The Most Important Emerging Trends of the Decade

10 Jan,2020

 

This is the fifth in a series of six decade-ender lists in this column by Shailesh Kapoor.

 

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

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

The decade that went by was unmistakably eventful for the media & entertainment industry. But isn’t that true for every decade, and for most industries? Ten years is a long time, especially given the pace at which technology is evolving, and there are bound to be fundamental shifts in how a category is perceived, consumed and transacted.

Here are the five most significant trends that emerged in the last decade in the media & entertainment business, in no particular order. While a lot happened on the back-end, such as the launch of BARC India or the introduction of NTO, the trends here have been identified from a consumer perspective, leaving out the B2B shifts the decade may have seen.

 

The Digital Explosion

Perhaps the most significant shift the decade saw was the rise of the digital media, first in the form of social media and YouTube, and then via the OTT category in the second half of the decade. The presence of unlimited and ever-growing content options online (including television catch-up) had various levels of impact on consumer behaviour and taste. The exposure to genres and languages increased, leading to wider acceptance of different forms of content, including that from the West, at a mainstream level. The digital growth also put increasing pressure on other media, such as TV and films, to up their game, lest they should lose audience to a new-age media option. Eventually, digital has managed to co-exist with other media. TV viewing time has not gone down, and box office has not degrown, over this decade. But digital content has opened up a new realm of possibilities for content creators and consumers alike, the true potential of which may be realised only in the coming decade.

 

Breaking of Geographical Boundaries

While television continued to be culture and language-driven, we saw the breaking of geographical boundaries in films and digital content in this decade. The prime example, of course, is the Bahubali franchise. Who would have predicted at the start of the decade that the biggest ‘Hindi film’ of the decade will be a Telugu film dubbed in Hindi, without any Bollywood actors in it! Hollywood continued to get stronger too, with certain years showing unreal levels of growth in the Indian market, in the range of 25-40%. Marvel Cinematic Universe is probably the strongest entertainment brand in India today, and that itself is a testimony to how geographies matter less today than ever before. All international and regional content did not cut through, but Indian audience latched on to culture-neutral content, especially in the action and adventure genres, from around the world.

 

TV Survives… and Flourishes!

Fallacious, unresearched and over-simplistic arguments around cord cutting and the imminent death of television have gone on for too long now. The truth is: Television is here to stay, at least in India. And that’s not just because India is a mass country with so many small towns and villages that it will take a few years for digital content to truly penetrate. Television’s ‘survival’ story in India is one about culture and values, than about content. Television is the only form of media consumption that’s done almost entirely at a family level in India. Fearful of their children slowly disassociating themselves from all things traditional and cultural, parents have turned to religion and television to keep the family bonding and identity alive. In fact, the arrival of digital content, which is essentially consumed solo, has further amplified the power of television as a collective medium for the entire family. Which is why even the most affluent Indian households have decided not to have a second TV in their house, and at 4-5% only, India’s multi-TV penetration is negligible.

 

News Acquires Mainstream Status

From being as a males-only, North India-skewed genre, news acquired a more mainstream and ‘mass’ status this decade. While comparing viewership over decades is problematic because of the constant changes in the ratings universe, the growth of news ratings at the time of marquee events has been consistent and very noticeable. Women audience have warmed up to watching primetime news to some extent, and hence, in many families, news has emerged as a legit option for 9pm or 10pm family viewing. A large part of this change can be attributed to the change in the political regime in the country in 2014, and the political and ideological polarisation that has followed. The rise of digital news, too, has fueled an overall acceptance of news content across media. And for all the flak they face, news channels have made news more accessible, even if it is via making it ‘entertaining’.

 

An Era of Instant Rejection… and Acceptance

Social media had come in towards the end of the last decade. But its true power was felt this decade. Rejection or acceptance of a new piece of content, such as a film or a series on the internet or television, would earlier be an organic process, lasting upto weeks. Today, it can be a matter of hours before the word spreads around. There is no place to hide for mediocre content, especially as consumers are spoilt for choices, and have ready access to opinions and reviews all the time. Films like Thugs Of Hindostan and Kalank sank within a day of their release. This digital-fueled trend puts increasing pressure on content creators and distributors to raise the bar, or be left behind. The shelf life of content itself has reduced significantly, and even the best content has a window of a few weeks to get its audience. ‘Now’ is everything! And that’s not necessarily a good thing, but that’s a topic for another day.

 

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