Looking consumer, talking trade

29 Apr,2022




By Shailesh Kapoor


Shailesh KapoorWe are four months into 2022, and the year has not been short of action on the Indian M&E front. The month of April itself has been full of big announcements, of new companies being formed, of big companies getting new owners, and of new collaborations on the creative front. It’s also been a month where a film that has delivered some astonishing box office numbers, i.e., K.G.F: Chapter 2. Bollywood is facing an identity crisis, of its own making, as cinema from the South of India makes heavy inroads into the Hindi market. Some streaming platforms are finding it hard to grow subscribers in a post-pandemic scenario, but others continue to scale up their offering. News television ratings are back. All this while the IPL goes on, and we begin to build up to the suspense around the renewal of IPL’s broadcast rights.


Can you spot a pattern in these key events? They are all trade developments. They are B2B events or announcements that the average consumer, who’s not invested in a media business, has no interest in. An IPL fan will watch IPL wherever it is available. Streamers will choose their content and subscriptions according to their taste. The viewing of news does not depend on whether it is being measured or not. The box office of a film does not make it any less or more likeable for someone who chooses to watch it. Most audience of television and streaming content do not care about who the owners or shareholders of the channel or the platform they are watching are.


The B2C narrative has been marginalised. This has been a growing trend over the last few years. Why should this happen, I often wonder. In the older days too, there was always enough action on the B2B front. But the general narrative was always about content and marketing. There will be articles and interviews around shows, films, ad campaigns, the works. You would want to know more about a series you follow, or about the making of a movie that you loved. But these topics are not easy to find even on social media, forget the mainstream. Everyone wants to talk trade. Box office, ratings and subscriber bases have seeped into B2C terminology.


My hypothesis is that this is an outcome of a paid media economy created over the years. The Times of India introduced its ‘advertorial’ service Medianet more two decades ago. Since then, the term ‘Medianet’ has become a generic for all paid plug-ins across publications, including those online, and those not owned by BCCL. For some curious reason, a large share of such ‘advertorials’ comes from M&E companies, who possibly see paid PR as a good way to reach their target audience. For some reason, such communication tends to be business-centric at times, talking box-office and viewership, to lure audience to watch a particular show or film.


Over two decades of doing this, the lines have blurred. B2B PR is the new B2C PR. The consumer did not care initially, but now, it’s so mainstream that they have learnt to embrace it all… with the jargon and the half knowledge.


I miss the old days, when you could read a meandering, long-form piece on a film you had liked. Today, one looks for blogs and vlogs that still try and keep that culture intact, with little or no funding backing them. But it’s never the same as reading or watching on linear television.



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