Robust outlook for Indian M&E: CII Summit

31 Oct,2012

L to R: Uday Kumar Varma, I&B Secretary, Chandrajit Banerjee, DG, CII; Andy Kaplan, President, Worldwide Network, Sony Picture Television; Amit Khanna, Chairman, CII National Committee on M & E and Chairman, Reliance Entertainment; Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India and Ronnie Screwvala, MD, The Walt Disney Co

By Ananya Saha

 

 

CII Media and Entertainment Summit 2012, India – The Big Picture discussed critical issues such as cause and effect of market-driven approach in the media and entertainment (M&E) sector, censorship hurdles, and the roadmap for $100 billion Indian M&E industry. The two-day conference saw the who’s who of the sector take a close look at the critical role that M&E plays in India.

 

“We are drunk on our own volumes: largest number of newspapers in circulation, largest number of television viewers at 400 million, 100 million digital consumers. Digital, in particular, is an indictment of our creative and strategic limitations – we have 600 million mobile screens and yet we do not have a unique content proposition for the medium,” Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India, said in his keynote address, adding, “Our ability to convert that into corresponding value is disappointing.”

 

“Media and industry is a globally growing industry – but our participation in that eco-system is zero and India is hardly factored into the global thought process of technology or content,” he added. Similarly, on the domestic front, the industry is yet to fully unlock the potential of the vast Indian market.” The size of India’s Media and Entertainment industry, which includes television, print, radio, digital media, was pegged at $15 billion at the end of 2011. The industry is growing at around 14 percent a year. “At this rate, we will still take 15 years to get to $100 billion. Obviously, we want to get there much faster. The question is: Why and how do we do that?” Mr Shankar quipped.

 

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Secretary Uday Kumar Varma, Leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, The Walt Disney Co MD Ronnie Screwvala, Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd CEO Sudhanshu Vats, Sony Picture Television President for the worldwide network Andy Kaplan, News Corp Sr Executive VP David Hill, NDTV Group CEO and Executive Director Vikram Chandra, Times Television Network MD and CEO Sunil Lulla, Sony Entertainment Television CEO Man Jit Singh, Times Group CEO Ravi Dhariwal, Prasar Bharti CEO Jawahar Sircar, eminent journalists such as Nik Gowing, Vir Sanghvi, Vinod Mehta and Aroon Purie shared their views at the summit.

 

Uday Kumar Varma, Secretary, MIB, recent decision of the government to allow 74 per cent FDI in DTH, IPTV, mobile TV etc. are some of the steps that have been taken in this direction and underscored that those steps would be game changers. He said that many positive steps would be taken in revamping the FM Radio to enhance its reach and content. The empowered Group of Ministers are looking into some of the grey areas in the auction of 839 new FM radio stations across over 290 towns and cities in the country. “We hope to complete the auction of the first tranche of the stations by the end of the financial year,” he added.

 

Day 1 of the summit saw Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition, Rajya Sabha make a scathing attack on trial by media and said that most often such debates are based on half- truths and imaginations. Nik Gowing, Presenter, BBC World News said, “Media is greatly influenced by technology and speed in which the information travels. Political leaders and corporations have to realize that to become a leader in the technology driven environs, where they would be put to scrutiny not necessarily by the media but also by public at large, through twitters and other social media, was an onerous task.” Vinod Mehta said, “What we require is blending good business practices with news collection and dissemination, which is a formidable task of media industry.” Ravi Dhariwal, CEO, Times Group, said that media is judged by its contemporary relevance and trust it builds with the general public.

 

Broadband penetration to reach 600 mn by 2020
Speaking on the panel for ‘The Game Changers: Taking M&E industry to $100 bn’, R Chandrasekhar, Secretary, Information Technology and Chairman Telecom Commission said the government is taking proactive steps for enhancing the broadband penetration in the country from the present level of 20 million to 600 million by 2020 so as to cover the entire breadth and length of the country.

“The government is investing Rs 20,000 crore over the next few years for strengthening the broadband network in the country. In its wake, such massive investment will give a boost to the digitization, cloud-based services and convergence to reach out to the common man in the far flung areas,” he said. The government’s role, he stressed, would be that of a facilitator and the last mile movers would be cable and telecom service providers.

 

Manjit Singh, CEO, Sony Entertainment Television maintained that advertisement and subscription income from media business should be at a 50:50 basis and a business model based on these parameters would help penetration of broadband, inflow of more FDI and the government would stand to gain from realization of more taxes. The ratio of TV advertisement to GDP in India is abysmally poor as compared to developed countries and hoped that the stress on subscription would give a sustainable and healthy revenue stream to the media business. Narayan Rao, Executive Vice-Chairperson, NDTV said, “For the ambitious target to reach 100 bn, the industry needs to recognise three things: advertisers need to recognise that as audiences have grown, and thus, rates also need to grow; the broadcasters need to get rid of carriage fees; and the broadcasters need to look at alternate sources o revenue, which can currently come only from subscription revenues.”

 

TGBCL’s MD and CEO Sunil Lulla said the industry needs to dream a collective dream to reach the $100 bn mark. “The industry needs to collaborate, partner and compete for a healthier industry status,” he said. Smitha Jha, Leader, Entertainment & Media practice, PWC India, observed that the game changers in the media industry would be advertisement, subscription and infrastructure and policy framework. In India, she said that the consumer spends only $7 per month as subscription as against US$ 500 in the US. Also, to help industry to achieve the potential, infrastructure has to be toned up, such as rolling out of 3G and 4G coupled with strengthening broadband network.

 

Policy Conundrum

Rahul Khullar, Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) stressed on the need for a separate regulator for content and carriage. He also said that the Indian market should not be compared to Western markets and stressed on the fact that India is a price-sensitive market. Harit Nagpal, MD and CEO, Tata Sky pointed out, “We are most heavily taxed business in the industry. We pay close to 30-35 percent as taxes, exclusive of the import duty on set-top boxes.” Agreeing with Mr Nagpal, SN Sharma, CEO of Den Networks said, “Taxation is going through the roof, and ultimately consumers will have to bear the costs.”

 

Anuj Gandhi, Group CEO, IndiaCast, opined, “As we progress with digitisation, it is important that the issue of carriage fees is sorted out. We need to get the ARPUs right to be on the path to reach $100 bn-industry.” The panel also pointed out how the policies in India have not found the regulation support. Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, Contributing Editor, Business Standard said that tax holidays can do wonders for stabilising the industry. She also pointed out how regulation is required in the areas of cross-media monopoly; how 50-60 percent of media buying is concentrated in the hands of one agency and the ownership of news media.

 

In response to the worries voiced by the panel, Mr Khullar said that the regulator is aiming at bringing out a white paper on cross-media ownership, which will be done with prior consultation. He also said that as digitisation progresses, the industry should foresee and prepare on changing business models.

 

Managing M&E in digital era

As digitization takes last steps towards sunset date, issues related to convergence have been taking centre stage at various discussions and forums. The panel on convergence issues chaired Neeraj Roy, MD and CEO, Hungama Digital Media was of the view that consumption and monetising of content, global IT systems, infrastructure and policies that deal with convergence need to be developed to provide clarity to industry players as well as consumers.

 

Vikram Chandra, Group CEO and ED, NDTV, said, “With convergence and real-time interactivity taking shape, the only question that remains to be answered is how do we monetise the properties.” Vijay Lazarus, President, IMI pointed out how in absence of policy regulations, music became the first victim of technology in the form of piracy. “But then knowing there was no turning back, the music industry also embraced technology,” Mr Lazarus pointed out.

 

The panel agreed that innovation in convergence will result in monetisation.

 

The last panel on Sports and Entertainment focused on whether sports broadcasting in India is only about cricket or is there an opportunity much beyond which lies untested and unexplored. “The government, corporations, media and civil society should come forward to support sports beyond cricket with a long term roadmap,” maintained Atul Singh, CEO, Coca Cola India. He also hinted that dependence on one form of sports is not the ideal approach since that would lead to unbalanced growth of sports in the country.

 

Mr Singh cautioned the corporations not to look for immediate results and dividends from sponsored games other than cricket. David Hill, Senior Executive Vice President, New Corp said, “Sports is predominantly a middle-class indulgence and with India’s middle class touching one billion by 2025, sports will receive a lot of attention in the future.” Referring to the lack of corporate support in India, Harish Thawani, Executive Chairman, Nimbus Communications said that corporates allot adequate budgets for CSR and massive commitment for advertisements but hardly any when it comes to sports.

 

While there is no doubt that the Indian M&E industry is seeing unprecedented growth, the question is whether the industry will be able to shed policy inhibitions and grow to the $100-billion-stage by 2016.

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