@FF12: Adapt to the digital tide or be left out

19 Mar,2012

By A Correspondent

 

In keeping with the theme, ‘Embracing the Digital World’, FICCI Frames 2012 got off to a wishful start at Hotel Renaissance, Mumbai on March 14 with a welcome address by the Co-Chair of FICCI Entertainment Committee, Karan Johar. After Mr Johar’s welcome address, Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India & Chairman, FICCI Broadcast Forum, proceeded to present his perspective on the Event and the broadcast industry in general. Making a dash for the core topic of digital, Mr Shankar began by stating, “Digitization is a big reality which will revolutionise the way content (creation and distribution) is offered.” Even though he said that digitisation will create a level playing field for the broadcasters and the cable operators, he had a word of caution to add when he said that his biggest concern was “the chaos which will be caused by the broadcast industry’s inaction”.

 

Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra was next and began by assuring how the current era was an “exciting time to be living in”. He said that the challenge would be to adopt the regulatory framework to new technology and ensure that over regulation doesn’t kill a good thing. He also said that the move towards digitization will create a huge employment opportunity but there is a need to explore how technology can empower the field of education. The Chief Minister also touched upon the need for regulation and suggested that instead of the state regulating the media, the medium should look at regulating itself.

 

Following the CM’s speech, the event witnessed the release of the FICCI-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2012; FICCI-Amarchand Lawbook and ‘Positivity: The impact of television on India’ by The Indian Broadcasting Foundation.

 

Uday K Varma, Secretary, Ministry of I&B, opened his address next by stating that the concerns that the industry had over digitization and the Phase 3 of FM radio have been addressed by the move to allow 839 new FM stations and 500 community radio stations. He stressed that the government is committed to ensuring time bound digitization and said that come July 1, the four metros will switch over to the digital format and the plan is to ensure that the move to digitization is completed by December 31, 2014. He agreed that the challenge was mammoth – to convert 80 million analog connections to digital format, but added that it will ensure faster and deeper penetration. “This will address a plethora of issues facing the television industry, such as addressability, carriage fees, audience measurement and consumer preferences,” he said.

 

Punit Goenka, CEO & MD, ZEEL too spoke about the pros and cons of digitization, how the ratings are inadequate and how self regulation was the need of the hour for the broadcast industry. Carolyn Everson, VP, Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook elaborated on how Facebook can benefit the media and entertainment industry and cited examples from music, gaming and films to drive home her point.

 

Session highlights:

Post the promises and pleasantries doled out by committee members and authorities, it was time for some serious discussion which began with a panel debate on ‘Addressable Digitization – The way forward’. Sanjay Gupta, COO – Star India, Sunil Lulla, CEO and MD Times Global Broadcasting, Sameer Manchanda, Founder – DEN Networks and Punit Goenka, MD and CEO, ZEEL comprised the panellists. The panellists agreed that digitization is the way forward and will soon be a reality. Uday K Varma, Secretary – I&B, put the ball in the industry’s court as he said that there were no political opposition to digitization and the parliament too passed the law in December 2011, therefore it is now incumbent upon the industry to make digitization a reality. Sunil Lulla pointed out that the there is greater good in digitization, but the industry has to do a lot of work over the next few years. Sameer Manchanda was of the view that digitization is a reality and that it will bring more number of channels. The session also discussed opportunities and challenges that digitization has to offer and how the industry was gearing for digitization – whether they are ready or not?

 

A session on ‘Maximising the power of digital distribution’ saw industry leaders speak about the challenges that come along as the country is experiencing the much talked about shift – from analog to digital cable – the investments that goes into and many such challenges. Industry honchos such as K Jayraman of Hathway Cable and Datacom Ltd, SN Sharma of DEN, Anshuman Misra of Turner, Asia Pacific, Vikram Chandra of NDTV, Jagi Mangat Panda of Ortel, Prof Jonathan Askin, and Anita Wallgren, Government Attorney, US Department of Commerce made up for the panel.

 

The panel agreed that while digitization comes in as a relief for broadcasters who will be benefitted from additional subscription revenue the relaxation on paying heavy carriage fees, and of course providing viewers with a superior content experience – MSOs and cable operators have to quickly respond to the digitization mandate by investing in set-top boxes – the cost that is only possible to recover after four years.

 

Vikram Chandra talked about the difference digitization makes to the news industry. “Digitisation is important for news players. It is leading players in the news industry into areas they don’t want to be in. In the race of chasing TRPs, people are forgetting that digital has great potential that has to be tapped, a business model which needs to be looked at.” Mr Chandra also mentioned the role of tablets and high-end devices as new distribution platforms.

 

Next was a session titled “Financing the Media and Entertainment Business” where the panellists comprised eminent personalities such as Prashant Jain of HDFC Mutual Fund, Mathew Cyriac of Blackstone, Soumo Ganguly of Moxie Entertainment Pvt Ltd and Daniel Dubiecki, Founder and Partner, The Allegiance Theatre, Hollywood.

 

Mathew Cyriac started off the session by pointing out that majority of the investments within the media and entertainment industry were made in television and print as they represent a fairly large share  in terms of sheer numbers as against Internet and Radio. The Hindi GECs in TV is typically where a lot of money goes to, followed by regional GECs and sports channel. For print media, it was the regional publications that command a lot of attention as regional advertising is very robust and extracts a lot of profit.

 

Prashant Jain pointed out that a lot of companies in India have managed to get good funding and that it is not reflective of the supposedly very, very sorry picture that was being talked about. “It’s not that all of India in the media entertainment space are not attracting funds. Companies like UTV and a few others have attracted investors.”

 

In the session on ‘Protecting Copyrights, Infringements & New Trends i.e. Remake’, the panellists chose to rummage over the impediments surrounding copyright issues in the film and music industry in India. The panellists included Sai Krishna from Sai Krishna Associates, Deborah Benattar from the French Embassy, Jagdish Rajpurohit from RCL Motion Pictures, Bertrand Mouiller, former DG IFFPA and Amar Butala from UTV Motion Pictures.

 

Sai Krishna provided a hopeful insight as he said, “The industry should take heart in knowing that the Copyright Amendment Bill is currently being debated in the parliament and is expected to be passed after the current Budget Session. There are provisions that can alter the way the entertainment industry functions in India.” But he cautioned that the Bill has its setbacks too, as there are no clear guidelines when it comes to copyright issues between the writer, music composer and the producer of a film.

 

Mr Butala added, “We have made huge leaps in terms of legal paperwork with actors and performers where copyright issues are concerned. But it is just the start and the challenge will be to sort out legal issues and take the offenders to Court with the hope of finding a favourable outcome from the judiciary.” The panel proceeded to discuss the trend of moviemakers bagging rights for remaking movies and that there was a need for a law that would streamline procedures for the industry at large.

 

Key takeaways:

– Complete digitization makeover scheduled for December 31, 2014

– Copyright Amendment Bill to be passed in Parliament soon

– Digitization will encourage niche and differentiated content

– Need for media to self-regulate self then wait for a nodal authority to do it

– Digitization to create more employment opportunities

 

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