The state of Media and Entertainment sector in India – 2011

My 5 takeouts from FICCI Frames – 2011

FICCI Frames, the gathering of the who’s-who of Indian Media and Entertainment industry has become an annual ritual for the industry. Despite all the platitudes that get spoken by everyone, and the poor representation of many of the key constituents (Newspapers, Mobile content providers, MSOs and online publishers, who are conspicuous by their absence), the sessions still betray the state of mind of the industry and there is enough to take back home to chew on.

My five takeouts from FICCI Frames of March 2011 on the state of India Media is:–

  1. There is a greater acceptance of digital platforms now– Most presenters/ panelist seemed to have an internet, social media and a mobile strategy for their business. In contrast, last year there were senior people from TV/ movie/ music business sitting on panels shedding tears and almost asking the audiences –‘please tell us how can we make more money from you… someone, anyone, please tell us’. It was a bit pathetic, but this year they seemed to have swung to the other end where everyone seemed to have a plan, and ‘monetization’ almost didn’t get enough airtime. Though only time will tell how good these plans are, but the encouraging thing is that people seem busy maneuvering the new landscape and looking for solutions rather then sitting and and just crying.
  2. Music industry refuses to evolve – Any industry that looks upon people as thieves (pirates) and not as consumers is bound to have a tough time. For music industry to be the biggest losers in an environment which is most favorable to their product distribution and consumption is the surprising fact that we have all known now of a while, but they still have no solutions in sight. While cost of everything digital is falling down, the cost of music CDs seems to hold onto a level that dosent make any sense to anyone except the music labels. For telcos to become the biggest vendor of music, and thus to wield control on pricing and distribution is one of the larger nails in music industries coffin. A new equilibrium has been created with the Telcos which the music industry is again scared to touch. Like every year, this year too there were music representatives sitting on panels and screaming their lungs out at piracy, and how new technology is not helping them grow. I am not sure who were these are pleas directed to – the audiences who were sitting there shaking their head in pity and/or amusement, or the govt who is busy handling some scam and natural disaster, or to their peers who are all waiting for one less competitor in the ecosystem?
  3. The industry lacks well trained talent – There is a lot of passion in the industry, but very poor training. There may be some natural talent in people who gravitate to the sector, but most people have had poor professional and technical inputs and thus they are not the world class creative talent which everyone seems to be searching for. The result is that the industry is run by passionate but poorly trained people, or really educated people, like the new breed of MBAs and geeks lining up to get into the sector, but who have no creative bent of mind to help with the process. The result is an industry whose only claim to fame is the numbers – number of movies products, number of TV channels, number of subscribers etc. There is no talk or quality and not enough profits to report. As a result of this, audiences suffer poor scripts, inane TV shows, undifferentiated content , poor journalism, poor media ethics – not the best recipe for growth. But who will train talent? Surely not the Govt given its priorities. The onus is on the industry, which is stuck in a catch-22 situation – cant invest time or money in training since they are busy struggling for survival, and they wont grow strongly unless they spend resources on talent.
  4. Govt intervention is misguided – Governments intentions may be sincere, but it suffers from its limitations. Being true to its democratic foundation it is bound to give weightage to the ‘majority’ view and this often results in policy that does more harm than good for the industry. E.g. if it introduces the of policy of digitization for TV broadcasting, the large number (the Majority) of cable operators/ DTH companies will squeal about the high cost of infrastructure upgrade, while the smaller number (thus minority) of content creators will be happy since they may be able to make some money off their content (and maybe even invest more in beter quality content). But, since the government would rather make the majority happy due to its democratic compulsions, the content owners will find it tough to make progress with the Govt. To top it all up, the revenue growth of TV sector is further constrained by TRAI’s proposal of capping of the monthly cable bill. How does TV broadcasting become an essential good isn’t clear to anyone. In summary, anything that the Govt touches will turn to disaster, even with its most well intentioned actions!
  5. Convergence has happened with unexpected results – There is now a convergence of not just hardware Platform but also the software platforms and business models. Gaming companies are now in the business of analytics (the domain of online search engines) since they need to sell advertising on their free games, DTH operators are getting into the business of gaming due to their reach and set top box (and may soon give gaming consoles a run for their money, they just need to add some processing power to the set-top box), Music companies are making most of their revenues from the telecom partners, TV broadcasters is getting in the business of retaling (with home shopping networks), Consumer brands brands are influencing the kind of TV shows should be made (so that they can reach out to the TG they can sell more soap/ shampoo too), Telecom companies are becoming media conglomerates with media revenues higher than most traditional media companies. The key to survival in this mutating and complex environment is to stay on your toes and to keep trying new ideas. Innovation isn’t just about growth, its about survival now.

SRK and Hugh Jackman - at Ficci Frames

And on the third day, as the last thing on the agenda, there appeared SRK and Hugh Jackman and the world faded away in front of their brilliance and wit. Seeing them on the stage was like spotting the apex predator in a jungle, sitting comfortably there at the pinnacle of the media and entertainment food chain, totally at ease with a million eyes on them. They sat chatting and entertaining everyone, while the rest of the media and entertainment machinery sat as the audience, getting their few laughs before each of them (me included) would have to get back to work to  figure out their survival strategies in the media and entertainment jungle.

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  1. Tapety HD says:

    Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

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