August 15, 2018
Even as India witnessing a boom in OTT market thanks to players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Eros Now among others, a latest report has predicted that global consumer and advertising spend on TV and video will grow from $490B in 2017 to $559B in 2022, an increase of $69B.
Spend on OTT video will account for 90 per cent of this growth, according to Strategy Analytics’ Television & Media Strategies (TMS) report, ‘TV’s Transformation: A Unified TV and Video Market Perspective.’
It said consumer spend and digital video ad revenue from OTT video services such as YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Google Play, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, DirecTV Now, NOW TV, Maxdome, iflix, and other online video services will double over the forecast period, reaching $123B in 2022.
“OTT TV and video services will be the driving force behind future revenue,” according to Michael Goodman, Director, Television & Media Strategies, “however, traditional TV and video services should not despair too much, as they will continue to account for the majority of consumer and advertising spend for the foreseeable future.”
By 2022, consumer and advertising spend on traditional TV and video products and services globally will be over $435B, an increase of $7B from 2017, and account for nearly 78% of all TV and video revenue.
It also said that in 2022, North America will continue to be the largest TV and video market; accounting for 38.7% of global consumer and advertising spend on TV and video.
IPTV will buck the cord cutting trend in Western Europe. While cable (net loss of €987M), pay satellite (net loss of €187M), and pay DTT (net loss of €125M) will all see revenues decline over the next five years, IPTV will reach €9.9B in 2022, an increase of €1.5B.
In 2022, the Asia Pacific region will account for 23.4%% of global consumer and advertising spend on TV and video. Unlike North America and Western Europe, where consumer spend on legacy pay TV services are flat or declining, driven largely by China and India, consumer spend on legacy pay TV services will continue to see robust growth.
May 7, 2018
Along with its existing exhaustive slate of more than 1500 titles comprising of Indian & International films, television & animation content, Ultra will be participating with new exclusive titles in various genres, some of the other highlights are as below :
- Ultra Cookery:A series of unique cookery videos that feature healthy, delicious and easy to cook multi-cuisine recipes from worldwide. The recipes shown in this are quick to make and are a blend of innovative and novel techniques that are easy to follow and can be tried by anyone in the confines of their kitchen. The target audience for these videos are housewives, office going women, teenagers, learners, single & married men, students (both female & male) staying in hostels & paying guests accommodation, foodies , NRI’s and also others who share a passion for cooking.
- Teen Saheliyan :A television serial of a dramatic tale of 3 best friends who have always believed that their bond is forever. Until destiny takes an unexpected turn challenging the very survival of their friendship.
- 85 films from “Children Films Society of India (CFSI)” :Ultra has a collection of 85 films from CFSI which is an apex government body of India that produces “State of the Art” Children’s Films & TV programs in various Indian languages.
- Malgudi Days :One of the most prominent Indian television series, which has received accolades worldwide.
About Ultra Media
Ultra Media & Entertainment Private Ltd (Est. 1982) is a professionally managed Entertainment Conglomerate from India providing end to end solutions for the Television & Film Industry globally. The company pioneers in Content Acquisition & Distribution of various media rights worldwide. It also has a fully integrated, multi-faceted studio engaged in various aspects of entertainment which offers post production services like 3D Conversion, DI, Editing, Dubbing, Sound designing, Restoration, Scanning, Upscaling, VFX, etc.
For further information you can get in touch with Mr. Ashok Yadav on +91 9821300058, or else you can visit our booth ‘Palais 24.01’.
May 6, 2018
The delivered to your device film and ‘delivered to your device drama series’ is the future shape of medium budget cinema, even though revenue models remain unclear, says Bobby Bedi
Slowly but surely there has been a seismic change in the film business. It started, as all successful changes start, with a change in consumption habits. For some decades there was a subset of cinema that was finding its feet. This included home video, DVD, ‘made for TV’ films, etc.
While this kind of cinema had its heyday in the West, In India it was a nonstarter.
In the last decade we saw nothing of it. Ninety-five percent of it never released, or if it released, it failed at the box office. Smaller successes too yielded nothing for the producer. The pirates took it all. Even the rare success was illusionary. A Rs.50Mn film took another Rs.70Mn in P &A. To recover Rs.120Mn, the film needed a box office of Rs.30Mn. One look at the past 10 years box office shows that hardly any Rs.50Mn film got there. The probably was so low that these films were not just worth funding.
The other significant difference between what was happening in India vis the rest of the world was that Indian TV channels never accepted the concept of a ‘Made for TV’ film. Early experiments in ‘telefilms’ had failed, so the genre was a No-No. In fact, Indian GECs told producers that even abysmal flops at the box office had a price, but an unreleased film had no value.
Then something changed. A large American video rental company reinvented themselves. Instead of delivering DVDs to people in their home, they delivered them over the Internet. Netflix was such a successful experiment that it started changing the way we consumed content. Peripheral players, big tech giants, new start-ups all joined the movement. YouTube, Apple and then Amazon came into the fray. Even a major retailer joined the fray. Amazon took the conventional physicality of “every shopping mall needs a multiplex as an anchor tenant to drive footfalls” to a digital high and Amazon Prime was born.
In our own little world, we saw the coming of Eros Now and HotStar, some offerings
from the biggies — Amazon, Netflix and Apple — and the movement came to India.
Simultaneously, another new product hit the market. Now that content was being delivered to homes and even individuals directly, the scripted drama series came of age. It wasn’t rationed at the rate of one hour a week but one 10-hour season at a time. Suddenly we could watch what we wanted, when we wanted and for as long as we wanted on the device of our choice. And what’s more we could chose to watch it without advertising breaks. The OTT revolution had started, and a host of OTTs started in India.
This “delivered to your device film” and “delivered to your device drama series” is the future shape of medium budget cinema. It does not rely on expensive promotion, it doesn’t rely on distribution economics, it doesn’t need to kowtow to multiplex time slotting and most importantly, it does not rely on a one or two-week window before it disappears into thin air.
Having painted this utopia, I must caution that the economic model for this is still unclear. The content creator is getting paid, but the OTT channel is still figuring
out its revenues. IT oscillates between subscription and advertising and neither is sufficient. We hope a balance between the two will evolve in the near future.
Even though revenue models are unclear, the threat to conventional channels
is palpable. GECs and film channels should be worried. Someone out there is offering a better product and delivering it better. More importantly, consuming it is infinitely better. I don’t see this threat destroying conventional channels, just forcing them to become unconventional. Not just in delivery but also in content.
I have always maintained that a film is like a bullet. It leaves the barrel and either
hits the target or misses. Traditionally this was for a variety of reasons. Either
the product was bad or external circumstances killed it. Many good films failed because of failed communication, competition, poor scheduling etc. The reasons were many. Tragically you could not put the bullet back and fire it better or differently.
With the coming of the OTT, the channel loads the bullet and you hold the trigger.
You fire it up close and you fire it at will. Lousy content will still fail but a good story, well told will always find its audience.
Bobby Bedi is a film maker and museum designer. He is regular to Cannes for over two decades. He produced Bandit Queen directed by Shekhar Kapur which was part of Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight in 1994
February 14, 2018
Digitization has opened up new opportunities for content companies. Hiren Gada, Director and CFO, Shemaroo Entertainment, talks about how his company is riding on the digital wave to reach out to its consumers
Can you give a perspective of where is action at this point of time in the industry? And, where is Shemaroo heading?
Shemaroo is a content owner aggregator and distributor. We are an agnostic content aggregator not linked to technology or a platform. Our target is to go where the consumers are. In films, our current focus is on re-issue of films. The second area of focus is television. We syndicate content to channels across categories, genres and platforms. The third place where consumer is headed and which is at a nascent stage is the digital media (Internet or mobile based digitally delivered content). We have created a space for ourselves in this medium. TV and new media are focus for us where the consumer is headed.
How does Shemaroo Entertainment see it ride on the digital now world?
We have been monetizing our content on many digital platforms. Anyone who wants to run a Bollywood service has to work at some level with Shemaroo. We are not exclusively aligned to any one platform. Our business model is to distribute content in as many platforms. It is something similar to home video days — where we used to give DVDs to as many stores who would want to keep our DVD or content. Every new platform that comes in the market is a new shop front. It is something similar to the product available in all e-commerce platforms. At this point of time we do not know where the consumers will go. Working with various platforms will be the way we will look at it.
Tell us about your Miniplex product being offered by Tata Sky and Airtel to DTH subscribers.
Traditionally, after the theatrical window we had the home video window and television window. Now home video has shrunk and it is in the process of migrating to the digital store. But digital has not fully arrived. With Miniplex, we wanted to create a premium window to replace the home video window.
We offer one premiere every week. The consumer has the opportunity to watch four premieres in a month. Every Friday, we have eight shows. In a week we have 14 shows. The monthly subscription is Rs 60 and annual Rs 720. It is ad-free.
We will be adding more platforms. In a way, we are looking at movies which have lost out after the theatrical release and did not get the post theatrical market. It is a win-win for everyone. Film producer is happy as he could see some monetization, while platforms are getting new films. Consumers who missed those movies in theatre can catch them at home. There is value to everyone in the ecosystem. It is not absurdly priced and we have priced it reasonably.
Cable digitization has pushed scale. DTH has created mindset to pay for premium services, the conducive mindset, ecosystem and environment to have these services. We are headed more in that direction.
Will you be looking at reaching Miniplex in global platforms?
At this point of time, it is primarily for India we have started on DTH platforms. We are exploring other international platforms as well.
Is it a conscious decision that you have not started your own platform?
At the end of the day we are a content company. We are not a technology company. We decided to leverage existing technology platforms.
Last year, of the 1,200 films only 600 films got released in theatres. Are you looking at releasing some movies directly on these platforms?
That is not in our thought process. At this point of time for Miniplex we are looking at films which are theatrically released.
Will you be looking at increasing the number of premier’s in Miniplex?
Do you fund films that you release in Miniplex?
We don’t look at anything pre-release. The film is evaluated post release. Since the product has stabilised in both the platforms — Tata Sky and Airtel DTH — we will be looking at award-winning festival circuit regional movies. We are looking at the opportunity to have these films subtitled. But we have not explored this space.
Our immediate focus is to expand the presence of Miniplex and take the service to certain traction.
February 14, 2018
Digitisation continues to be a key growth driver for the Indian M&E sector with more and more audiences subscribing to the digital medium, says Rishika Lulla Singh, CEO, Eros Now
Eros Now is a visible digital platform today for content consumption. You have been a leader in digital space for over six years? Can this medium propel growth for the M&E sector?
We are on the threshold of a digital transformation and our significant digitized content library enables us to deliver optimum customer experiences across media spaces. We have succeeded in developing a service that engages a new digital generation of South Asians globally – when, where and how they want.
Digitization continues to be a key growth driver for the Indian M&E sector and with more and more audiences subscribing to the digital medium. Recent releases like Raanjhanaa and Go Goa Gone crossed more than a million views within just 2-3 days of its launch. Digital is the future and ErosNow aspires to be the leading South Asian digital brand of choice for consumers, advertisers and global media partners.
We have witnessed Eros Intl signing various multi-platform worldwide deals with telecom, IPTV and broadcasters. Do you see visible signs of consumption pattern changing?
Definitely, more and more specialist channels are coming up with digital consumption increasing. Recent trends indicate YouTube is already perceived to be the preferred choice for news and entertainment viewing, especially for the youth. Our recent collaborations with TalkTalk, Yupp TV and a host of other film content platforms point towards evident changes in consumption patterns.
What is your take on movie watching on tablets? Do you watch movies on the go?
The smartphones and tablets have entirely changed the measures of entertainment. What started as an obsession of playing games has now moved to consumers being addicted to their smart device to watch songs, movies, stream live matches etc. This has further gained momentum with high speed data either at home or with advent of services like 3G/4G.
Watching movies on tablet is a great source of entertainment while you are commuting or even when at home if one wants to enjoy his own space and his favorite movies. Its compact and user-friendly hence it’s not only entertaining but also makes life simple. I absolutely love watching movies on tablets. Whenever I am commuting which is very often with offices globally, I am either watching a movie or listening to my favorite music track. Moreover, tablets are handy and sleek and consume no extra space in your bag. So it’s a must in my travel list.
Internationally especially, people are more inclined to consume content on the go.. Studies have shown that almost a third of the time spent on a tablet is for entertainment. In India, despite certain technology and connectivity issues, we are slowly but surely getting there.
From innovation perspective Eros Now is a great case study? You have created a visible brand in no time? With Eros having all the ingredients of a successful start up how does it deploy innovation?
Eros Now is a one stop shop for Bollywood entertainment. Apart from the vast library of over 1900 films, we also premier many of our latest films on the platform within 2 weeks to a month of its theatrical release. We have been innovative with our membership offerings too – prepaid cards, a 48 hour movie rental window allowing movie viewing unlimited amount of times, instant steam of video etc. Additionally all content is in HD and we are also offering viewers a 14 day free trial where they can check out movies of their choice and finally subscribe to movies as per their pick. ErosNow extends its services beyond films and provides latest music from not just the Eros catalogue but also the entire T Series library for the listening pleasure of anyone visiting the platform.
How did you manage the challenge of traditional company embrace innovation for Eros Now?
Change is the necessity of the day and digital is the future. The Indian entertainment industry has undergone a paradigm shift in the last decade and studios like Eros have brought about corporatization of the industry. The monetization streams have also expanded. With a large library of 1900 films, our aim is to exploit the content across different formats and stay connected with the audiences 24×7 (In the digital space through Eros Now).At Eros we have always embraced technological advancements and with Eros Now we provide access to all our films, music videos, audio tracks and regional programming. Our services cater both premium and standard users. The key to success in this space is constant innovation and ease of content access.
From Eros perspective, where do you see the potential in the digital domain — do you see growth in domestic or international market? You have one of the finest library content?
In the short run, the dollars are coming in from the international markets, mainly due to better user experience and higher broadband penetration. India is still a “Freemium” market although this will change rapidly with the advent of 4G and other technological advancement.
Has this growth reflected in monetization for Eros? How has been the subscriber growth? Do you see a scalable model?
At Eros, our mantra clearly is maximization of the monetization. With a large library of 1900 films, our aim is to exploit the content across different formats and stay connected with our audiences 24×7.
For instance we have witnessed a huge growth on our YouTube channel from the time we launched it a few years back, the subscriber base has seen multifold increase. Also very proud to announce we recently crossed a million subscribers on the ErosNow YouTube channel.
What is Eros strategy with regards to digital piracy? Do you see piracy levels coming down with the death of DVD and increased digital consumption via multiple screens?
Earlier we used to put up Eros content (new releases) for digital fingerprinting post the theatrical release of the film. Now taking a step forward, we finger print our content prior to the theatrical releases, further curbing scope for digital piracy.
Also with shorter windowing of films, from theatrical to online (we showcase our films on Eros Now within two weeks to a month of its theatrical release), these initiatives do go some way in curbing the urge to watch the pirated version of the film.
Piracy also tends to happen because content isn’t readily available but with quality HD streaming, allowing users to access content whenever and however they want, erosnow.com aims to bridge that gap.
February 14, 2018
With innovation increasingly being considered indispensable, Marcel Fenez, Global Entertainment and Media leader for PwC, feels the journey is a long one as globally markets are at different stages of evolution.
Everyone is talking about innovation. What’s your take on this?
We have to innovate. There is no question about that. We have to look for new products and services. We have to look at new ways of connecting with the customer. Innovation is happening. However, innovation journey is going to be a long one. In many markets we are witnessing early stages of innovation and in others innovation requires the right number of technologies to be available for the digital journey. I think innovation is absolutely critical. Everyone is talking about it. All major companies, whether they are in the US, Europe or Asia, are looking at ways to innovate.
Are legacy thinking still prevalent in today’s media business?
There is nothing wrong in legacy thinking. The real question is how we change and adapt. We need to leverage the legacy. We should not allow the legacy to straddle you down.
What is the biggest concern of Media and Entertainment CEOs today? What is top of their mind?
Number one is the growth agenda. We have already talked about new products, services and innovation. Everyone is looking at consumer behaviour with changes in media consumption. The mobility of the consumer is absolutely critical. As a consequence you have to reach out to the consumer and create new products and services. That’s top on CEOs radar.
CEO groups are looking at scaling up. Scaling up can be achieved by new products or through acquisition or entry into new markets or through collaboration with other companies. A lot of CEOs are looking at inventing new products and services.
CEOs also are also realising the need to look at the way they are operating their existing businesses to make sure that the infrastructure they have and their organisations are actually aligned to the business of today and tomorrow rather than being aligned to business of yesterday. Negatively, that means cost reduction. But cost reductions are being made so that organisations can invest in new businesses. Looking at cost base is absolutely synonymous with how you invest in growth.
Media and technology companies are getting closer and marriage seems to be inevitable? There is no media without technology and no technology without media?
I actually believe that. I think technology and media is all about reaching the customer. Technology is nothing without content. And, content needs technology to reach the customer. I think that marriage you talked about is happening and it will happen more and more. We will see many more technology people in media companies. And also, we will see technology companies bringing more and more talent from media and advertising companies.
Recently, WPP’s Martin Sorrell said they are not an advertising company. Is the way how we define companies is changing?
Today, it is increasingly becoming more challenging to define simply what a company is. I think the most important thing is to identify the core skill or the core competency of an organisation. That will define what you are. But within that definition, you also have certain other important elements. Every organisation should be looking at all kinds of revenue streams and ways to get those revenue streams flowing. It may mean brining certain people together in-house or collaborating with others.
What is your take on cable TV digitization in the India market?
I think digitization will go relatively well. People are very positive about that. The underlining thing is how the economy will do over the next eighteen months.
India has a strong tilt towards traditional media but we are also experimenting with new media? Will India continue to do that?
Yes, it will. But India is not the only market with strong tilt towards traditional media. Take Indonesia for instance. It has still got a good print and TV sector. Online is relatively slow to develop. What I think important about India is that sometimes one doesn’t need to be first mover; sometimes it is better to be a good follower.
Everyone is talking about Big Data? How important is Big Data to M&E companies?
There is a lot of talk about big data. It is much more fundamental. Every organisation wants to connect with the consumer. Data analysing is basically understanding the consumer behaviour. It is very important for media companies. It is not easy to acquire and then subsequently mine the data. Data analysis is a very specific skill. It is a skill that media companies never had been exposed to. As media companies are moving increasingly from B2B to B2C space data analysis will become more important.
Do you see changes in the multi-screen media world today?
What we are seeing today is the change in traditional model. New things are coming along to compliment what we have seen before. If I have to give an example, there is a talk about second screen behaviour. But ultimately a lot of that is complimentary to the first screen behaviour. What we are seeing is that the behaviour is not substitution but complementary. People talk about Over the Top Television (OTT). The question in the short run is that is it substitution or complimentary?. There is a lot of evidence at the moment to show that it is complimentary. I think in the long run there may be substitution.
What is your outlook for media and entertainment sector?
There are short-term challenges in advertising in many markets. But these will be relatively short term. In terms of innovation, new products and services I am very upbeat. As I go around the world, I see many cool things happening. In terms of how we as an industry are changing, I am very upbeat.
February 14, 2018
Innovation is bound to increase the total volume of activity in the media and entertainment sector says Prof S Raghunath, Corporate Strategy and Policy, IIM Bangalore
How do you define innovation? What helps organisation achieve innovation?
Innovation as a concept applied to media and entertainment is all about the process of creating and delivering quantum improvement in customer value.
The general view is to create a separate organization for innovation.
But, in the media and entertainment industry such separation could prevent cross platform integration and conflict between the existing and innovation driven units of the organization. The ability to think innovatively should be a goal for every function in the organization.
More often than not there is a general inertia in recognizing and responding to changes in customer preferences once a company reaches a certain size or growth in hierarchy. For example general entertainment TV channels have audience members who are active participants who select programming to meet particular needs.
Should innovation start top down ideally? Is it a leadership issue? Do innovation turn a company’s performance?
Innovation requires top-down as well as bottom-up participation. The leadership at the top has to develop razor sharp focus on business model innovation. The challenge is to grow the pool of audience and, therefore the revenues; this in turn requires ability to create and capture value when technology, delivery and content are in a state of flux.
There are issues of when creative aspects should take precedence over business considerations and when business considerations must be given central importance in comparison to creative aspects. Both business and creative issues have to be explored and debated before making decisions. The success of media and entertainment offerings are a function of combining creative genius with business considerations.
The quality and calibre of those who make these combined decisions evolve.
There are decisions involved in looking at new ways to charge for the product or service, there is innovation involved in sponsorship as to who will pay for the product or service, there is innovation in considering new ways to expand a content or brand value to different consumer segments or different ways of offering the content to the consumer.
More specifically, leaders at the top have to reckon with audience fragmentation. They have to achieve a fit between the offerings of creative talent and changing consumer expectations relating to relevance, convenience and flexibility. They must examine how to segment customers so that the revenue model can fit to those segments who will perceive value from the offering and willing to pay for it.
The current trend of increasing communication, bandwidth, information and processing power has not just changed consumer behaviour and expectations but has also provided the media and entertainment industry increased ability to gather information about consumers. It is now possible to make better segmentation based on the analysis of the information and there could be innovations relating to new ways to charge for content.
Why are start-ups active and drive innovation than traditional companies? Do digital platforms offer more for innovation than traditional ones?
Start-ups are better of than traditional companies as they do not have to deal with the question of cannibalizing their current products and services. Traditional companies have existing partner relations and customer base and there is an apprehension that customers may not move beyond a certain level of willingness to pay.
Start-ups are better positioned to offer products and services considering the changing dynamics of what the consumers are preferring as content and mode of consumption based on their age, gender and views about society. While the traditional companies look at the consumers through the singular lens of what they are offering and what the current customer base is preferring to consume. There is little effort in segmenting consumers and markets.
Why do we see fewer innovation in Indian M&E companies than what it happens globally?
Changes in technology and utilization of the benefits from technology has enabled large western firms to increase the target consumers pool while the same has not been fully utilized so far by the Indian companies. The traditional consumer pool in our country consisted of passive consumers of media and entertainment who were hoping to be entertained in their living rooms. They have very strong preferences for program content. They are gradually accessing the internet. They are also beginning to question why they are paying for so many channels when they are watching only few. The set top box connections provide viewing information. Therefore the cable providers can make a selection for their consumers by identifying favourites for them and opt out of the rest. This kind of an arrangement can help content providing TV entertainment companies to maximize distribution of their niche channels. The managers of cable companies are resisting this mode of pricing. There is an opportunity in our country to shift to an arrangement that provides subscribers access to content through any device such as television, computers, pay-per-view via streaming.
The tendency towards bundling of the channels and offering a price makes the purchase less complicated or cheaper for the consumers, while a pick and choose model may fulfil a consumers desires of choice and flexibility. However, the cable operators prefer bundling option for pricing which then opens the door for new competition from streaming services available on the net and on demand content free startup like Box TV which download content from traditional TV, cable or internet.
Your thoughts on inculcating the culture of innovation in an organisation?
In the context of media and entertainment industry, leadership is all about creating and managing an environment for innovation. Respecting individuality and encouraging individual initiative is a hallmark of a leader in media and entertainment space. Leaders have to make final content calls. In business it is not just about coming up with ideas but also how much should be spent on it. This decision is based on how much revenue and margins can be expected. The most important contribution to creative success is getting people to come up with great ideas and having people support those great ideas and support those creative people, manage creativity with business foresight. This requires managing synergy across all company offerings. Everybody has to cooperate with everybody else and no competition must be encouraged between divisions. Many companies underperform due to tensions and weak relations at the top level. If innovation is to be successful over the long term, it is imperative that all divisions of a company remain true to its espoused values of delivering “entertainment”.
Are companies bound to vanish — if innovation is not put into practice — there is a lot of disruption happening across sectors?
Any media and entertainment product or service that is not an imitation may be treated as innovation. Innovation is about those creative efforts that are accepted by the market as unusually different, satisfying or productive. Innovation is bound to increase the total volume of activity in the media and entertainment sector. The potential market for media and entertainment products and services has grown in India not just because the population and national income have grown but also the literacy rate has gone up and people have begun to spend on media and entertainment. Secondly more intermediaries are available to introduce artists to the market and more artists struggle for creative success. An enlarged M&E market attracts more would be innovators. Successful innovations are highly diverse and they illustrate important links between the responsiveness of tastes and the organization of creative activities.
It is not unusual to expect successful innovating firms to flourish and failed non innovating firms to fade away.
Companies with well established distribution system can preserve their position if they open their facilities to innovation. On the other hand with no control over distribution of content and no capacity to bear large losses innovation can cause enormous turnover among companies. The turnover process is more natural and continuous when firms are small and without sunk or committed resources.
February 14, 2018
It is critical that as leaders we build organisations that strengthen more open and learning culture, encourages dialogue, tolerates failure and is receptive to new ideas says Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO Viacom18 Media
After two decades at Uniliver you have stepped into the media sector as Group CEO of Viacom 18 Media. Where do you see deployment of innovation/innovative practices — in FMCG or media sector?
Innovation is at the heart of every business, even more so in the consumer oriented businesses. Innovation has a role to play in the entire value chain of the business. We need innovative ideas, innovative programming styles, and innovative processes. In the boarder sense of the word, “innovation means doing things better”. And thus, innovation entails new ideas, programs, thoughts and “improved execution in programming and processes”.
In FMCG, innovation has taken deep roots and is deployed across the entire spectrum of the business value chain. Whereas in Media, innovation is primarily focused on programming and platforms (including digital). It still needs to find its rightful place in processes.
In the CII Big Picture Summit 2012 you made a point comparing media content with laundry (product variation). Why are we not able to have that same spectrum of pricing and products for media? What is the need of the hour? How do we change?
Pricing is a very important element of any successful business model. It is critical that we allow more free and market driven pricing models in the broadcast media sector. This is needed to strengthen the business models and in turn drive innovation, leading to enhanced consumer experience. It is also true that we need to provide entertainment to every Indian. In my judgement, the way to tackle it is to give base level of entertainment comprising of free-to-air channels across genres available to every Indian at a nominal price. For all others there should be a free and fair pricing mechanism deployed through our pay TV channels across genres. This is truly consistent with any segment of goods or services across consumer product categories in India starting from apparel (shirts, trousers, saris), shoes, groceries (toothpaste, laundry detergents, soaps, skin creams etc), cars, bikes, restaurants and hotels.
How do you view innovation transforming M&E sector. It is happening all over the world. Why do we see fewer innovation in Indian M&E companies than what it happens globally? As we stand, do you see innovation propelling growth for the M&E sector?
Innovation is at the core of M&E sector and continues to propel it forward. We see fewer innovations in Indian M&E sector because of our business models. The Broadcast industry is in its “teens” in India. After having gone through an initial investment phase we now need to find more profitable and sustainable business models that will allow adequate investment in development of concepts, research and dialling up of experimentation in the Indian M&E sector.
How is innovation deployed at Viacom 18 Media across verticals?
Innovation is in the DNA of Viacom 18. Colors redefined the rules of the game with its launch in 2008. Our programs like Balika Vadhu brought in a fresh perspective and a different point of view when most others at that time were stuck with the more conventional programmes. We premiered big films soon after their domestic theatrical run. We dialled up the non-fiction space. More recently we are bringing ‘24’ to India. MTV has been at the forefront of innovation and experimentation with music and youth oriented programmes. COKE Studio, MTV unplugged, Sound tripping in music at one end to the now very famous MTV Roadies at the other are some examples of the same. As a studio, Viacom18 Motion pictures has rewritten the code making “Good content is good business” as its credo with films like Kahanni , OMG- Oh My God , Special 26 and our latest Super hit Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
Experts believe that Innovation begins at the top. What is your view on innovation and leadership?
Innovation does begin at the top and it needs a leadership and culture that nurtures the spirit of experimentation, thinking out-of-the box and an ability to tolerate and learn from failures. It is critical that as leaders we build organisations that strengthens more open and learning culture, encourages dialogue, tolerates failure and is receptive to new ideas.
Why are start-ups active and drive innovation than traditional companies? Is this culture developed in India?
It is often seen that startups more actively drive innovation as compared to their traditional counterparts. This is primarily because at the start up stage most organisations are willing to take risks and do not fear failure. This is also aided by the stakes being lower at that stage in their journey. As organisations become big the fear of failure tends to make them more straight jacketed leading to lower innovations and reduced ability to experiment.
Similar to the way companies look at innovation, there is a need or innovation in policy making process. As an industry leader do you expect innovation policy thinking from government and regulator?
Once again if we define innovation in its broadest sense (Doing things better) there is a clear need for innovation on policy thinking from government and regulator. In keeping with the changing times, we need to always ask the questions focusing on ‘What’ and the bigger objective , while constantly revisiting / innovating on the ‘How’. The problem is that the government tends to get caught up a lot on the ‘How’ and loses the requisite focus on the ‘What’. This is even more pronounced in a rapidly evolving and dynamic M&E sector.
February 12, 2018
Here’s the complete transcript of the keynote address delivered by Robert Thomson, CEO of News Corp. at the 2015 Lowy Institute Media Awards dinner.
As a former journalist, or a reforming journalist, I am grateful for the occasional invite to journalistic gatherings, where there is a chance to reminisce romantically about life as a reporter and to relive the chills of going correspondent cold turkey.
At the age of 24, I was plonked into Peking, now Beijing, and the words “naive” and “callow” do not capture the ignorant innocence that characterised much of my time there. It was surely a learning experience — the confluence of a wide-eyed wanderer in a country that was itself emerging blinking into the real world after decades of delusionary, soul-destroying communism.
It was still the age of Flying Pigeon bicycles, mostly Mao Suits and a troglodytish telex machine that was the means of communication to an outside world that regarded China as an exotica collection (the Last Eunuch, the Last Emperor’s brother, the First Privately-Run Hair Salon) rather than an economic superpower whose influence roils real estate markets and excites and intimidates governments around the world.
It was an early lesson in transition, upheaval, creative disruption and the immense power of economic freedom and the magic of markets. It certainly had a profound influence on my economic and political views.
As Soren Kierkegaard sagely observed: “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” Or as investment funds in shameless pitch mode candidly suggest: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”
But even Kierkegaard, were he not dead, would concede that it is remarkable and remiss that there is not more focus on the fact that perhaps 550 million or so people lifted themselves out of poverty in China, given the freedom to do so.
It was something that literally unfolded before your eyes in the mid 1980s — as a journalist, particularly one writing for a business newspaper, visits to just-opened regions were an opportunity to listen to eager local officials discuss farmers’ markets and financially struggling factories and families that were finally leaving famine behind.
When some commentators speak of markets it is in the abstract, slightly pejorative sense — markets are actually an aggregation of collective effort and hope and action.
As they get more complex, markets need monitoring, but if it were not for the role of individual decisions, the individual acts, the individual aspiration that was emancipated by reform in China, a large percentage of Asia’s population would certainly still be living in grinding, humiliating poverty.
It is patronising in the extreme, and verging on the immoral, for western elites not to recognise that undeniable fact.
In the West, China is trapped between those on the Left who preferred the simplicity of a rustic, centrally planned poverty — a Consumptive China rather than a China with consumer consumption — and those on the Right whose concerns and prejudices can almost be traced back to the 1949 debate on “Who Lost China?” Is the rise of China to be welcomed? Of course it is. Are there some worrying signs in China? Of course there are. It’s always a concern when a security apparatuses has enough power to define threats that don’t really exist and wantonly intimidate people.
Security teams around the world, whether they be personal security or national intelligence networks, have an irrepressible habit of exaggerating threats to justify the expansion of influence. China, conceptually, is no different, but its application is far more draconian, to the detriment of its people and its reputation. But the abiding lesson for the dilettante abroad in the mid-1980s, was that, culturally, we have far more in common than is different, and engaging intelligently with China at a time when it is still finding its bearings is paramount.
Media companies, too, are looking for their bearings. Here we are in the age of the GPS, of relentless, endless tracking and precisely precise data, and yet some in media are wandering aimlessly, dazed and confused, without coordinates and slouching towards oblivion. We are living in the decade of content distribution, which is not necessarily good for the act of creation. For journalists and newspapers are creationists, not in the biblical sense, but in the creative sense — I am fortunate to be a custodian in a company that invests in thousands of creative acts around the world each day, great journalism, compelling analysis, feisty blogs, captivating videos and brilliant books, fiction and nonfiction. The question for this creationist is whether my views are anti-evolutionary or anti e-evolution — already a bit backward and sliding ever more so.
For the distributionists do indeed have powerful distribution channels, Google and Facebook, and pretenders like LinkedIn, which is spam central. None of them actually create content, and they certainly have little intention of paying for it, but they do redistribute the content created by others — they would argue that such redistribution is a natural extension of their role as social networks.
I would argue that much of the redistribution is an unnatural act. But there are broader issues that are still unfolding for media companies, who are themselves struggling to profit from their news and other content, while the distributionists are helping themselves to that content, co-opting and corralling audiences and consciously devaluing brands. The supposed idealism of these companies is in stark contrast to their actual behaviour. That Google’s newly conceived parent company is to be called Alphabet has itself created a range of delicious permutations: A is for Avarice, B is for Bowdlerize, through to K for Kleptocracy, P for Piracy and Z for Zealotry.
It should be reassuring for news organisations that the distributors have suddenly started to realise that the quality of content is important, particularly as they try to build walled gardens — though it should be noted that the Chinese discovered that even a Great Wall didn’t work. The spammers at LinkedIn discovered that CVs are only burnished occasionally and anyone who tweaks their CV a few times a week is probably not worth hiring. Anyway, they now see themselves as a news distributor, and news organisations who cozy up too closely to them are guilty of techno trendiness. It is patently important to be aware of the trends but a grievous sin to be too trendy.
And we are entering a new phase of development by the big distribution networks, a phase in which they are not only appropriating content but deciding what content is appropriate and inappropriate. They are appointing editors not to create but to curate. And these curators tend to have a certain mindset, a deep fondness for political correctness, and a tendency to be intolerant of ideological infractions.
Silicon Valley is moving from the PC to being a purveyor of the PC.
This transition is already underway. The stream of content is often a flow of soft- left sensibility, a stream of content consciousness in which genuine debate is in danger of drowning and alternative views rarely surface. This profound movement is taking place, and without much serious discussion of the social consequences.
Newspapers have always been a little unruly, but they are characterised by public debate, wrangling, haggling, arguing, sometimes passionately about issues and consequences, about the impact on societies and on people. The philosophy, the point of great newspapers is clear. But now we have the exponential growth of purportedly neutral platforms built by e-elites that will be far from neutral, far from objective, succumbing to a stultifyingly samey subjectivity and sensibility.
To get a sense of the scale of lifestyle and platform change it is worth noting that the time spent per day per adult in the US with digital devices was 3.2 hours in 2010, when we already thought we were connected and contemporary.
This year, the average time spent is 5.6 hours … about half of that time is on mobile and that percentage is still rising sharply, while desktop/laptop usage has been fairly constant at 2.4 hours. There will, fairly comfortably, be 4 billion smart phones by 2020, double the 2014 total — and smart phones are getting smarter and smarter.
To be truly “smart” phones these wondrous devices should offer diversity of content and experience, but that is not necessarily the demeanour of the distributors.
Think of international reportage. Take the coverage of and commentary about Cecil the Lion’s tragic demise. Was his slaughter an appalling act? Absolutely. Will there be punishment? There has been and there will be. But the endless exegesis about how the gleaming white teeth of a mid-western dentist represented the untold cruelty of the American people was bizarre in the extreme and yet it became a common narrative. The episode probably does tell you something about testosterone, but the head of the dentist with the pearly white dentures has now been mounted on walls around the world, and the brass plate below reads “the Pox Americana”.
These interpretations are as binary as they are banal. America is a much more complicated, much more textured, much more thoughtful country.
Washington is the world’s most influential capital and it would be even more important with sustained focus on the world outside. Unfortunately, the much- discussed Asia pivot by the US is more an Asia divot.
More relevant to our discussion is the digital divot; the deficit in reporting resources created by the egregious aggregation of news by distributors for whom provenance is an inconvenience and who are contemptuous of copyright. The words Intellectual Property don’t appear in the Google alphabet. Without proper recognition, without proper remuneration, well-resourced reporting will be ever more challenged.
When I arrived in Beijing, many a US newspaper had China correspondents — now some of those papers no longer exist in printed form.
Mismanagement played a role, as did journalistic hubris, but the digital age has been hostile to investment in reporters and reporting. Why pay professionals when you have UGC, user-generated content? And why pay when you can purloin?
Interestingly these companies are moving on, as we have seen, but their new-found fondness for premium content still comes with an aversion to paying for it. They start from the perspective of form as function, that the canvas should be flawless, seamless, that low latency is more important that professional potency, that content should be captive. But source code is not necessarily a source of wisdom, and platforms that are supposedly “open” will be distinctly vulnerable to closed minds.
In this age, I am proud to work for a company that has both an egalitarian ethos and a commitment to investing in journalism and in understanding.
Without Rupert Murdoch, many people in this room would not be in fine surrounds celebrating the continued importance of journalism — we would be in the backroom at a dingy pub lamenting its passing. I was born in a rural pub, with the blended aroma of VB and Vicks, so there is definitely nothing inherently wrong with a pub. There is, however, something inherently wrong when provenance is profane, and when the professional journalist is an endangered species.
February 12, 2018
Rajesh Sawhney is the founder of GSF Accelerator, India’s first multi-city Tech Accelerator, backed by 20 iconic digital founders and 5 leading venture funds from across the world. Rajesh is also the founder of GSF Superangels network and curator of the Global Superangels Forum. He is the co-host and curator of Founders Forum India. Rajesh has made over 15 investments as an active and engaged angel investor.
Bangalore is vibrant and has a technology edge, NCR region around Delhi is driving so many e-commerce and education startups, Mumbai is slowly emerging as the digital media and Fin-tech eco-system.
His journey has been a continuum of re-invention waves. In the first wave, he brought private radio (Times FM) to India in early nineties, and redefined Indian youth culture. In his second wave, he was at the cusp of early Internet culture in India and built Indiatimes.com, the most valuable Internet business in India in 2005 (funded by Sequoia). In the third wave, Rajesh was at the centre of a massive transformation of the Indian film industry, where he oversaw (as President, Reliance Entertainment) the corporatization of mom and pop Bollywood businesses into multi-billion dollar enterprise. At Reliance, Rajesh found himself at the centre of cross-border investment and alignment between Hollywood and Indian Film Industry and one of the biggest investment deals (DreamWorks) in Hollywood.
Currently in his fourth wave, Rajesh is building the vital building blocks of a nascent early stage startup ecosystem in India, and sees this as the biggest and most exciting challenge that he has faced in his life. Pickle chats with Rajesh Sawhney, founder of Global Superangels Forum.
Why do you say your current re-invention wave (Startup ecosystem) is the biggest and the most exciting challenge in your career?
Technology is setting a relentless pace of change. Startups are driving this change across the world. They are the new frontiers of innovation. India has a chance to play a big role, but faces enormous challenges: Risk aversion to failure, lack of capital and not thinking big. I am excited to accept this challenge. I am building a startup platform, GSF, that gives opportunities to startups that their counter-parts in the developed world enjoy.
The key objective of Global Superangels Forum (GSF) is to spur innovation and entrepreneurship through angel and seed investing. How has this worked and do you see change reflecting in reality? You have made a major effort in bringing mentors in single window?
GSF has funded 25 startups in the last one year. In addition to that, 30 super-smart EIRs (Entrepreneurs in Residence) have also worked with GSF. 250 mentors from across the world are associated with us, out of which 200 are co-founders of VC backed startups.
I am extremely happy with the rapid progress GSF has made as a startup platform. GSF Accelerator Programme is not only the biggest, but also the widest with presence in NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. I am humbled by the response of the startup community and support of my peers through this exciting first year.
What is the blue sky difference between Indian start up culture and what we see in Silicon Valley? Do you see this bridge getting closer?
GSF has a global presence to work with startups.
The biggest difference is the attitude to failure. Most startups fail across the world. Failure is celebrated in the Silicon Valley. In India, our cultural norms don’t accept failure easily. However, this attitude is changing gradually. I’ve met many young and bright people of late who have left their cushy jobs for a life in startups. This suggests that some of these new young founders are ready to take a plunge without worrying too much about failing.
We have three global tie-ups so far; one with MIT, the second with 500 startups in Silicon Valley and the third with Seedcamp from Europe. These unique tie-ups make us distinct as we are in a position to provide global springboards to our startups.
You have said that there is no reason why Indian entrepreneurs cannot create the next Instagram, or the next Twitter. What makes you so optimistic? For sure it has happened as idea of Twitter stemmed out of a conference.
Absolutely. Internet democratizes the opportunity. We have both the entrepreneurial and technology talent, though we lack behind the world in Design. Secondly, we don’t take enough chances and big risks. This world belongs to people who take a different path. There is no future for normal people and normal companies. A spectacular failure is a better option than an ordinary life.
Many also say innovation doesn’t require big technology. Is it correct? What according to you are basic ingredients of today’s startup in India?
Technology is a key driver of innovation, though not the only one. In India, we see more of business model innovation, which many people refer to as frugal innovation. But the combination of frugal innovation and technology innovation is potentially lethal. In fact that is the big Indian opportunity.
When I look at a startup for investment, I am looking for founders who are passionate and dreamers with a vision to change the world. I also respect and backfounders who build great products and have an eye for details. And yes, it helps if they are chasing a big market opportunity.
MIT Technology Review has listed Bangalore as among the top innovation clusters. What is your view? You operate in multi-cities of India and also the world.
In India, we have three primary startup eco-systems, each has a different characteristic; Bangalore is vibrant and has a technology edge, NCR region around Delhi is driving so many e-commerce and education startups, Mumbai is slowly emerging as the digital media and Fin-tech eco-system.
There hasn’t been too much disruptions from Indian startups — in the digital space? Do you see it coming?
Mobile is the biggest disruptor in the making. It has already changed the way Indians communicate, consume content and do shopping. I am super excited about the rise of smart phones and evolution of 3G and 4G networks. Together, they will bring 500 million new Internet users online in India. That’s huge.
You have pioneered the Time FM, Internet culture, films space and now building start up ecosystem in India. How do you see this decade different from the past decade?
I believe in disruptions. I like them. I thrive on them. Change is the only constant for me. Future is exciting and I see many many disruptions in the making. Some of them are extremely transformative and will provide huge opportunity for innovation.
Last decade was equally exciting: it saw the evolution of media industries from small mom and pop businesses to well run corporate entities; it saw the evolution of mobile as a transformative change in communication landscape, and finally Indian youth and middle class has changed and evolved as a powerful force. But we ain’t seen nothing yet!
What is more … availability of money for startups or too many ideas from startups?
Contrary to the popular belief, we don’t have too many startups in India. China has ten times more startups than India. Even Israel has more startups than India. We need to pick up pace in startup formation.
We also have shortage of Angel and seed money in India. In the US, Angel and seed financing equals venture financing…each is about USD 23B a year. In India, the quantum of seed financing is 1/20 of venture financing. We need more capital to spur innovation at an early stage.
GSF operates without the help of Government and has not sought any support. Is there anything that the government can do to propel growth in startups?
Government has a big role to play in building capacity and infrastructure where startups can thrive. Governments across the world, be it UK, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, China or Singapore have understood the need to build startup cultures. They need startups to rejuvenate their economies, spur innovation and create jobs. In India, Government has lagged behind in its understanding and efforts. I will be happy to work with Governmental agencies.