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"Broadcasters need to stop relying on advertisers for revenue": Sameer Nair

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MUMBAI: Broadcasters need to stop relying solely on advertisers as their main source of revenue. Moreover as digitisation reaches the third phase, it is imperative to for them to come up with new content strategies.

A FICCI Frames session moderated by media analyst and columnist Vinita Kohli Khandekar saw an aggressive discussion by top level media and broadcast executives on the future of content creation keeping in mind the emergence of digital platforms.

The panel comprised Balaji Group CEO Sameer Nair, Disney India VP and content head Vijay Subramanium, Reliance Broadcast CEO Tarun Katial, Zee TV business head Pradeep Hejmadi and Star Plus GM Gaurav Banerjee.

There are approximately 815 channels, which places India amongst the top five video consumers of the world and it is crucial to have varied and captivating content, which caters to the need of the viewers. The biggest question that arises from the scenario is - What should be changed to make better content?

A pertinent point raised by Nair was that channels need to cut down their dependence on advertisers as their main source of revenue and find alternate sources in order to dish out quality content.

Nair asserted, “The content we have been producing is often termed as trash, which in reality is not because we all remember the content and no one remembers trash. We are a growing industry and content takes time to transit. We have to give it the necessary amount of time as a sudden transition may lead to confusion. Some years back there were 25 million TV homes and now we have 100 million homes. This proves that we are growing. Like every business, content is dominated by economics. We need to stop our heavy reliance on advertisers. Our need to earn high ratings is because of advertiser pressure and that is what is stopping us from aggressively experimenting with content. We need to start discovering other sources of revenue.”

Talking about the necessities, Banerjee added, “A lot has changed from where we were a few years back. We are a lot more ambitious from what we used to be. The budget for a half an hour fiction show has risen from Rs 7 lakh– 8 lakh to Rs 15 lakh– 20 lakh and that speaks volumes. Television industry’s biggest power is its reach. We reach twice the audience of the biggest viewed film release and hence with the reach comes responsibility, which we should not forget, while making content. The need of the hour is devoting more time and money to research and development. We need to research in depth before putting up any content as it might have its repercussion and have socio-economic fabric of our nation..”

During the course of the discussion, an issue that was constantly debated was whether films or TV shows make for better content. Firmly defending TV content over films, Banerjee said, “We should have a more distinguished measurement phenomenon when it comes to cinema and we should also not forget the fact that the number of screens is shrinking. There are a lot of opportunities to improve and no reason to rate films over TV content as of now.”

Supporting Banarjee’s opinion, Katial added, “Films in recent times have lost their purpose and contribute very little in creating a social impact.”

“What comes from the production house is just a one line concept and the channel gets into it and executes what is shown on TV. Another part that plays a vital role in improvising content is measurement, which comes from research because what TAM shows is post airing analyses and does not favour in deciding if the content is appropriate. So overall, while we are setting ourselves for the new era of TV content production we have to test, try and excel,” said Hejmadi.

Now it remains to be seen if TV content makers raise the bar and produce quality content instead of jumping for  quantity and following herd mentality. More importantly, the need of the hour also is for broadcasters to discover alternate source of revenue for their business in order to make compelling content.

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