Counting on digital to be M&E’s trailblazer

20 Mar,2012


@FF12: Day 1: Digital attracts ‘desirable’ status
on Day1
@FF12: Day 2: Seamless blending with traditional mediums – a big want!
@FF12: Day 3: Industry expects thoughts to lead to pertinent actions
@FF12: Takeaways: Digitization rules the roost @FICCI Frames 2012

By A Correspondent


Those familiar with the going-ons at FICCI Frames would testify how an infatuation gets displayed by delegates at the event each year so as to summarise the mood of the convention even before it broadly takes off across the three days that it is entitled to. But probably, the setting was a bit different this time around when the delegates – joined in unison by the media – were running ballroom to ballroom trying to ingest giveaways that were being thrown up abundantly across several sessions. May be, it was a year where each day had something new to offer to the delegates that kept them at tenterhooks throughout the 3-day event. And going by the loud decibels that were being emanated across every nook and corner of the venue, it was evidently clear that there was some motivating factor that was driving the gathering to go on an overdrive spree.


The organisers of FICCI Frames 2012 have every right to take credit for coming up with a theme around a medium that attracted the attention of one and all. Having kept it on the sidelines till last year, digital was finally given its due at the convention as experts, authorities and enthusiastic youngsters came face to face to deliberate and come up with outcomes that would redefine the way the consumers consume the medium. From television to print to films and even radio, digitisation and the benefits and effects it would cast on these sectors were discussed in length at the venue. In fact Star India CEO Uday Shankar in his keynote address didn’t hesitate in thanking the FICCI committee for putting across a theme that would go on to redefine the way the industry functions in the future.


What was apparently clear through the various sessions at the convention is that with the nearing of date for total digitisation across key metros by June 30 2012, and then across the country by 2014, broadcasters had to relook their distribution and content provision models so as to keep the consumer at the heart of every shift that will transpire in the future. Emphasising on the current digitisation scenario in the country, Mr Shankar said, “Most of the discussions that I have participated in are still around whether digitization will happen and if it indeed were to go through, how chaotic it would be. But all these are meaningless discussions triggered by a bunch of retrograde interests who are living in denial.” According to Mr Shankar, digitisation of distribution is a big reality and the 40-45 million homes that have bought DTH boxes at some point or the other are a conclusive evidence of that.


Shooting back at critics who had doubted whether the makeover to digital would ever be a reality, Mr Shankar said, “To the critics and the cynics who are still wondering whether digitization would happen, my answer is: Look around, it is already happening and the rest of it is bound to happen because even in this country it would be difficult to undo such a momentous shift. To those who wonder how chaotic it would be, my response is that there would be some chaos, but chaos is not necessarily bad if the alternative is status quo or regression. When a transition at such a scale is happening that affects the illegitimate but strong vested interest in certain pockets, then there is an incentive to put up with chaos in the interest of the larger social objectives.”


A broader outlook was provided by a few panellists who said that digitization will come in as a relief for broadcasters who will be benefitted from additional subscription revenue, 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.


Sounding off the challenges that digitisation would present for the broadcast sector, Tarun Katial, CEO of Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd said that, “For television, it will be a combination of content as well as marketing. The old model which was a combination of carriage and product, as it stands today, won’t work. The business plan which currently has a very high rate of carriage will obviously see the content taking precedence.” And as for content, it will be niche content that will call the shots for broadcasters as according to experts at the convention, niche isn’t niche any more as all niche channels put together command a share that is equivalent to the share of Hindi GECs and the mass channels, so to say.


Perhaps the many advantages that digitisation will have on several mediums was rounded off by Vikram Sakhuja, CEO, South Asia, Group M who said, “The inherent power that digital brings along with it is interactivity and its ability to link multiple devices. Also the ability to enhance real-time consumption of content; linked to that is the entire thing about going mobile.” On the roadmap for the industry, Mr Sakhuja said, “I think integrated media is the best way forward. Today when people think of multimedia planning, they do a separate TV plan, print plan, radio plan, internet plan and so on. I believe that if you actually look at media agnostically and at common metrics of each cost per thousand impressions, these are the ways in which you can construct a media agnostic plan. What it does is, it suddenly gets more money into digital, and when more money can come into digital, that’s when focus is going to come in.”


While digitisation was the mainstay of every discussion, the all-important issue of regulation too was taken up by panellists who chose to have the government respond to the many queries surrounding the topic. Uday K Varma, I&B Secretary, said that “if people at large seem to be happy with self regulation, I think the government would have no problem in legitimizing them. But I think the self regulation mechanism which has been set up by both the news broadcasters and the entertainment broadcasters, they’ll have to really prove it, not to the government but to the people at large.” He was joined in his cause by Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister ofMaharashtrawho 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. The Chief Minister emphasised on the need for regulation and suggested that instead of the state regulating the media, the medium should look at regulating itself.


The other important announcements that came up at the venue included the soon-to-be-passed Copyright Amendment Bill, the roll-out of the imminent phase 3 radio policy that would steer the growth of the medium and increased government aid for the film & entertainment sector.


New ventures @ FICCI


BARC takes wings

In between the many promises and hopes that were being doled out at the sessions came the news of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) announcing the official formation of a nationwide audience research joint body — Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).

While IBF will have 60 per cent stake in BARC, ISA and AAAI will each hold 20 per cent stake. The Board of the council will have 10 members, six members from the IBF and two members each from the ISA and AAAI.


Discovery Kids to flag off ops in April

Another important announcement was made by President & CEO of Discovery Networks International, Mark Hollinger who announced the launch of its new network for children inIndia, ‘Discovery Kids’. Mr Hollinger said, “Launching in April, the network will initially be available in three languages – Hindi, English and Tamil. The channel will offer children a fun and entertaining way to satisfy their natural curiosity with stimulating and imaginative programming,” he said. The company plans to roll out the channel inPhilippinesandIndonesialater this year.


Ten Golf tees off

Taj Television India Pvt Ltd announced the launch of Ten Golf, a dedicated 24-hour golf channel. Ten Golf is the fifth channel from Taj Television India Pvt Ltd and began transmission on March 15, 2012. The dedicated golf channel will showcase a mix of live, non-live and feature programming. The channel will also broadcast live, high quality Golf action from around the world.

Ten Golf has acquired rights for European Tour and Asian Tour till 2016, and has also entered into partnership with PGTI for three years to telecast the Indian Tour. Further, Ten Golf will be telecasting 400 hrs of golf programming in association with NBC.


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