The Year to Remember… The Year to Forget

31 Dec,2021

 

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Shailesh Kapoor2021 has been a treacherous year, and it’s been generally hard to predict what’s in store next. Even as I write this on the last morning of the year, a third Covid wave knocks on our doors, and this time, we know it’s an inevitability. That it’s likely to be a wave of milder infections is the silver lining we latch on to.

 

The media and entertainment business has done well to stay afloat in a difficult year. Two categories had the maximum opportunity to make the most of it: OTT and News. The streaming players did their part, and came up with content across languages to keep us engaged while we were locked down. The focus, however, was on quantity over quality. More than 200 series and 75 films launched on streaming platforms in India in 2021, and only about a dozen of these managed to make an impact. It often came down to international content to save the day, such as Squid Game and Money Heist for Netflix. That does not reflect well on an industry that, till not very long ago, had announced itself as the torchbearer of a new content revolution in India.

 

The news story has been a dichotomous one. While television news shed all pretense and became unequivocally subservient to the powers that matter, the print media, especially in the Hindi language, kept the flag of good journalism flying high. If I had to choose a media brand of the year from India, I’d seriously consider Dainik Bhaskar for that award. It takes courage to go against the tide, and stand up for the truth. Even the subsequent IT raids did not deter them.

 

Digital news platforms were persistent in their coverage of the second wave too. But that ecosystem is still struggling to find a viable business model, as they try and convince Indians to pay for their news, which is at least two degrees away from the first frontier for any pay digital platform to surpass: To convince audience to pay for content, of any kind at all.

 

The television sector, in general, would have had another forgettable year, with stagnant viewership and no breakthrough achievement in content. But we can always bank on TRAI to inject some nuisance to counter the dullness. Much of the year saw broadcasters and TRAI tussle over NTO 2.0, and the last chapter of that story has still not been written. There was also the mega-merger of Zee and Sony, which opens immense opportunities for the new entity, with their complementary strengths. But that’s another topic for another day.

 

We can hope for a lot from 2022, but it’s not a year you want to write a script for. There are going to be surprises on the way, and this time, one hopes they are more pleasant than those in 2021.

 

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