“We have to drive BARC to measure outside of TV, on different screens”: Sudhanshu Vats

NEW DELHI: Mobile phones today define the life of the youth. Kids watch all kinds of programmes, sometimes on TV and sometimes not on TV. And this, according to CII chairman national committee on media and entertainment and group CEO Viacom 18 Media Sudhanshu Vats, is not an urban phenomena but an Indian one. The consumers are moving fast, but the question currently is if the regulator and the regulations are moving fast enough?

Reflecting his thoughts on consumer behavior at the recently concluded CII Big Picture Summit 2014, Vats said that the industry hasn’t made much progress in the area. Talking sector wise in the media and entertainment sector he first spoke of radio. “Today private news is splashed across print, television, internet and then there is news available through tweets and other formats on mobile, but private news is still not available on the radio,” he informed. Through the forum he appealed to the Information and Broadcasting  Minister Prakash Javadekar (I&B) to take this into account during the phase III of FM.

In the film sector, Vats informed that the number of screens that China has is three times the number that India has. Not only this, while the biggest film in India is close to $50 million, the biggest local Chinese film is close to about $150 dollars today. And Hollywood films tend to be bigger. “There is a need to reduce taxation in ticketing and entertainment. If this happens, we will expand volumes and if volumes expand, we will grow in this country, giving a boost to films which are the best ambassadors of our culture. Both in India and abroad,” he said.

The third sector he spoke about was events, which currently are not much spoken about. “This can become a hotspot for tourism. Single window clearance is needed,” he added.

Vats also touched upon the most talked about issue of digitisation. “There is a need to look at digitisation holistically and take strides firmly in one direction. What is happening is that in phase I and phase II, we have done something and not done something. Addressability is still not there. The entire start-stop is not helping,” he opined.

According to Vats, this new India needs new thinking and it needs new rules and principle. “The time for this is ‘now.’ “We are open to looking at this, but we need to make radical, important strides,” he said while putting forth four new principles to address this new thinking.

The first is the consumer or viewer. “We need to start the story with the viewer. We need to realise that media and entertainment industry is a consumer industry. The question is:  are our regulations or business models tailored to consumers? The answer is no,” he said.

The second principle that he stressed upon was on collaboration. “It is extremely important that we start collaborating, both within the industry and by the government with the industry in India and other countries as well.”

Measurement was the third principle he highlighted. “This aspect is extremely important as audience and viewer is moving very fast. Are we being able to measure it the way we want to, currently the answer is no. But the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, which is a joint industry body, is the first step in this area. We have to see how we drive it further so that BARC measures outside of television; on different screens and how it is there for other media as we move forward from the point of view of measurement,” Vats said.

The final principle that he spoke of was capacity. This refers to human capacity and talent. “Are we recognising media and entertainment as a serious industry? Are we developing it as a curriculum which can be brought about, at least in high schools, so that we start facilitating some of the work which happens. So human capacity building and physical infrastructure capacity building like broadband, digital cable etc needs to be worked upon,” he informed.

According to Vats, a few years down the line, the distinction between the creator and the consumer will narrow down. Not just this, different sectors of media and entertainment will come together. “Converged India will thrive in a connected world,” he opined.

India is bubbling with creativity and we can pride ourselves in freedom of thought. “Let’s create in India for the world, make in India, show the world,” concluded Vats.  

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