'Crystal gazing in the era of Gadgets and Gadgeteers' -Colors CEO Rajesh Kamat

MUMBAI: I have a vivid recollection of that day in 1983, when a colour TV came into our house. The entire neighbourhood knew; there was special dinner; and a list of special invitees saw the Delhi Asian Games, in colour, with the family, in the comfort of our living room.

The years that followed are a bit of a blur. Almost like we‘ve led life in fast forward mode. The VCR seemed like freedom, the cable operators ran our lives. eight channel TV‘s got upgraded, Plasma became obsolete and DTH became a reality.

Fast forward to January 2010. And this New Year article is dedicated to crystal gazing the challenges and opportunities that come with a new generation of television watchers and their gadgets. I forecast four significant changes in the future.

In the short and medium term, I see two trends.
First a viewer who‘s being exposed to world class production standards and who‘s upgrading to LCD and HD. Transmission quality and Cable woes are slowly being stomped out by digitization. It‘s time to start waking to the reality of this customer in the way we build our content. His tribe will only grow.

Second this "High-Definition Tribe" is actually symptomatic of changes that are far deeper. Changes in the way we distribute and in the way we access TV. Digitisation will yield choice. It gives the viewer a "real" option to buy what he wants to watch. It will make niche content viable and mass content work harder.

My third forecast lies in the slightly longer term: Convergence. TV, the computer and telephony converging onto the same device. On the face of it, this can be only but good news. It appears to roll back the years TV lost out to viewers who suddenly discovered entertainment options outside their homes. But just below the surface lies a serious set of challenges.

TV‘s greatest friend soon is its greatest competition. Because not only will the internet constantly churn entertainment options, but it will also continuously redefine the benchmarks on interface and interactivity. Now these are challenges, we possibly haven‘t even begun to think about. After all, the internet is all but a young boy celebrating 50 million people. And broadband is a baby in comparison. We can‘t be wrong then in saying IPTV is only but a fashionable thing to write about. I urge you to reconsider.

But the story doesn‘t end here, does it? My 4th guesstimate is already a reality waiting to hit our shores: DVR technology. A reality in the western world. American‘s are increasingly choosing to skip advertising even at the cost of differed viewing. Actually research shows, even time shifting is a real phenomenon. And sitting in India, we‘re only a few leaps in infrastructure away from this reality. 

So what does this mean? We may well be running our lives smarter and more competitive in 2010. But not really differently. I urge you to sit up and strain your ear to that faint rumbling that‘s going to be a storm. What seems like a future possibility now will soon be a generation chasm.

In the short term, young gadgeteers will demand better viewing experience, interactivity and "real choice". In the medium term, these young gadgeteers will yield more mass audiences that are internet enabled. Distribution platforms and revenue sources will be rethought. And content will be even more pressured to be led by careful segmentation and preferences. In the long term, at the very least, viewers will be self generating, toggling and searching content. But that story, I will leave for my year ender in 2019 (or much sooner).

Let 2010 be the year we acknowledge the inevitability of the future.

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