MIPCOM 2014: Best time to invest in India, say Indian media barons

CANNES: Indian content market is going through an exciting phase, and putting the scenario upfront to the world, through one of the biggest stages at the ongoing MIPCOM 2014 was the India panel which comprised of Colors CEO Raj Nayak, Balaji Telefilms group CEO Sameer Nair, Rajshri Entertainment managing director and CEO Rajjat Barjatya and online video expert and ex-head of YouTube content south/south east Asia Amit Agrawal. The session on ‘New business strategies from India’ was moderated by PwC global leader, entertainment and media Fenez Marcel.


Setting the stage for some heated discussion was Nayak when he highlighted one of the biggest issues the country faces: lack of broadband. “Lack of connectivity is an issue. If the experience of watching becomes smooth, it will be a game changer,” he said.


Comparing the online market in India with that of the world, Agrawal said that the Indian market has both traditional medium and online play “and both are very strong,” he informed adding that this meant huge opportunity to tap into.  


Agrawal went on to say that while India consumes a lot of content online, almost 30-40 per cent of this content is not made in India. “That’s a huge chunk. I am seeing an emergence of micro-communities with technology. This will enable the content producer to tackle the right community. It will happen and very soon, may be in the next 12-18 months,” he stressed.


There is too much of fragmentation in the country, currently. Mentioning the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's regulation about ad-cap for pay TV, Nayak said, “Once this happens, the supply and demand ratio will change. This will also help in the yield going up, because the demand will go up. We have to come at a point where the FTA channels will carry advertising with no limitations, pay channels which will have 10+2 advertising and very premium channels will have no advertising.”


Barjatya who wears the hat of both traditional movie maker and digital feels that India is at a cusp of digital revolution. “For me the opportunity is to reach the global audience, especially through mobile. Traditional media rules cannot be applied on mobile,” he said.  


The YouTube journey in India started with traditional media content that was distributed to audience which was moving away from traditional media. “But now, over the last one and a half years, I see so many online channels coming up on comedy, food, music, news, tech bloggers have all come up,” informed Agrawal.  


With a contradicting viewpoint, Nayak said that YouTube is the biggest competitor to the broadcaster. And that it is due to this, that the broadcaster, since the last month, has taken its hit show Comedy Nights with Kapil off YouTube. “I am a big believer of digital media and I feel it is the future, but I also feel that it will co-exist with television and they will grow parallel.”


Viacom itself is looking at a lot of short formats. “But the problem is that unless broadband issue is not addressed, monetisation will remain a huge problem. If you look at the money, YouTube does Rs 500-600 crore business from India, where television is a Rs 7000 crore business, so the numbers are small and that will not grow until and unless the bandwidth issues are addressed,” said Nayak.


Nayak believes that no one in India has so far mastered the art of monetising content on the digital media, social media the way it should be, given its increasing reach and targeting abilities.. 


"Monetisation will happen with broadband and hopefully this should be resolved with the rollout of 4G,” he added.


The panel also put forth its wish list for the new government formed under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to Nair regulation for content already exists, which is beneficial to the whole industry. Highlighting PM Narendra Modi’s ‘come make in India’ campaign, he said that the government is giving open invitation for people to come to India. “As for Raj’s point that producers in India are not partnering with broadcasters and thus not sharing risks, we are looking at that very seriously and are encouraging everyone else to do it. If there is a risk-reward mechanism, everyone can benefit,” explained Nair.  

As for Nayak, keeping in mind the dynamic & tech-savvy PM the country currently has, who understands the power of the Digital media, connectivity and broadband will get addressed in a much faster footing.  Given that electricity is still erratic in rural India, people will communicate and consume content through mobile phones. “I would ask him to release spectrum because that’s a big issue that’s coming in the way of growing business. Another thing that I would request  is complete implementation of the digitisation, process which is expected to be over by 2016 . He further added that broadcasters are not getting their fair share of subscription revenue and this can only happen once the digitisation process is complete and all stakeholders start seeing the benefits," he said.


Barjatya’s wish list consists of wiring up India and encouraging Indian entrepreneurs to have a global outlook rather than be restricted to Indian audiences alone. “We need to appeal to the audience outside of India,” he said.


For Agrawal, the government should remove hurdles. “Out of all the YouTube content that we produce, more than 70 per cent of the viewership for programme comes from global audiences. We haven’t done a great job in marketing ourselves and make people aware of the country,” he added.


Nayak is hoping for a dynamic change in the media industry, with the new PM.   


The discussion also touched upon the consumer behaviour in the country.  “We see a lot of consumption happening on handheld devices. When we began, 10 per cent of our views were from handheld devices, today it is almost 50-50 and that number is higher in India than in the rest of the world. India’s next billion people will access internet on mobile, and will not know about PCs,” opined Barjatya.


Agreeing to this, Nayak said that the reason it will happen is because for mobile, one doesn’t need electricity. “We have 160 million homes and 900 million handheld devices right now, which is expected to go up to 1.5 billion handsets. So the explosion is happening. Power will take a lot of time to be addressed, but if you have internet, you can consume content,” he informed.


Nair classified the audiences and the programmes being made. He said, “The television industry currently is programming for newer audiences who are more into household dramas. Then there are also those who have already lived through all this and are now looking for more. The audience is evolving. There will be more niche channels.”  


All the panelists felt that this is the best time to invest in India. “In India, people are ready to match dollar to dollar. And we are ready to put the money where our mouth is,” announced Nair.  


Concluding the session with one advice to entrants in the market, Nair said, “It is important to be patient. We are still at the ground floor, but we can build."

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