A Wishlist from the New Decade

17 Jan,2020

 

This is the sixth (and the last) in a series of decade-ender lists in this column. The previous lists:

The most-defining Hindi TV shows of the decade

The most-defining Hindi films of the decade

The most successful OTT brands of the decade

The most successful TV channels of the decade

The most important emerging trends of the decade

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

It’s only 17 days old, but 0.46% of the new decade is already over. Last week, I wrote about the important trends that emerged in the Indian Media & Entertainment space over the last decade. While writing that, I wondered: Can we even begin to imagine what an equivalent list will look like in Jan 2030, for the 2020-2029 decade? That would certainly be ambitious, almost foolhardy, to attempt. But a more realistic exercise would be to list what one would wish from the new decade.

So here are five things, in no particular order, that I wish happen to the Media & Entertainment industry in India in the coming decade. And hopefully, in the early parts of it.

 

A Regulation-Free TV Regime

The new decade has started with more chaos on an issue that’s been artificially manufactured and then incessantly fueled by Government of India and its agencies. After the New Tariff Order (NTO), there’s NTO 2.0, and the arbitrary TRAI guidelines continue to get more bizarre by the day. Interference of the government in private television has been an irksome factor the TV industry has learnt to live with over the years. But this time, they have rightly taken TRAI to the court.

There’s little argument in favor of price regulation in a category that offers the best value-for-money compared to any other form of entertainment available. By subjectively questioning the price points every now and then, TRAI continues to baffle us. In a free market, the consumer will dictate the ideal price points. Channels have the option of being free-to-air, and eventually, the market will find segments and niches that are willing to pay a lot more or a lot less than the median.

I hope we are not discussing NTO 8.0 in 2030. But something tells me that we may just be doing that!

 

Better Marketing Quality

The quality of marketing in the Media & Entertainment industry is arguably poorer than most other sectors. While the creative output (trailers, posters et al) may range from very good to very poor, the real bone of contention I have is with their aversion to strategic marketing. Very few media brands or products approach marketing in the classical FMCG way. Marketing objectives are too transitional and tactical, and almost never strategic. Ironically, the industry, especially some companies in the television space, is fairly good at content strategy. But marketing strategy approaches being used are highly nascent, and have almost a college-project-like feel to them. Be it television’s unidimensional obsession with the ratings data or film producer’s obsession with following the standard marketing template being used for almost all films now, there’s jadedness around.

The silver lining is that there are a few companies and professionals who recognise this, and are consciously working on changing the marketing rules of this sector. More power to them in the new decade!

 

An Oscar, Maybe?

The Indian Oscars story over the last 18 years has been a dodgy one. After Lagaan won a nomination, and lost to a tough competitor, there hasn’t been much to show by the way of Oscar nominations, let alone an award. There is no need to be obsessed with the Oscars, some argue. While that’s correct, not being able to feature in the top international films for 18 years in a row is a worrying comment on the quality of cinema being produced in India, when benchmarked globally. Our theatrical business has been stable over the last decade, and India remains one of the few countries whose cinema has managed to stay strong despite the Hollywood superhero invasion. Surely, we can do better in terms of our global representation.

 

OTT Measurement

The OTT content factory has flourished in the last three-four years. In April 2017, BARC India announced its digital measurement initiative. After multiple delays, the initiative seems to have lost prominence now, and doesn’t seem to be in sight anytime soon. The absence of a consolidated digital measurement metric can be a deterrent in the growth of the AVOD business, which relies on advertising, in the coming years. Even from a content perspective, absence of clear knowledge on what’s working and what’s not can only hamper the quality of content being churned out. In the current scenario, no one else except BARC India seems to be in the pole position to make this happen. Hope they have this high on their priority list.

 

Better News: Wishful?

Traditionally, there have always been news platforms that are pro- or anti-establishment. But now, we have right-aligned and left-aligned news platforms (currently, the former enjoys a clear majority), and the masks are off too. Ideological colouring of news is extremely worrying in today’s times, when news consumption and its impact is at an all-time high. In the early half of the last decade, television news saw the emergence of the debates format. News got louder first, and then got ideologically colored too, and in no subtle way on either count. Arnab Goswami, the flagbearer of this decadence, is probably the most impactful television celebrity of the last decade, along with Kapil Sharma. The new decade needs to find its own Arnab. One who’s more assertive than loud, and more conscientious than coloured.

 

 

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