer's as well as the broadcaster's side. He said, "Advertising provides a break for the viewer, usually a woman, who has to multi-task while she watches her favourite soap on TV. She understands the length of the break and devises a strategy in that space."
From the broadcaster's perspective, he added, "All consumers hate the idea of pay channels, but the broadcasters need to make money in other manners and advertising pays for that free content the consumer likes to watch."
In another session that delved into the realm of mPublishing (mobile publishing), Bhaskar Das, president, The Times of India Group, commented on the emergence of digital publishing vis-a-vis the much talked about decline of traditional publishing, and explained, "We are in the business of News not Newspapers and News has great future. People morph all the time; consumer behaviour keeps on changing. As long as your evolution trajectory is ahead of the consumer, there's nothing to worry."
Das added that while digital may not be making a lot of money at the moment, they are trying to create an ecosystem where one is not constrained by platform instead he went on to say that the consumer of developed India is rather platform-agnostic.
On the same topic, Harit Nagpal, managing director, chief executive officer, Tata Sky, said, "The mechanism of news delivery has certainly shifted. In my days of yore, my father would make sure that the newspaper vendor reached home before the 7 am radio news podcast, because once he had heard the news he didn't quite feel like reading about it in the papers."
Santosh Desai, chief executive officer, managing director, Future Brands, conceded with Nagpal, and added, "It is the original content that is valued. One has to create an aggregation of sites that meet with the reader's expectations."
Desai also touched upon the anxiety borne due to the influx of digital in media. He said, "Although the anxiety is understandable, one should not forget that new modifies the old and creates new expectations. What has existed for so long has a good enough reason for doing so well, it is unlikely to die so soon." But he did not deny the possibility of engagement through newer ways.
The next session focussed on sports viewership and discussed whether the Indian viewer has moved beyond cricket. On the lack of more visibility to sports other than cricket, Satish Menon, chief executive officer, Sport 18, said, "You can't really blame either the broadcaster or the sponsors for this. There's a gestation period for every sport. Cricket has been in this country long enough to be able to oust the popularity of any other sport. However, government investments might help boost the sport economy overall. But it is largely an infrastructure issue so you can't put the broadcaster against the sponsor in this case, or vice versa."
Menon added that a lot of schools in Mumbai have exceptionally good football teams but the players realise (later) that there's no future and no money in this game, in this country, and back off.
To conclude, Anil Singh, managing director, Procam International, said, "We had an opportunity to create legacy with Commonwealth Games and we totally blew it off. What we need is for people to become promoters of sports and not indulge into another round of blame game."
In the session on ethics, censorship and PR (public relations), Arnab Goswami, executive editor, Times Television, highlighted his grave concern on the increasing dependence of journalists on PR to get news. He said, "Media is becoming too close to the establishment, too close to its source, to be able to do an honest story now." But on the question of censorship he said that the industry has done a fairly good job of self-regulation.
G Chandrashekhar, editor, The Hindu Business Line, agreed with Goswami on the former front and stated, "Newspapers are certainly under a lot of pressure from PRs."
Chandrashekhar ended the discussion by making a remark on the trend in consumption of newspapers in the country and said, "Newspaper consumption follows the sun, it is rising in the East and setting in the West!"