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Government & private initiatives required to achieve ambitious goal of Digital India

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MUMBAI: According to Akamai?s 2015 Asia Pacific Survey, India had the lowest average broadband speeds of 2.5 Mbps. As 3G speeds increase and 4G adoption is still nascent; the quality of internet access and affordability in terms of data tariffs and on 3G/4G enabled devices continue to remain a challenge to deliver consumer value. On the regulatory side, there have been a lot of discussions on net neutrality and licensing of OTT services. These will have a significant impact on how digital media evolves in the future.

Sony Pictures Networks India Pvt Ltd. head - marketing & analytics, digital business Abhishek Joshi strongly believes that content is where you stream it and the government has the a say in it. ?The OTT industry has graduated from the innovators stage to the early adopters stage within the innovation diffusion curve, based on distinguished product strategies by players in the market. However to cross the chasm to gain the majority market, policy makers will have to play a very big role. Infrastructure and regulatory policies are going to be the biggest differentiators for industry growth for the next 18 months.?

While on the other hand, Ping Networks co-founder Rajeshree Naik is of the opinion that the government should not play any role in an individual?sprivacy. ?That is a grey area. The government should rather focus on the infrastructure, companies coming up, partnerships, investments, etc rather than on content. Infrastructure does not bother pay because I know it is going to get better soon. The thing that scares me are the two terms related to digital i.e. no censorship and payment methods. Though, the beauty of digital is having no regulations, collective responsibility is to be taken ensuring that the government stays away.?

Supporting Joshi on government interference was VOOT head, marketing and partnerships Akash Banerji. ?Short form of content is not the solution. ?These are early days for OTT in India. Players are either following the AVOD or SVOD model today. Both are profitable but for now what concerns me about the SVOD model is that why should a consumer pay for subscription when he is already paying a lot for mobile data. ?

Banerji adds, ?There also is limitation of vast content on platforms. 80-90 percent of content is with the top players and a minuscule number of hours of great quality content is curated. For a new entrant for eg VOOT, it is difficult to drive money immediately after it rolled out.?

Whereas Joshi thinks that even the consumers are not inclined to pay. ?There is no inclination to pay. They will pay for content that has some value for them. They want quality content, expect HD, streamless service, etc.?

Hungama.com COO Siddharth Roy opined that transactions have worked. ?There is massive copyright infringement. The government needs to have a robust and strong IPR. Branded entertainment is the driver of this entire eco-system. Branded IP makes money.?

?Value comes from the content and the way it is consumed. The business needs a lot of clarity. Government and all the players should work together to come to a concrete conclusion. In the end, crows is the king,? asserts Banerji.

Naik believes that videos and original content will co-exist and that content will keep evolving.

With global players like Netflix and Amazon Prime in India, the players present in the panel are looking forward to the global entrants. ?If Netflix is a success in India, the creators will have more chance to put their content on the digital platforms. It is investing plenty on producing original content here and will be a good example. Viewers will love to pay for quality content that can entertain them.?

Joshi is also excited with the entry of this global player and India and thinks that it is only going to be good for the business.

Sharing his thoughts on the future of India?s burgeoning digital market, Technicolor's country head for India Biren Ghose, in his valedictory remarks, said, ?Content is assuming new life in the emerging digital economy. Technology enables innovations in imagery that could hitherto neither be produced nor consumed. FICCI and LA India Film Council need to be complimented on encouraging the conversation for the Indian agenda in this space.?

Panelists at FICCI Knowledge Series 2016 for the Regulatory and Infrastructural Challenges for Digital Media, concluded that a combination of government and private initiatives would need to be rolled out to achieve the ambitious goal of a truly Digital India.

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