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Television…. will remain eternal

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MUMBAI: Television will continue to be a dominant medium notwithstanding the emergence of new means of consuming content. New mediums of content delivery are likely to change viewing habits, but more importantly are likely to increase the time spent on watching the stories that are delivered and also provide more opportunities to content creators.

Rather than fragment television viewership, new mediums of content delivery would open up new opportunities for content creators as well as platform providers.

To drive home this message, India’s largest broadcaster Star India COO Sanjay Gupta pointed out that 10 years ago the topic of discussion was that newspapers are dead. The fact is that in the last 10 years the size of the newspaper industry has doubled.

The topic now is ‘Television is Dead’ but like the newspaper industry television will continue to grow, said Gupta, participating in a panel discussion on “Television is Dead – Long Live Television” on the second day of FICCI Frames 2014.

Fundamentally, new mediums provide new avenues to carry content and to tell stories, Gupta said underlining that there will be greater opportunities with the digital medium opening up.

IndiaCast Media Distribution Group CEO Anuj Gandhi said, “Fundamentally, we as a nation are a daily soap market. In India daily soaps sell.”

IndiaCast distributes a multitude of content but in the global markets it has found demand for its serial 24, based on an American thriller series in a real-time format, and not for the Indian staple daily soaps. IndiaCast is mandated to drive domestic and international channel distribution, placement services and content syndication for TV18 Broadcast, Viacom18 and A+E Networks I TV18.

Celestial Tiger Entertainment CEO Todd Miller echoed the prevalent view. He said, “It is still the living room that is the bulk of our business.” Celestial Tiger is a Hong Kong-based diversified media company that focuses on Asian consumers.

TELEVISION TO TRANSFORM

Television as a medium is expected to undergo a transformation from being a linear gadget to a multi-functional smart device. The reinvention of television will allow it to not only survive but blossom despite the onslaught of new mediums of content delivery.

Effective use of the mobile as a means of content delivery is still a distant given the bandwidth constraints. “For me the biggest challenge is bandwidth. 3G and 4G will change consuming patterns. It will still be sports and news that will be largely consumed on mobiles,” said IndiaCast’s Gandhi.

There have been so far no serious efforts at making differentiated content. With 3G and 4G, there would be real efforts at making meaningful content.

Star India’s Gupta said Star Sports’ tie-up with Vodafone has shown there is deep desire among consumers to view content on mobile, even though not at huge costs but by spending smaller amounts.

 “Millions are coming in to check content on Vodafone. They may not want to spend in small amounts,” Gupta said.

Consumers will seek more and more stories, different stories with the rise of the digital medium of content delivery.  The broadcasters as they now exist and the new means of content delivery and the new content creators would be collaborating rather than working at cross-purposes.

IndiCast’s Gandhi reiterated that TV Everywhere in the digital era will still remain largely confined to shorter duration content.

CHANGING DYNAMICS

Almost 50 per cent of Olympics was watched on mobile. This suggests there is great opportunity to deliver what the consumer wants.

“We can’t wish it away. Dynamics are changing fast. The distinction between the content creators and platforms is blurring,” said Gupta.

Industry players expect disruptions to happen but are wary as history shows an outsider has most of the time been the disruptive force.

New mediums will provide new platforms for content. The broadcasters may go downstream to business to consumer model and the distributors may move up the chain to be the content producers.

In the US, the average time spent watching television is six hours. In India the average time spent is three hours and the new mediums are seeing an increase in the time spent watching television content.

Celestial Tiger’s Miller said, “Most of the innovation that comes is from Telcos and DTH.”

Media Partners Asia executive director Vivek Couto, anchoring the panel discussion, said, “Precedents have already been set for digital deals in the US.”

Gupta, however, said the cap on prices of television content is hindering creation of quality content. “People are willing to spend. We have 2.5 million HD customers, which is likely to rise to 8 million by the end of this year,” he said.

The whole ecosystem of story-telling is set for a transformation aided by improved delivery platforms and more creative content creation, and a dominant part of the viewership would still be on television.

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