Digital attracts ‘desirable’ status on Day 1

15 Mar,2012

 

By Team MxMIndia

 

The West swears by it, developed countries from Asia Pacific have already made a generational leap in terms of technological innovations while globally, the medium has shown why it is the most sought-after given the dynamic growth numbers it throws up in the shortest possible timeframe. Well, it could be said here with certainty that digital has bought about a significant change in the way the world goes about running its business in the last decade compared to what other mediums have been trying to do for decades together. Little wonder that when the organisers of FICCI Frames were faced with the choice of shortlisting a theme that could alter the media and entertainment industry in India, they didn’t have to think twice before narrowcasting on the medium of preference – digital.

 

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. In keeping with its tradition, the morning session kicked off 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, took the stage to address the audience. 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.”

 

Though Mr Shankar admitted that there is a need for legislative enablers to remove the bottlenecks surrounding digital, he also said that the broadcast industry is still not ready to move to the digital format. To drive home his point he used the example of the film The Artist, where the star of the film loses out when he refuses to move with the times. Next it was the turn of Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra who took the stage to talk about the “exciting times that all are living in”. He said that the challenge is to adopt the regulatory framework to the 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 his 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. Jehil Thakkar, Head, Media & Entertainment Practises, KPMG made a brief presentation about the key highlights of the FICCI-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2012.

 

Uday K Varma, Secretary, Ministry of I&B, opened his address 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 ensure 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. Mr Varma added that in order to combat piracy, the government intended to carry out an all-encompassing multi-media campaign involving all stakeholders from the film and music industries, shortly.

 

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.

 

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BARC takes wings; Discovery Kids to flag off operations in April

In between the many promises and hopes that were being doled out at the inaugural session 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).

 

The announcement was made at the inaugural day of FICCI Frames 2012 in Mumbai in presence of I&B Secretary Uday K Varma, TRAI Chairman Dr JS Sarma, Managing Director & CEO of ZEE Punit Goenka, Star India COO Sanjay Gupta, Times Television Network MD & CEO Sunil Lulla, Star CJ CEO Paritosh Joshi, Madison Group Chairman Sam Balsara and Landmarc Leisure Corporation MD Paulomi Dhawan.

 

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.

 

Another important announcement was made by President & CEO of Discovery Networks International, Mark Hollinger who announced the launch of its new network for children in India, ‘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 in Philippines and Indonesia later this year.

 

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Post the promises and pleasantries doled out by committee members and authorities, it was time for some serious discussion which began with a panel discussion 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 however, the industry has to do a lot of work over the next few years. Sameer Manchanda was of the view that digitization was a reality and that it will bring more number of channels. While Uday Varma said the government is determined and committed to ensure digitization happens the broadcasters on the other hand also displayed confidence that they are ready for the June 30, 2012 deadline i.e. when metros will switch from analog TV to digital. 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 – MD and CEO, Hathway Cable and Datacom Ltd; SN Sharma, CEO, DEN; Anshuman Misra – SVP and MD, Networks and Content Distribution, Turner, Asia Pacific; Vikram Chandra, Group CEO, NDTV; Jagi Mangat Panda, Co-Founder and Director, Ortel; Prof Jonathan Askin, Professor of Law, Brooklyn School of Law and Anita Wallgren, Government Attorney, US Department of Commerce, Former Program Director, US Government’s TV Converter Box Coupon Program. Vivek Couto, Executive Director, Media Partners Asia moderated the session.

 

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. Jagi Mangat Panda pointed out that digitization will result in some sort of consolidation in the distribution space where bigger players will look to expand their presence in the Indian market.

 

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 a great potential that has to be tapped, a business model which needs to be looked at.” Chandra also mentioned the role of tablets and high-end devices as new distribution platforms.

 

Anita Wallgren and Prof Jonathan Askin spoke about how the United States saw the transition of analog TV to digital – the learnings and challenges.

 

It could be said that the media and entertainment industry of India has scripted a glorious growth story in the past ten years or so. And now, when the future looks more promising with digitisation and the advent of technology across media verticals such as broadcast, print and also films – one area which that has not seen enough progress is the lack of private equities and VC funds showing adequate interest. In a session titled “Financing the Media and Entertainment Business” eminent personalities such as Prashant Jain, Executive Director, HDFC Mutual Fund; Mathew Cyriac, Sr Managing Director, Private Equity, Blackstone; Soumo Ganguly, Managing Director, Moxie Entertainment Pvt Ltd; and Daniel Dubiecki, Founder and Partner, The Allegiance Theatre, Hollywood shared their views on the subject. Ashok Wadhwa, Group CEO, Ambit moderated the session.

 

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 – one which 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 a very, very sorry picture as is 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.”

 

Ashok Wadhwa remarked that the film industry in India is not institutionalised enough to attract private equity. Daniel Dubiecki spoke about the need to be more global in concept, widen the scope of market and thereby making it more viable to attract investments in the films business.

 

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, Head, TV & Cinema, French Embassy; Jagdish Rajpurohit, Head, RCL Motion Pictures & Producer; Bertrand Mouiller, former DG IFFPA and Amar Butala, creative director, UTV Motion Pictures. The session was moderated by Dina Dattani, Consultant & Lawyer. 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 by saying 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 here saying, “We have made huge leaps in terms of the legal paperwork with actors and performers where copyright issues are concerned. But it is just the start and the challenge would 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.

 Photograph: Fotocorp

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