Disney's Bird stresses importance of non linear content

MUMBAI: One of the media conglomerates looking at India in a major way is Disney. Walt Disney International president Andy Bird spoke on the importance of compelling content as well as the increasing importance of non linear content.


" Linear content is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Finding Nemo is not just available on DVD but also on wireless, Internet. Content creators need to identify multiple consumer touch points. We see a huge opportunity in the Indian animation arena, which is valued at $1 billion. This segment will grow in India at 30 per cent. Besides film and television animation the industry also needs to focus on other areas of the field like games, advertising, music videos, mobile content. India represents a huge opportunity as you'll have 340 million children below the age of 15.

"60 per cent of your population is below the age of 34. The entertainment sector is experiencing multifaceted growth. The challenge is that while the number of television channels has exploded into three figures just 43 per cent of Indian households are currently being tapped."

He went on to add that Disney's job was to tell the best story. Right now, while no direct plans for launching the channel has been put in place, the Disney team at Frames is examining the market and the opportunities. Bird noted that Disney had been providing programmes to the pubcaster Doordarshan for a decade now. Its joint venture ESPN Star Sports now reaches 23 million homes. It has over 50 licensees in the country for its toys and other merchandise.

"The advantage of an emerging market like India is that state of the art technology is implemented straightaway. You do not have to replace old legacy infrastructure systems. One attitudinal change is that the current generation wants all the cool stuff. There is an inbuilt redundancy that they are used to and the good news is that as technology moves forward the prices will keep falling. The challenge is to continuously create compelling and innovative content."

Taking a different direction was Nielsen Media research International CEO Robert L McCann. While viewing research as a tool for driving growth for broadcasters and advertisers, he said that one of the major challenges facing the company is the increasingly fragmented market especially in the US. 

"We need to target finer slices of information. 40 per cent of all shows get a rating of 0.2 due to this problem. The good news is that research technology is getting cheaper going forward," he said.

Presenting a contrast between the Indian and US landscapes, McCann noted that VCR penetration in India is a mere three per cent. In the US it is as high as 91 per cent. While all US homes have colour televisions, in India only half the urban populace has them. Remote control penetration has similar number in the US, while in India it is just 32 per cent. This will naturally have an effect on the impact of the advertiser. Cable and satellite penetration is 63 per cent for the urban areas while television penetration is higher at 76 per cent.

He said that the Internet had not affected the amount of television people were watching in the US which is around 29 hours a week. However people do not watch more than 15 channels. This number has stayed constant over the past 15 years regardless of channel increase. 

Saturation can thus be expected. With increased fragmentation the share of broadcast networks NBC, ABC and CBS have fallen to below 40 per cent. He also emphasised the increasingly important role of personal video recorders. Right now it is available in 3.2 million homes in the US. This figure is expected to go up to over 20 million in 2006.

"This presents a problem for the advertisers and broadcasters. PVRs allow viewers to zap commercials. Today though broadcasters are realising the value of product placement in their shows. Lower subscription rates coupled with easy installation will increase the popularity of PVRs. Another feature of the PVR is that it allows for pausing and then replaying live content. What we found is that 75 per cent of content that is replayed is done so that same day. This way the message of the advertiser is still relevant."

He also touched upon the issue of reality television. " The jury is out on whether it can save the broadcast networks. The fact of the matter however is that not all reality content works. The Next Joe Millionaire failed to replicate the success of the original. While reality shows are cheap to make the problem for the syndicate networks is that there is no sign that there are many residual benefits."

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