The Big Shift: Where is digital taking the M&E industry?

24 Jul, 2020 - 08:34 AM IST     |     By Mansi Sharma

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: It’s a rainy afternoon in Delhi and 48-year-old homemaker Sunita is looking for recipes for fritters on YouTube on a smartphone she was recently gifted by her husband. She has made fritters a thousand times in her life and she knows the recipe to it by heart, but she likes to watch chefs online to “learn new tricks” for perfecting her already excellent culinary skills. Sometimes, she plugs in the firestick on her smart TV and scrolls through Amazon Prime and Netflix for old movies. Even her evening TV watching has shifted to apps like Hotstar and Voot, which she is still learning to use properly but nevertheless enjoys the ad-free entertainment on demand. 

This is not just the story of Sunita, but a whole lot of other people from all age groups and interests. Her husband prefers watching news online rather than switching on the TV channels as it is more comfortable to watch it on his phone, though without earplugs. Their three-year-old grandson is learning his ABCs on yet another mobile app and doesn’t miss his Peppa Pig sessions every evening. And as the never-ending lockdown imposes its dark shadow on his probability to attend physical classes like his parents or grandparents, there are investments being made into paid subscriptions of many educational apps and sites, along with other digital tools. 

Digital, as we know, is dominating all aspects of our lives. From grocery shopping to learning, to working out, to dating; everything has found a digital counterpart and in many cases a competition. 

The media and entertainment industry is also not untouched from this trend. As per PwC Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2019-2023, digital revenues are accounting for a larger share of the industry’s total revenue, year-on-year, starting at 40.7 per cent in 2014 and reaching 55.4 per cent in 2019. It is expected to reach 61.6 per cent in 2023. 

India is not far behind from the global trends. In fact, it is one of the top markets to embrace this digital boom. As per EY-FICCI report 2020, digital media overtook filmed entertainment in 2019 to become the third-largest segment of the M&E sector. Digital media grew 31 per cent to reach Rs 221 billion and is expected to grow at 23 per cent CAGR to reach Rs 414 billion by 2022. 

“Digital subscription revenues more than doubled from 2018 levels and digital advertising revenues grew to command 24 per cent of total advertising spend. The sector continues to grow at a rate faster than the GDP, driven primarily by growth in subscription-based business models and India’s attractiveness as a content production and post-production destination,” read the report. 

The same report suggests that OTT subscription market will approximate 10 per cent of the total TV subscription market by 2020 and there will be over 40 million connected TVs by 2025. And while there is no concrete comparative data to see the growth of digital in comparison to traditional forms of media, there have been many agencies and people claiming that Covid2019 has only accelerated this process. Several reports by bodies like BARC, Nielsen and Kantar have hinted at the increased time spent on digital platforms during the lockdown. 

So, is this big shift to digital indicating a slow demise of traditional media?

Swastik Productions MD Rahul Kumar Tewary notes that while digital media has gained traction during the past few months, there is not going to be a takeover of the market space that television enjoys by it. Both the mediums may overlap to a certain extent, but in the end, these are two different market segments. 

“I believe digital is growing but TV will remain the same. I don’t think there will be too much of an impact on TV programming. There is a certain age group of consumers for the digital content; there is a trend that the youth of India is moving towards the digital side,” he shares. 

Locomotive Global co-founder Sunder Aaron adds, “We will come out of this pandemic at some time and the domination of pay television and the advertisement on pay TV will continue. But it will have a new balance with digital media and digital delivery of content. We still are a country where there is low penetration for digital consumption. Mobile consumption is actually high but if you look at wirelines into households, it’s still very low as compared to the rest of the world. Hopefully, we will see an increase in the wireline broadband penetration over several years and that will be a big game-changer for digital delivery and digital content consumption.” 

But are there enough rigid lines between TV and digital anymore? Once, during an interview, someone had asked to define television and the gentleman then went on to elaborate that television is more than the idiot box we knew a few years back. It has camouflaged in a ‘smart box’ now, which also hosts traditional entertainment as well as the modern digital options. It also enables personal chatting and social media apps on the big screen and has a far bigger role to play as a shared screen as well.  

And definitely, no one can deny the part of digital technologies in keeping this traditional form of entertainment up. In the past few years, almost all the big GECs and news channels have launched their own apps to keep pace with the digital age. Be it Hotstar, Sony Liv, Voot, or Zee5, all these applications first started as an inventory of television shows and then went on to host original content as well. 

All the major telecom players are a part of the revolution as they were in the DTH era. With Airtel launching its own entertainment app and partnering with other OTTs to offer its consumers exclusive access to content, Idea offering live channels on its movies and TV apps and the very popular and Jio announcement Jio TV+ aggregating TV as well as OTT content, digital dominance seems to stay here. Even on the regulators’ side, TRAI recently launched a channel selection app to facilitate easy subscription modifications for users. 

Digital technology is now everywhere and that’s what made it possible for the world to continue running even during the strictest of lockdowns for the past few months. 

One of the biggest industries to benefit from it has been the online news industry. In an earlier story , wrote on the movement of mainstream journalists like Vikram Chandra and Faye D’Souza to digital content curation. It showed how the democratic environment that digital offers as a medium allows journalists to be more true and free to express themselves. The added technological features and better reach are cherries on the top. 

While Chandra admitted of being heavily reliant on AI-based execution of his editorial functions and being in advanced-level talks with some of the OTT players to push his content, Pankaj Pachauri said, “GoNews has been successfully able to converge satellite TV technology with digital technology as our product can be uplinked on any satellite channel digitally for broadcast. We have tried and tested this technology during the last general elections with APN news for its prime time broadcast,” highlighting the vast roles digital technologies are playing there. 

All this, undoubtedly, has opened up the gates to great opportunities for digital marketers. Most of the functions of an agency have turned data-driven and are claiming to provide a never-attained-before hyper-targeted reach to advertisers. 

Digitalkites sr. VP Amit Lall, a few weeks back, discussed s the ability of marketers to follow a consumer’s journey not just across platforms but also devices to provide them with a seamless experience and help advertisers understand user behaviour better. 

Madison Media & OOH group CEO told on Media Minds 2 that the entire digital renaissance has been a big part of his successful five-year-long journey at the agency, thus far. He shared that the share of digital in agency billings has increased from two to three per cent to 20-22 per cent in this time. 

And this digital intervention is not only helping the programmatic, SEO, search, social and other digital aspects of marketing but also helping traditional options to be more targeted and improved. The whole lot of data collection that is done via digital media is used to chart out trajectories for mainline campaigns. 

Additionally, the oldest mainline medium of traditional advertising, out-of-home (OOH), has begun its digital journey, again pushed by the Covid2019 lockdown. 

Eyetalk Media Ventures MD Gautam Bhirani says, “Fuelled by technological advancements as more devices connect with the power of internet-of-things, location-based mobile data can bridge the gap between digital-physical worlds and converging them can give us holistic consumer insights. As we adapt to the pandemic induced lifestyle changes often termed as ‘The New Normal’, it is constantly impacting consumer behaviour, sentiment and journey which makes it imperative for us to learn and integrate these learnings in OOH planning. Detailed analysis of mobile data that determine brand affinity, interests, preferences, income size, gender, commute patterns, dwell time in the online and offline world can help identify locations for OOH placement and mobile device IDs can be used to retarget the consumer.” 

Laqshya Media Group CEO Atul Shrivastava adds his own experience, “Our transformation from an OOH to a multi-media conglomerate has followed a carefully coordinated strategy of delivering the most optimised consumer-contact solution to our clients by combining digital, OOH and experiential. In order to make our OOH and experiential offerings more interactive, we added a digital marketing company to our network, which gives us the bandwidth to offer our clients an unbeatable offline-online combination.” 

Digital dominance is clearly shaping up a distinct world, dominating the media and entertainment industry. While there are high chances that traditional platforms will survive this big shift, one can look forward to redefined versions of televisions and newspapers. 

(With inputs from Anjali Thakur and Shikha Singh)