Day one of Tv.Nxt 2014 organised by Afaqs saw Anupama Mandloi, MD, Fremantle India; Sanjay Gupta, COO, Star India; Raj Nayak, CEO, Colors; Nachiket Pantvaidya, senior EVP and business head, Sony Entertainment; and Sameer Nair, group CEO, Balaji Telefilms discuss opportunities beyond TV screens. John Medeiros, chief policy officer, CASBAA, moderated the session.
Mandloi started off by talking about engagement models online, in the context of her production company, Fremantle. She said, “Because of being a global company we own rights to some formats which help us to monetise the digital aspects effectively. We have created an ecosystem for shows which allow us to feed back into the shows. Take Swedish Idol for instance. Most of such international shows are live galas and the tea breaks during these events are used by the contestants and judges to tweet and post on Facebook and interact with the entire online community. Once the show is over, it’s the online community which takes the entire chat forward which feeds back into the show come next episode. It is actually a huge interactive game that we have invested in big time across different parts of the globe. In India, this is only beginning to happen and it will take time as the online community is waiting for us to provide content which allows us to bring them as part of the engagement.”
Digital platform - marketing or engagement tool?
Asked how Colors was utilising the online space, Nayak responded, “We as broadcasters in India haven’t really used the digital medium enough. We keep asking ourselves if we’re future ready and I want to look at this from a consumer’s point of view. Some years ago we had Orkut, now that’s gone. Then came Facebook and there were these requests for Farmville which now have changed to that of Candy Crush. What is ‘future ready’ if the future is evolving rapidly? We have to embrace the ‘here’ and ‘now’. We are always speaking of the future and not embracing what we need to do today. As broadcasters we speak about the digital platform, and today our biggest competitor is YouTube. And all of us broadcasters end up providing our content to YouTube after having to spend Rs 700 crore or 800 crore on content. We have to ask ourselves, as broadcasters, are we very very serious about digital content.”
On the channel he helms, Colors, Nayak revealed that the focus on digital media (a ‘conscious effort’ in an ‘evolved way’) had come about only in the last three years.
“Earlier it was the programming head who decided what the audience will watch. Now it is the consumer who is deciding what he/she wants to watch and when they want to watch it and the device they want to watch it on. Right now what we are doing is taking the same content and trying to distribute it through different delivery platforms. We don’t look at it as a marketing platform and we should think about how do we reach more people, including getting audiences from Twitter or Facebook to land on our digital presence. The objective is to seriously build the digital platform as we believe that that’s the future,” elaborated Nayak.
Discovering new content
Sanjay Gupta was up next. He reasoned that broadcasters are not about television per se, and said, “It just happens to be that people have been consuming content through their television screens. We see ourselves as story tellers. We are in the business of creating characters that people relate with. As content creators, we need to focus on how to do our jobs really really well and then open up to screens beyond television.”
He mentioned that in India, a person consumes content over TV for roughly three hours a day, which in developed markets is around six to seven hours. He credited this to a TV in each room of the house, unlike in India which is largely a single-TV household market. He noted that the industry is poised for growth as the demand for content, across viewing platforms, is increasing.
Gupta added that there has been no real effort by operators to make content easily discoverable for the consumer – with the exception of YouTube, which has made efforts to provide content and monetise it.
Medeiros brought attention to changing consumer loyalties. He said, “The consumer loyalty to TV is dying and consumer loyalty is only for the programmes. You have to be able to discover a programme and that is where YouTube plays an important role.”
Pantvaidya noted that it’s a question of deciding between developing the expertise to monetise the business or outsource the function. He also pointed out that broadcasters are yet to fully understand the culture of consumption habits of the Indian audienc, contending that that the industry currently operates with a one-size-fits-all model. Pantvaidya elaborated saying it isn’t necessary that audiences would flock to a hit TV show on the digital platform. The pattern of consumption on TV, he said, does not need to match that on digital platforms.
Nair noted that broadcasters have ended up choosing the easy way out by not developing the expertise needed to monetise digital platforms. The digital market being highly undervalued makes it difficult for broadcasters to develop relevant expertise, he contended.
He added, “Every time a new technology comes up, it feeds off what exists. All of this online business is feeding off of what already exists which helps to build scale. Once that scale is built, the content providers realise the importance of the new platform. Most production houses do not own the IP of the content we produce, so the online business is regarded as a brand new opportunity to reach consumers. So it’s like a direct-to-consumer business to us, which is improving. But at this point in time, online business is highly undervalued.”
While Gupta discussed piracy and how that is a bigger threat than not having a thoroughly developed strategy, Pantvaidya highlighted that it was essential to understand consumption habits of Indian consumers. They, he said, do not like to consume ‘second hand’ content.
By ‘second hand’, he referred to content being picked up from TV and distributed through a digital platform. Which, ironically, is the mainstay of TV content on digital media today.