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Building the ecosystem for engaging 1 billion consumers

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MUMBAI: Creativity, technology and right regulation will set the tone for engaging a billion consumers in India?s changing media and entertainment landscape.

Television broadcasters need to imbibe an important mindset change as they address diverse audiences. Says Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel) MD and CEO Punit Goenka, "The industry has only just begun to take baby steps in the creation of content for a diverse audience and has a long way to go. Fragmentation of audience is the order of the day. It is time we stop seeing ourselves as broadcasters and instead consider ourselves as content creators and aggregators.?

Even print publishers, under threat in the matured markets from digital media, will have to sharpen their connect with audiences. Says Bennett & Coleman, CEO publishing Ravi Dhariwal, "The trick is to recognise and capture small audiences and then retain and nurture them. For this, we have a creative team that has the full freedom to experiment and come up with engaging ideas and a marketing team that understands the consumers and acts as the bridge between the creative team and the target audience. What is really crucial is the sync between the marketing team and the creative minds.?

Others participating at Ficci Frames in a session on "How to engage a billion consumers in the media and entertainment landscape" were Disney UTV MD Studios Siddharth Roy Kapur, Viacom 18 Media group CEO Sudhanshu Vats, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific senior VP and GM India Rahul Johri and Twitter Inc head of global operations Shailesh Rao. The session was moderated by Star India CEO Uday Shankar.

The panel discussed and debated on how a balance among the three three pillars of creativity, technology and regulation could lead to an effective mechanism for capitalizing on the one billion population plus of the country. The panel also discussed on the emergence of new media as a means of providing a thrust to the M&E industry in terms of reach and effectiveness. Everyone agreed though that reaching a billion consumers is a double edged sword that presents a challenge as well as an opportunity.

The discussion also touched upon the fact that India is a diverse country with various nuances to its cultural, social and economic fabric. Is the media and entertainment industry of the country ready to cater to an audience so diverse in its constitution?

Vats optimistically said, ?The key to sustaining in such a diverse environment is to sharply segment the audience and target it. We are already doing so in many of our practices, but we need to do it more and more in the days to come.?

Vats and Goenka, however, agreed that the mega consumer trend is fast catching on. We now see the evolution of the ?I? consumer that demands customised content to better suit his individuality as opposed to the ?We? consumer who is satisfied with mass content. The presence of multiple screens ? whether it is more than one television set at home, or one person accessing multimedia like tablets, laptops, smartphones etc. ? is here to stay. This, in fact, will provide opportunity to reach more consumers and customise content accordingly.

Roy Kapoor stressed on the fact that in case of movies, it is the creativity that has managed to increase the reach of the cinema. He cited the example of the nineties when pan India hits had become rarer by the day owing to the fact that regional audiences ceased to relate to the movies anymore. With the advent of digitsation of movies at the turn of the century, parallel movies and hardcore commercial cinema have begun to co-exist and, in fact, be accessed by the same consumer.

?In my view, the challenege as far as cinema is concerned is the infrastructure, or the lack of it. We are a country that has a very low screen density and this hampers the reach to a large extent,? he said. In his opinion, the trick is to expand the footprint and grow as an industry. He suggested three ways to do so ? ensure content syndication on theatrical and non theatrical platforms, use the smaller screen to get content distributed and explore new markets to encourage people to watch movies legitimately.

According to Johri, localisation will drive the industry to grow exponentially and involve a billion consumers through multiple interfaces.

Rao stressed that technology can help in increasing reach - as is obvious when new media platforms like Twitter are used to service the business and not for technology sake. ?It is important to match the creativity of the medium with the audience. TV and print have been Push mediums and new media gives the opportunity to talk to the audience that can go a long way in reaching out to more people.?

The panel agreed that regulation in various media needs to be looked at as more often than not, it has been found to discourage the growth of the medium.

Further, Vats pointed out that the media and entertainment industry is an essentially consumer centric arena, but business and revenue models are still predominantly B2B. ?So instead of setting the pricing according to what the market can pay, we set the pricing according to our business model and targets,? he said.

In case of cinema, Roy Kapoor feels that capitalising on the non theatrical platform could be a good option. ?The non theatrical platform benefits from the marketing carried out for the theatrical platform. We are still not at a stage when movies can be exclusively carried on non theatrical platforms as then they would miss out on the hype that those released on theatrical platform have.?

At the end of it, the panel almost unanimously believed that while creativity and technology are proving to be boons for the growth of the media and entertainment industry and helping it inch towards reaching a billion consumers, the regulation bit needs to be worked on to smoothen the process.

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