Debate on for digital India stack consensus: Sudhanshu Vats

MUMBAI: Viacom18 group CEO Sudhanshu Vats is of the opinion that net neutrality is essential for the evolution of society but firmly believes that illegal and pirated content can’t be made available to all in the name of net neutrality.

Vats, who also happens to be the present chairman of BARC India, said that the ratings organisation has made a solid beginning but will have to iron out some glitches (like niche channels’ measurements) as it continues to evolve and that the rollout of digital measurement would depend on how soon the industry stakeholders bring themselves on the same page on issues under debate, including formation of an Indian stack for benchmarking digital data.

“Net neutrality is essential and the net should be as neutral as possible because that’s in the best interest of a functional democracy,” Vats told in an interview, adding, “My view is clear: illegal content should not be made available but then enforcement is not always that easy.”

Viacom18, which spans businesses such as film production and distribution of content on TV and digital space, has been working extensively and intensively on anti-piracy issues along with the Indian government and other media companies in recent times.

Elaborating on his views on tackling the menace of video and content piracy, which is becoming a headache for content owners globally, Vats said, “At times, consumers too are not clear on legal and illegal content… (and) in my view piracy should be tackled through a three-pronged approach of legislation, enforcement and consumer awareness.”

Making a case for introducing economic disincentives for arresting flourishing piracy, Vats added that if content was made available to consumers at “competitive price points”, it would be a “big deterrent to piracy” and such business models.

Speaking on BARC India, Vats highlighted fidelity of data has improved considerably and tent-pole events on television --- from a big channel launch to a new program introduction and all the way to an important news break event in an hour --- are captured and show up with a very prominent spike. “The areas where more work needs to be done are the measurement of niche channels by BARC and management of volatility (high fidelity brings high volatility) by all stakeholders,” he explained.

The initiatives like return path data (RPD) and premium panel will help improve the measurement of niche channels, Vats said. BARC has announced one partnership with DEN Networks for collecting additional viewership data via RPD from the MSO’s consumer-premises STBs, and negotiations are on with some other DTH platforms and MSOs.

Vats lauded the measurement agency’s role saying data is more robust, transparent and objective (compared to an earlier system). The sample size, which has already been dialed up to 32,000 (almost four times the size of the erstwhile measurement system), will be further bumped up to 40,000 by next year and even further in the years to come.

Asked about the much-awaited rollout of digital data by BARC, Vats explained, “There are debates (happening presently) around all digital players being a part of the measurement, equitable methods /process used for data capturing from all players and the more holistic India stack/dmp for representation and publishing of the data. All the stakeholders at BARC are debating these issues and the time-frame of publishing digital data will depend on the speed of alignment and approach taken by the stakeholders.”

Keep tuned in and watch this space for the full text of the interview with Vats where he speaks on a wide range of subjects, including the evolution of the Indian media and entertainment sector, regulations, Viacom18’s businesses, how programming strategies are conceptualized with the help of data crunchers, why it is important for media companies to have their own data analytics centers and much more.


TRAI releases recommendations on net neutrality 

Comment: War on online video piracy, which matters, is here for India to fight

BARC India to solve digital puzzle with 'EKAM' 

Global digital platforms adapting locally for BARC's EKAM 

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