Free Speech is Sacrosanct: Uday Shankar Chairman, FICCI Media & Entertainment Committee

admin   February 14, 2018

“To unleash the potential of wealth creation by M&E sector, it is imperative that the right to free speech be protected and the lens through which the industry is looked at be changed,” says Uday Shankar, Chairman, FICCI Media & Entertainment Committee at FICCI FRAMES 2013.

Uday Shankar Chairman, FICCI Media & Entertainment Committee and CEO, Star India

“To unleash the potential of wealth creation by M&E sector, it is imperative that the right to free speech be protected and the lens through which the industry is looked at be changed,” says Uday Shankar, Chairman, FICCI Media & Entertainment Committee at FICCI FRAMES 2013.

Highlighting challenges faced by the media industry, Uday Shankar, Chairman of FICCI Media and Entertainment (M&E) Committee, said efforts to curb free speech in a robust democracy like India was one of the biggest threats that could potentially derail the industry from its growth trajectory.

“When ‘Satyamev Jayate’ points to weaknesses in the medical system,doctors are offended. When ‘Jolly LLB’ creates a courtroom satire, lawyers are offended. Even when a teenager posts a comment on Facebook, some people start baying for her blood,” Shankar said while delivering the theme address at the FICCI FRAME 2013.

Expressing concerns that freedom of speech was still being questioned even after over 60 years of independence, he said it was time to recognize that free speech was “sacrosanct” and not “the right to be offended”.

“We all agree that the role of media is to question status quo. But with the right to question must come the right to provoke and the right to offend. In the absence of these, there is no debate and without debate there is no clarity. But we seem to be regressing in this area,” said Shankar, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Star India.

Shankar said the industry was “capable of creating employment and wealth much faster than most other sectors and with the ability to be a force multiplier, like it is in most countries”. The $15-billion media and entertainment industry employs as many as six million people, he added.

The 14th edition of FICCI FRAMES, the foremost business gathering in the media and entertainment sector that brings the media and entertainment industry and policy makers on a single platform, adopted this year’s theme as ‘Engaging a Billion Consumers’.

“In business and creative terms, the Indian media and entertainment sector still remains much smaller than it should be in a country of 1.2 billion people,” said Shankar, adding that “our collective and individual ambitions should be taking wings around this big opportunity”.

Highlighting other challenges that need to be addressed to unlock the industry’s growth potential, Shankar said: “The lens often used to look at this industry is largely one of glamour and propaganda and the biggest debate is on how to control and contain it. As a result, the growth of M&E has not been supported by policy and regulatory initiatives.”

He said the M&E industry, particularly in India, can be an employment generator without massive public investments and without being hampered by the deficiencies of public infrastructure.

“Why would you not nourish an industry which has the potential to become a huge employer? Why would you not fuel an industry that can grow with more policy support than resource support?” he asked, referring to the government’s decision to double customs duty on import of set-top boxes in the union budget for 2012-13.

“Instead of giving fiscal support to digitalization which can unlock huge economic value, there is an imposition of additional customs duties on set-top boxes. The time has come for all of us to make sure that it is not just industry status that we seek, but a fundamental change in mindset, ”Shankar said.

He also pointed out that the media and entertainment sector lacked reliable data to measure audience response across verticals. He made a call for action by the industry.

“Numbers are supposed to be the foundations of rational business decisions. But how can we make decisions when professionals in the business of numbers can’t get their numbers straight?” he asked the audience.

“The lack of reliable data is not limited to TAMs (Technology Acceptance Models). In fact, as a TV executive, I am surprised sometimes how I am even able to function. I do not know enough about my viewers – in fact I don’t even know how many of them are there.

“There are 140 million cable and satellite homes but the measured universe is 62 million households. The country’s premier media agencies can’t even seem to agree on a fact as basic as the size of the advertising market.”

Warning that the industry was facing an imminent talent crunch, Shankar said: “We hide under the pretense of creativity and have convinced ourselves that creativity gives us the license to be informal and chaotic.

“It is this informality and chaos that has seeped into our approach to spotting and grooming talent. This is dangerous. We must realize that discipline and formality are not antithetical to creativity and if anything they are necessary ingredients to fostering the creative process.”

Stating that the industry has a real crisis on both supply and quality sides, he said: “While it is not unique to the Media and Entertainment sector, what is different is the lack of recognition of the scale of the challenge. While other fast growing sectors like IT and financial services are actively working to find the right talent and building the right skills, we, as a community are complacent in our belief that this sector is different.”

Elaborating further, Shankar said: “In the last 10 years,there has been a manifold increase in the content we have produced, the number of channels, the number of newspapers, the number of radio stations, and the number of films –but there is not even a nominal increase in the number of quality training institutions to support this kind of growth. Fly-by-night training shops have mushroomed,making the problem even worse.”


More Investment, Innovation Need of the Hour: Amit Khanna

admin   February 14, 2018

Industry veteran Amit Khanna, in a freewheeling chat with Pickle, says the Indian M&E sector needs massive investments, innovative thinking and greater emphasis on skilled manpower to grow its clout in the global market

No Indian M&E business in the last 20 years has grown beyond Rs. 10,000 crore. It is a sad story. It reflects on the inability of the industry to reinvent itself and grow

The Indian Media and Entertainment industry needs $50 billion worth of investment in the next five years and the media leadership needs a complete mindset change to drive its growth on global scale, according to Amit Khanna, media veteran and former chairman of Reliance Entertainment.

“If you see the total investment in the last 10 years in the entire Indian media and entertainment industry, it would be less than what a Flipkart has invested. The reason why money is not coming in is because of the poor business model. People have been on an expansion mode without adequate planning,” said Khanna in an exclusive interview with Pickle.

The media veteran feels that the mindset among the top M&E players needs to change. “The media and entertainment industry is looking at the world with the wrong end of the binocular. Everything is far and looks unattainable. What you don’t realise is you need to inverse the binoculars.”

In terms of figures, only $20 billion is spent on the Indian media and entertainment sector, which is only 1 per cent of the country’s GDP. “Our share of the world market is less than 1 per cent in the $3 trillion global media and entertainment market,” Khanna explained, adding that India’s per capita media spend needs to go up drastically to ensure growth.

To increase the market share of India, there is a need of massive investment in trained professionals and innovation, which is not forthcoming.

Khanna, who is currently researching for his encyclopaedia on the history of media and entertainment in India, said that no Indian M&E business in the last 20 years has grown beyond Rs. 10,000 crore. “It is a sad story. It reflects on the inability of the industry to reinvent itself and grow,” he observed.

He also feels that the Indian M&E sector is at least 10 years behind the curve in technology.

“It requires drastic steps. The government should get out of business and businesses need to get into business.”

However, Khanna is optimistic about investment coming from Reliance Jio, Netflix, Amazon and many other companies like them. “This is already happening in India. We will see changes happen soon,” he said.

Khanna admitted that even Reliance Entertainment could not sustain itself. “I was involved with Reliance Entertainment. We invested $1 billion. That was not enough. Then we stopped. We needed investment to become a major player in all media verticals. We needed another $2 to $3 billion which we could not raise or invest. That’s why we failed,” Khanna said.

Only Star India and Zee and to some extent, Sony Entertainment Televison, have invested in the M&E business, according to him.

“Though Star India and Zee are there, they are not innovating enough. They do one innovative show and think they are doing great work. There is virtually zero innovation,” he noted.

Khanna maintained that India has not tapped the digital market sufficiently. “We keep talking about OTT. We should not talk about delivery or access technology. We should talk about what the audience will access in that. It cannot be repurposed content. Every broadcaster has started a digital platform and they are telecasting the same programme as on TV. The audience who are online are not interested in that content. Digital platform is not for repurposed content.

“ Interestingly, he predicted that mobile would become an access device in future. “Everybody is not going to see movies on the mobile phone. We will use the mobile to download the film or connect it to a home TV. Already projectors are getting launched which projects a normal image from a mobile phone onto the wall,” he said.

The Indian M&E industry should produce less and earn more, according to Khanna. “Last year, out of 1,200 feature films only 600 got released. The number of unreleased films is going to go up with only 300 to 400 films getting released in future. That’s the reality. Similarly, 850 TV channels are not viable,” he said.

The government cannot be blamed for everything. “The government’s role in this sector should be of benign interference. The government has no role in the industry except bringing out some broad legislations. The fact is there is lack of investment and trained professionals. In 30 years, we have come from untrained people to semi-trained people. We have plenty of halfskilled people. Fully-skilled people are very few,” the former chairman of Reliance Entertainment said.


My prediction would be that there are quite some healthy windows for Print, Radio and Television in India: Media Futurist Gerd Leonhard

admin   February 14, 2018

What does The Futures Agency do?

I work as a futurist and spend most of the time on media, entertainment content and communications. I have 25 colleagues at Future Agency. We are agents for the future. What we do is preview the future forward. Media companies have to think about five billion people connected to cheap devices using social media, cloud computing that is completely changing the way that they do business, how they sell ads, what movies they produce, how they distribute. Our work is to go to the future, bring the experiences back and then shock the participants to think about.

Do people really get frustrated when you say things?

Yes. The reality is people don’t change and companies don’t change unless you have got a bit of a pain effect — the threat of potential death. For companies this does wonders because it motivates them.

Can we crystal gaze only five years?

Lot of the things that are happening are pointed towards the immediate future — three to five years. The immediate future is quite obvious to see if you take the time to look. And my work is not to tell the people what they don’t know but to bring it back into their forefront of their mind.

Traditional media continues to dominate India and digital is evolving… Your take.

My prediction would be that there are quite some healthy windows for print, radio and television. But media companies looking at the future would have to create a double scenario.

Are companies bound to vanish if innovation is not put into practice?

Absolutely. Digital default means a lot of different things for companies. For example, the empowerment of the consumer, the move to mobility, the consumer participation, peer-to-peer reporting. I mean, these are great opportunities. But if you ignore most of them, it is very unlikely you will be successful because you will need significant control of the market to keep people to keep happy.

Why are startups active compared to legacy companies?

For startups it is an idea that they do things better to replace something that isn’t quite working. And they are undiplomatic, look for aggressive innovation and a disruptor. Now, for a company that has 100,000 employees is very hard to be a disruptor unless they have an aggressive CEO like Jeff Beezos of Amazon, very fast moving and risk taking person. Also, we have a very bad system with the stock market that does not reward risk taking and it rewards gradual risk taking. Startups have very little to lose.

I tell all my big clients – telecom and media companies – that they should have a second place to where they can be a startup and shoot down the mothership, where you can replace yourselves before somebody does it. This is important because speed of change is mindboggling. You can see that in India. Every year, I go there it is in other leap. If you don’t move along with the speed and allow room for innovation and risk and if you are too slow eventually you will fall of the cliff and nobody cares where you go.

Your thoughts on innovation execution and assumptions…

Once, you create the space, people come forward. All you have to do is create that space. We also have to question our assumptions. For example, the movie industry and music industry have thought for a long time, that if they can control distribution and make sure that you make no unauthorized copy that they can make lots of money because people are forced to buy the real copies. But it was wrong. It is not possible to control the copying. And, people didn’t buy the expensive DVDs or downloads in iTunes and they are streaming for free. So, we have to question our assumptions – is it really important to control or is it more important to create a scenario where people love my product. And that’s what Amazon, Netflix and YouTube have created. Now, they have to figure out how to earn their revenues quicker.

Innovation doesn’t require big technology. Some create successful enterprise and many are unable to do so. Why?

This is something like cooking. Basically, if you are trying to create a successful enterprise, you don’t take fifty different items and throw it on a pot. You don’t put everything in. And you have a vision of where it goes. When you start a company, you need to figure out what exactly is it you are trying to do. This is more like you are creating a vision that is much more than a spreadsheet. And, this is especially true in media because it is a fragmented world. People like different things. There isn’t one solution that fits everybody.

What are the major concerns and questions global CEOs ask you today?

They look out for answers on data. Data has in fact become the new oil and there are anticipations that in the next five to ten years, data economy will be larger than the fossil fuel economy because it drives society, it drives e-commerce and it does all the things that create value. That is a big question. The other thing is about protecting ourselves from data. The next question is the human computer interface/human machine interface. Technology is going to get so smart that a day before it will tell you what the stock market will look like for your stocks tomorrow. And, it can tell you five hours before that you are going to be late for your next appointment. And you can find all the financial information at the click of a button. We are heading into a science fiction world, even in developing countries. This technology will be so cheap, that you will speak into your phone and get an answer. And that will really change the way people look at culture, flow of information, those are some of the key questions.

Where are the innovations happening today?

Innovation can happen anywhere. Silicon Valley is still a hotbed for innovation because of their mindset. The mindset of being essentially a cowboy culture. A culture in which you just go for it. And that’s American culture. And what we need to do in other countries is to be more adventurous, to take more risk, think outside of a current thing.
In terms of technology and access to information, India has more graduates in technology than all of the US combined in ten years, per year. The resources are there. But what we need to create is platforms for risk taking and also the inspiration to go out. This doesn’t have to do with money. This has to do with the feeling that what you do is appreciated.

As a futurist how do you see the current big companies — Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft — in the coming years

They are clearly becoming fabric of our life. Take the highway for example. If we don’t have highways, we have to drive slower. Google and the likes are the infrastructure. If they don’t do the mistake of abusing the relationship not protecting our data or expose us to bad things, not creating standards, not being open, not creating value, then we would leave them. That is the only danger I see there.

And, other danger is if they become too much like algorithms and machine and lose the human part. Another danger is that — we become part of what they want to be. These companies are infrastructure and they are going to do what we need to justify their existence which I think, they will. You can see the current debate about privacy and data. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Yahoo. If they don’t protect us from mass surveillance , we will leave them. And, they know that.

What is the kind of people/companies that you would like to meet in India when you are here at the CII Big Picture Summit?

I would like to meet people who are ready to change, who are facing a situation and say we are looking to figure out what the next edition of our company looks like. Because many people are putting a bandage on a wound, fixing themselves up a little big and that won’t be enough, I am interested to meet people who are ready to transform themselves and transform their companies. I look at technology as a rocket curve now. And adoptions are becoming much cheaper and probably become free in terms of devices and Internet access. So, what that means is that the speed of innovation and transform yourselves when you are still ahead today is crucial. I want to meet people who are taking that transformation that I can talk to and also learn from.

Do you see life without Internet?

That’s a bit like life without water. My theory is we are always connected and to be offline is the new luxury. The idea of being in a constant flow of information and communication is interesting and powerful. But is not necessarily human to always be part of that second universe or the second brain as people call it. If offline is a luxury, there is going to be another entire industry as well because machines and technology are exponential. In five years, it will be fifty times powerful. Humans are not. We are not exponentially growing our brain.

As a media futurist, do you take risk?

Of course. As a futurist, I try to live what I say which is not to assume that what I say today will be true tomorrow. There are couple of things that you learn over the years. For example, the ability to look at two different things at the same time. Socrates had said that the ability to look at two separate and divergent things at the same time is where true intelligence comes in. That’s what I look for. I am not looking at a bunch of data and coming out with a projection. I am trying to create wisdom that is inclusive of these factors.


Taming a boundary-less behemoth called Google

admin   February 14, 2018

India is on the cusp of transformation and so is its media industry. But of lately the emergence of Google’s monopoly as an omnipresent entity on the ‘digital real estate’ scene had the old guard worrying, especially when the conventional norms and taxation laws are rather blurred in defining the internet search giant.

In short, the dilemma that we find ourselves in is how to define Google? Is it just a search engine, an aggregator, or a media company using a set of algorithms redefining the rules of advertising and what we consume, or is it all in one with more power than we can imagine, “eluding an externally set responsibility”, as Siddhartha Mishra puts it in his cover story in Outlook magazine.

If yearly revenue generated by the online giant is anything to go by, it is by far India’s third largest media entity after Star India and Bennett Coleman & Company Ltd with an annual revenue of 7,208.99 crore for FY 2017, but paying minuscule taxes over it.

Physical versus digital entities like Google, which can render services without physical presence, is central to this issue. Taxmen across the world, including in India, are trying to figure out appropriate ways to tax entities like Google that have vertual presence rather than relying only on the good old brick and mortar model.

Despite having thousands of employees working in as many as four offices in Indian cities, “Google does not have a ‘permanent establishment’ in the country. Thus, the imposition of equalisation levy of 6 per cent on the digital ad space by the Finance Bill 2016 is considered a good initiative in this regard.

Besides underscoring the unprecedented power the “new big media” wields, “without creating any content”, Mishra makes remarkable observations as to how the internet behemoth is gobbling up the biggest chunk of dissemination and advertising revenue pie with little regard for publishers — the real creator of content — who are actually finding themselves at a receiving end.

Google is not only “deciding the advertising rates for different publications by its own metrics” but is set to go a step beyond by making Chrome, the browser by Google which is inbuilt in around 80 per cent smart phones in India and has an estimated 42 per cent share of browser use in India, start blocking ads on media pages accessed through Google from next month.

Gautam Sinha, CEO, Times Internet Limited, in a recent editorial in Times of India, says, “Google is effectively regulating the entire digital ad industry, including its competitors — a role no company should have the authority to do.”

In order to understand the real implications of how uneven playing field created by Google’s monopoly may play out in future in India, we need to look back at Competition Commission’s direction to investigate four separate cases of abuse of dominance by Google a couple of year back. One of the cases involved the owners of Bharat Matrimony. The allegations included similar to what the popular vertical search engine Foundem accused Google of — favouring its own links in searches.

“In June 2017, after a seven-year probe, Google was handed a penalty of $2.8 billion by the EU for a breach of anti-trust rules that related to search results for shopping comparisons,” writes Mishra.

Though tax laws and definition of digital business entities may evolve over time, it is high time that the media industry stakeholders in India put their heads togther to find amicable ways to tame the internet giant before it’s too late.


Setting Eyes on New Frontiers

admin   February 14, 2018

As the Zee Group gears up to expand its global reach, Amit Goenka, CEO, International Broadcast Business, talks about the goals and strategies that would drive the group’s international ambitions in the next few years and what kind of challenges he expects to face while entering new territories

The geographical spread of Zee Entertainment is an amazing story. Now that you have set your foot to lead the international portfolio at ZEE, where do you see this going ahead?

With our Vision 2020 goal of becoming one of the top global media companies in five years, we have a very strong expansion focus in the international market. We want to go beyond the South Asian diaspora in other countries and reach out to the local audiences globally. While we have been mainly re-purposing our existing content — dubbing or sub-titling it in the local languages — we have also started with select local productions in international territories such as the Middle East, Russia and certain countries in Asia. Going ahead, we are focusing on Germany, Africa, Latin America, APAC and the Middle East as the key markets for expansion.

Expanding Indian content to new territories is pushing the soft power of India? Please share your comments.

There is a large reservoir of values in India that the world can benefit from. We take it as our responsibility to share this around the globe in an entertaining way.

Do you see visible changes happening around the media business today? The tide is towards digital…

The world is going digital in a very big way today. With consumers preferring devices with larger screens along with the availability of cheaper, faster bandwidth, we are seeing a lot of video consumption happening on second-screen devices such as mobile phones and tablets. Consumers, especially the youth, are displaying a preference for shorter, bite-sized video content which can be viewed and shared conveniently. With consumers wanting to consume content anytime, anywhere on their smart devices, all the big players in the Indian media industry are now massively expanding to digital.

The business models are changing rapidly in the global media space. Many markets are giving way to SVOD and OTT. Where do you see ZEE grow global in this space both in content and platform?

Digital is a major focus area for us. Internationally, our Zeefamily.tv Application is already available in the US as well as in select Asia Pacifi c countries, where it has received wonderful traction since its launch. The Catch-up feature and the VOD option have found strong preference with our viewers. Our goal was to make ZEE’s extensive library of content available to our viewers wherever and whenever they want to watch TV. In India, we have recently launched OZEE, a user-friendly AVOD platform which will deliver the best of entertainment content from ZEE within minutes of its television telecast. Our other subscriptionled OTT platform, dittoTV, which was India’s fi rst OTT platform, has received wide acceptance and has already started producing original content.

The global footprint of ZEE and its content distribution is spread across continents? Do you see growth focus in any particular region?

Our international growth and expansion is not limited to any particular region. While our Germany launch is next on the cards, we are also looking at Latin America, parts of APAC and Africa.

India is one of the most liberal media markets in the world. Is there a level playing field for an Indian company like ZEE when going to new markets? What are the challenges?

There are many challenges and differ in accordance with each market. Some markets are over congested, while some are saturated in penetration. With a move towards digital, this is changing. We also believe as a sincere and dedicated media enterprise, there is always place amongst the audience markets for us.

The Indian M&E industry has set an ambitious target to reach $100 billion from current $20 billion levels over the next five to seven years. How much of this can come from international markets? Do you see this happening?

This will depend on the regulatory framework being conducive for India in the foreign markets. The film, television and digital industry from India will certainly lead the foray in the international markets.

What are the challenges of achieving this?

Local competition, established players, uncertainty of distribution platforms, volatile economic and socio-political scenarios as well as the audience shift to new devices and mediums are some of the main challenges.

Investment (primarily infrastructure), skill sets and innovation are critical elements in M&E growth going forward. All these three are insufficient/scarce in the Indian media space. How do we scale new heights?

Infrastructure is definitely the area where support is required from our own establishments. Skill sets and innovation are scalable and India is amongst the world’s best talent pools. Faster innovation is the key to reach new heights.


Facilitating growth :Robert Bakish

admin   February 14, 2018

India has the potential to not only create but also export content to other markets, says Robert Bakish, President and CEO Viacom International Media Networks

India presents “tremendous opportunities” for not only creating new content, but also to export it, said Robert Bakish, President and CEO, Viacom International Media Networks & Board Member, Viacom18 at FICCI FRAMES 2013, the annual conclave for Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry held in Mumbai.

“We can safely say that it has been a great journey. Given the tremendous opportunities, not only will we introduce new content, but we will export content as well in the near future,” Bakish said.

He added that Viacom will continue to bring varied choices to viewers in terms of content, national launches and also a play in the regional markets.

“We see the Indian opportunity as a very compelling one. As we look to capture the growth, we absolutely look at driving this by launching new products, including new national television products,” Bakish said.

He, however, also pointed out certain challenges. “If you look at our Indian business, we would like the ad market to be better.”


Netflix – Game changer move

admin   February 14, 2018

Netflix’s global streaming and VOD acquisition of Brahman Naman heralds a new dimension to distribution of Indian cinema’s reach to global markets

Netflix’s global streaming and video on demand rights acquisition of the hilarious coming-of-age comedy Brahman Naman, from leading Indian indie director Q (for Quashik Mukherjee) is set to be a game changer for new age independent Indian filmmakers. Brahman Naman will be available exclusively for Netflix members around the world later this year.

Netflix launched its services in India on January 6 as part of its global expansion to 130 countries. Netflix is the world’s leading Internet television network with over 75 million members in over 190 countries enjoying more than 125 million hours of TV shows and movies per day, including original series, documentaries and feature films.

Set in Bangalore in the 1980s, Brahman Naman follows the exploits of Naman, a quick witted, high school quiz champ who leads his hopelessly nerdy friends on a trip to Calcutta to win a major college prize. Young, smart and full of heart, the trio are determined to win the quiz – and to lose their virginity along the way.

Revered internationally as one of India’s most vital and provocative indie filmmakers, Q’s latest cinematic cocktail takes the classic American teen comedy, sharpens it with bawdy British word play, and hurls it in the face of the establishment with a fresh Indian cast. The film was premiered at the prestigious World Drama Competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

“Brahman Naman is Indian cinema at its boldest: fast, furious and raucously funny,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer at Netflix. “It’s a movie that will delight adolescents of all ages, and we’re excited to bring this hilarious tale to our members around the world.”

Written by Naman Ramachandran and produced by Steve Barron and Celine Loop, Brahman Naman is Q’s latest film, following Gandu, Tasher Desh and Ludo. Brahman Naman stars Shashank Arora as Naman, Tanmany Dhanania and Chaitanya Varad as his sidekicks, and features Vaiswath Shankar, Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy and Sid Mallya.


Driver of Growth

admin   February 14, 2018

Gaming may become India’s biggest vehicle to shine as global soft power, says Manish Agarwal, CEO, Nazara Technologies

What is the state of gaming industry in India? How do you see its growth and development in the coming years?

It is phenomenal. India has been fastest growing mobile gaming market by downloads and number of mobile game downloads has doubled in 2016 over 2015 on Google Play. India now stands at the fi fth position in terms of downloads (Source: AppAnnie). This growth will only get better in the coming years but there is a long way to go before the industry competes with Japan, China and US. Therefore, its future will be a mixed bag where quality consciousness will grow and investments will increase

How do you view the CII-organized exhibition of India Gaming Show and its potential?

Indian ecosystem needs massive exposure and knowledge sharing with much evolved gaming ecosystem of Japan, Korea, China, US & UK and other European gaming power houses like Finland and Germany. India needs as many high quality content shows happening in India offering an opportunity to Indian ecosystem to network with gaming industry experts who have seen multiple cycles even in relatively nascent mobile gaming industry. NASSCOM, Pocket Gamer Connect and now CII Gaming show are all great initiatives and I am hoping that these shows will keep growing in size and stature.

In a short period Nazara Technologies has carved a niche in the Indian gaming space? What’s working for Nazara?

Nazara is the fastest growing publisher in 2016. I am personally very satisfied in sowing seeds of great partnership with some of the developers globally and locally and I am confident that this would be a highly satisfying journey to grow while Indian mobile gaming grows at breakneck speed.

In addition to mobile gaming, what are the platforms that have potential for growth?

Smartphones have changed the way in which Indians consume content. We believe interactive content creation apps, videos and gaming would take over all other formats and deep integration with messaging platforms will drive the growth of the entertainment very heavily. We also believe that the way sports is viewed today will change drastically in coming years and it will change from passive viewing to highly interactive viewing with deep personalization for each spectator

How do you see the potential of skilling and employment opportunities in the Indian gaming arena?

Indian gaming could be the biggest vehicle for India to shine as global soft power as mobile gaming has potential to cross global barriers. Hit games not only generate massive revenues for local governments but also create country brand, as is the case with Finland. However, for globally successful game, massive amount of focus needs to be done on creating right skills. For this, we would need courses specifically designed for gaming and partnerships with countries like Japan, UK, Korea to help in creating curriculum and providing teachers.

What kind of policy interventions are needed for gaming?

I think gaming needs a mindset change first at the decision-making levels where it matters. To start with, I think that people who matter need to understand what is gaming and what is its potential. Once we get over the mindset of “how many jobs can this industry create” and believe in soft power which a globally successful IP brings to a country, we can move forward with more meaningful discussion on what needs to be done to make it happen.

Has launch of 4G impacted gaming in India?

The number of 100 million casual gamers in India is set to explode with 4G adoption and is set to cross 300 million mark in next 3 years. In terms of content, global games like Candy Crush, Temple Run, Subway Surfer still dominate the market; however, in the last year, Indian gaming market has seen emergence of multiple local genre based games.


News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson blasts Google, Facebook, Linkedin…

admin   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.


The Power of Indian Content

admin   February 4, 2018

The future clearly is digital and niche is new mass, delivering to a mobile first generation can only be achieved through development that is data and analytics driven. Tracing the journey of Indian content across the world, Dinesh Gupta, Founder & Managing Director of Sacom Mediaworks, underscores the strength of India’s biggest global export, the crucial role played by Indian broadcast majors in popularising it and the market impact quality entertainment content from India has had on global viewers.

The 2010 Munich International Film Festival screened an Indian movie Ishqiya to much critical and popular acclaim. The song that left everyone humming its tune was named after a famous Morrocan scholastic traveller, Ibn Batuta. While the real Ibn landed in India somewhere around the early 1300s and was made a judge in Muhammad Bin Tughlaq’s court in Delhi, the song celebrates the travails of two vagabonds in modern day hinterland India.

And just as Ibn’s famous treatise The Travels internationalised stories from across the lands he had travelled, including India; so had the road movie of two down and out Indian vagabonds found favour with international audiences across the globe. Readers and listeners alike, welcome to India’s biggest global export: entertainment.

GLOBALISATION OF INDIAN CONTENT

The Indian media and entertainment industry may not be the largest but it clearly is among the fastest growing globally. The Confederation of Indian Industry estimates the Indian M&E industry will break the US$ 100 billion barrier in the next 5-7 years. The commercial exploitation of modern Indian content can be traced back to the early 1980s when two iconic Hollywood productions globalised Indian stories – Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi and David Lean’s cinematic adaptation of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India. Since then India has exported stories, actors, characters and locales to global movie studios. Filmed Entertainment, indeed, has been at the forefront of leading the thrust of globalising Indian content.

The next wave came when the Indian broadcast majors – Star, Zee, Viacom18 and Sony – launched channels in the overseas markets of Europe, the Americas, APAC and MENA. What started with replaying Indian shows to the desi diaspora abroad, now has a fair amount of localisation as well. The advent of Internet and Over the Top video on demand services is the latest avenue that is helping globalise Indian content. While from the consumer’s POV the number of platforms carrying Indian content has multiplied, from a business perspective, television still remains the highest earning platform, followed by films. Digital, the new kid on the block, is helping both democratise Indian content and also expand its reach; it still has a few years to becoming a serious revenue contributor though.

MAJOR PLAYERS ‘GLOCALISING’ INDIAN CONTENT

Over the years, revenues from International markets have become more and more serious. This started as early as the 1950s when Raj Kapoor led the wave by breaking into erstwhile USSR with titles like Awaara and Shri 420 by becoming a symbol of optimism in the post-world war II. Subhash Chandra-led Zee Network can clearly be presumed the pioneers of Indian content in international markets. As he realised the market of Indian content grow, ‘glocalising’ content became Zee’s mantra.

Zee launched two dedicated channels in Middle East focused on mainstream Arab audiences showcasing best of Indian film and drama content and established itself as the serious contender in the market. Zee always believed if there was great traction for content syndication in a particular geography, there clearly is a case to launch its own platform there. Today Zee has ‘glocalised’ channels in Middle East, Far East Asia, Germany, Africa, LatAm and (soon to be launched channel in) Poland. With 4200+ film titles and 240,000 hours of content, Zee is clearly the undisputed leader in the domain. Studios like Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions have built the NRI driven foreign audiences and helped break into markets that were predominantly driven by Indian audiences, Indian ambassadors like Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone, global success for Dangal and Baahubali really helped break stereotype and facilitate a further push into mainstream theatrical markets globally. Today studios like Red Chillies, Eros, Dharma and YRF lead the fi lm syndication space along with the Top 4 TV Networks. Indian dramas however have clearly been the game changers like nothing else.

BREAKING INTO NEW MARKETS WITH QUALITY CONTENT

A fledgling Pay TV and Advertising market in India helped produce better quality dramas in the last decade. Dramas like Balika Vadhu from Colors helped break into markets no one ever thought existed for Indian TV. Markets like Russia, Romania, Estonia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, China, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mynamar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Israel, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Africa embraced Indian dramas like they were made for them.

So, what is it that really helped penetrate these markets? These markets were never able to produce high quality dramas due to limitation of budgets, lower literacy rates necessitated that the content was dubbed in local languages for it to find an audience. Between the acquisition and dubbing costs and long running tracks Hindi dramas could connect beautifully and keep bringing audiences back for more.

Backdrop of a conservative India and societal constraints depicted could find relatability that helped build a case for a dedicated band for Hindi dramas. Then there were high quality Mythological and VFX driven series like Mahabharat, Mahadev and Nagin that helped further strengthen leadership of Indian dramas and viewership of these bands to the next level. Surprisingly, Hindi dramas today can break into a lot more markets than what our films are able to reach.

THE FUTURE IS MOBILE FIRST

The future clearly is digital and niche is new mass, delivering to a mobile fi rst generation can only be achieved through development that is data and analytics driven. Whether it means delivering linear channels on IPTV (or) SVOD apps that showcase Indian content, or Appin- app models (or) bundling/ Pay-per-view with Telcos, content is constantly getting redefined every day. There seems to be a far clearer definition on what belongs on Television, what belongs on SVOD platforms and what can be addressed through YouTube and Facebook. More and more original content is being developed to address each of these platforms.

Uday Shankar-led Star India is taking unprecedented steps with building India’s top OTT in Hotstar and taking it to global markets to showcase its originals and acquired content delivered through SVOD, IPTV and app-in-app formats. Adding cricket-led sports programming on Hotstar is going to be a big game changer for Star Network as this will open it up to sports pay per view and attract audiences from Indian subcontinent in global markets.

OTTs like Viu, Spuul, YuppTV, Zee’s Z5 clearly understand the next big content monetisation will be driven by data and smart devices. Hence these platforms have been constantly working to align with Telecom companies globally to build their monetisation potential. Carrier billing for OTT apps is clearly a latent potential that is waiting to explode in international markets. Today, MENA and North America are the biggest opportunities in the domain and growing. Mainstream global OTT platforms are now showcasing a lot more Indian content that can serve their global audiences. Syndication would continue to remain the best way to address emerging markets like Africa, Far East Asia, South Asia & Eastern Europe with a clear focus on dramas. Developed markets are already addressed through platforms bouquets offering Indian Pay TV channels. In these markets SVOD apps, VOD & Pay Per view is winner, with markets like America, Canada and the UK being addressed in this pattern.

Companies like Zee have been prudent enough to evaluate monetisation potential in detail before making major investments. On the other hand, there are certain OTT platforms that are mindlessly investing just to be present in the domain or to simply build an asset with a valuation. It’s vital for each platform to have a very clear indicative on what they stand for and how will they break through the international market. Netflix and Amazon clearly know what they’re doing, Hotstar has also built a credible platform that has great potential in international markets. It’s important not to get carried away in the content wave, simply build platforms, IPs and expect them to deliver.

One of the world’s fastest growing economies is also one heck of an exporter of expats around the globe. This large expat community, glorified as the NRI community through our films, forms the first of the four pillars that form the foundation to exporting Indian content overseas.

A more mature market, this comprises of established pay TV markets like the Americas, the UK and Middle East. The second pillar is the dubbed Indian television content that has consistently opened new markets in over 20+ languages so far. These include geographic regions with comparatively weaker economies but with socio-cultural similarities to India – the African, Far East Asia, CIS Countries and LatAm markets. The third pillar is the digital ecosystem in the more developed markets where OTT Video-on-Demand platforms are comparable to traditional content delivery platforms. The fourth pillar is actually a phenomenon – Indian celebrities, like Priyanka Chopra, who are travelling the globe, creating content and popularizing the pull of Indian entertainment. Together these four pillars provide a robust base to grow the global appeal for Indian content. With all these growing in unison, the Indian Media and Entertainment industry looks well set in its drive to breach the US$ 100 bn barrier in the next half decade with a much bigger global footprint than ever before.

Dinesh is the Founder & MD of Sacom Mediaworks, a content company that creates, markets and distributes Indian content in international markets. Over the past eight years, Sacom has distributed over 5,000 hours of premium Indian entertainment content dubbed in 15+ languages. The company owns four music and entertainment IPs that are currently distributed across 82 countries. Dinesh also co-founded TripFactory.com Dinesh is at MIPCOM and can be reached at dinesh.gupta@sacom.in