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Best in 2021: E-Sports is Flourishing in Challenging Times

admin   May 5, 2021

The most attractive thing for e-Sports players today is the multiplayer facility of playing and the possibility of social interactions between the players in a virtual environment says By Dr S. Raghunath Professor of Strategy, IIM Bangalore

COVID 19 has been actively contributing to the physical isolation of people, especially the younger generation in our country. However, to this ghastly downside there has been an upside in the proliferation of e-Sports which are turning out to be big public gaming events, where thousands of people play, and millions watch them through online streams.

According to the FICCI-EY ‘Playing by New Rules’ report 2021 that focuses on the Indian media and entertainment (M&E) sector, e-Sports grew in the country by 12% in 2020. The report highlights that there was a 90% increase in the number of people playing e-Sports compared to 2019. Also, e-sports in India saw viewership double to 17 million in 2020 as it became available across 14 broadcast platforms.

“Global gaming firms, such as Activision, Garena and Supercell, which publish Call of Duty, Free Fire and Clash of Clans, are lining up to invest in India’s e-Sports ecosystem after PUBG Mobile had to exit late last year due to the Indian government’s clampdown on Chinese or China associated apps,” says the report.

The most attractive thing for e-Sports players today is the multiplayer facility of playing and the possibility of social interactions between the players in a virtual environment. The participants in e-Sports are striving to fill the void in their lives, fulfilling the social need of belonging to a group. Through e-Sports it is being satisfied through communication with or belonging to a team with other players of similar orientation and aspiration. Thus, online games bring people together virtually and provide them a shared purpose.

The virtual presence of spectators caters to the need for socialization and social networking. Even though in physical isolation, it also provides enjoyment, or more precisely the ability to immerse oneself in the content of the game.

Not only are they fulfilling their social need of belonging but as players they are also trying to measure and compare their abilities with other players in the sports oriented competitive spirit. Therefore, it is not surprising to see India ambling it way in its 2020 global ranking and occupying the  16th spot in the e-Sports industry with a total revenue of Rs. 8,000 crores (approximately $1.17 billion).

The e-Sports industry is not just about players playing video games and millions of users choosing to spend their time watching others play video games through live internet broadcasts, referred to as streams. Attached to these streams are streamers.

Streamers are e-Sports enthusiasts serving viewers with daily streams on Twitch or YouTube. Streaming platforms are also acquiring large number of streamers. As there is tremendous growth in e-Sports streaming, many streamers are leaving their day jobs and becoming full-time streamers.

These developments have been facilitated by mobile phone-based gaming and watching games through affordable handsets and data costs. BARC and Nielson report clearly indicates an upsurge in smartphone-based game users during the COVID lockdown and the aggregate revenue reported by e-Sports companies in India was $68 million in 2020 projected to grow at the CAGR of thirty six percent in the next three years. The audience has reportedly grown to 17 million in 2020.

The employment scenario has also been positively impacted. There are opportunities to work as data handlers who manage the latency and connectivity related issues present in a game or as a game developer for writing codes for AI integration into a game, or an in-game commentator who can do voice-overs for different characters present inside a game.

There could be growing opportunities in the hospitality industry .One way of further developing the community, especially In India, could be opening food/beverage serving facilities with social distancing on the theme of e-sports or video games belonging to e-Sports. This would allow e-sports enthusiasts to have a place where they can gather information, share it and watch e-sports, or even organize something on their own. An established e-sports enthusiast base represents the target market.

There are also nearly 100 gaming cafes and less than 1000 non-exclusive cafes. Today, more Indians in the age group of 18 to 24 play video games than go to the movies and global revenues were an estimated $67 billion for console and portable hardware and software.

Recent reports indicate 2.5X surge in traffic post the lockdown, with 150K new users a month. Higher player engagement in most platforms could potentially boost e-Sports value chain, as most sponsors who would usually partner other sports events such as cricket or other major sporting events are considering e-Sports to promote their products.

E-Sport entrepreneurs must consider using platforms like TwitchTV, Microsoft’s Mixer or You Tube– more precisely to stream personal e-Sports related content and to use already popular and proven successful monetization model in the form of subscriptions for access to additional content, as well as donations and digital marketing.

The focus to create and manage e-Sports-related programs, particularly focused on the target market, whose viewers, even though they are familiar with English as a language of communication may prefer vernacular or local language to follow programs. Needless to say, that e-Sports is at an inflection point of breaking out from a niche category opportunity to a blockbuster.


Multiple Ways of Monetization

admin   January 7, 2021

Register now for CII BIG PICTURE SUMMIT 2020

This is what Dr S Raghunath, IIM-B Professor for Corporate Strategy and Policy said in Pickle-CII BIG PICTURE SUMMIT 2014 special edition

How to create, deliver and capture value in the evolving landscape of information and communication technologies, Dr S Raghunath, IIM-B Professor for Corporate Strategy and Policy, shows the way.

Never before in the history of media and entertainment industry has costly content been so easy to reproduce, re-purpose and distribute . Therefore the focus is on IP value management rather than just IP protection and the creation of digital security format which enables interoperability between devices.

From an era of one way delivery of public content like feature films in movie theatres and soap operas on television and two way delivery of private content like telephone based conversations it has expanded to include multiple ways of delivering content that provides connectivity to private conversation in public domain about public content.

Therefore the central question of monetization is how to create, deliver and capture value in the evolving landscape of information and communication technologies.

There are several challenges to be addressed: moving from medium specific content to content that is available in formats compatible with multiple platforms. There is increased interdependence of communication systems as opposed to stand alone broadcasting of content triggered by the use of multiple devices for accessing content . Then there is a difficult relationship of top down corporate culture and evolving bottom up participatory media and entertainment culture.

Access to audience through the internet has also changed the supply scenario for entertainment content. Amateurs are joining the galaxy of established professionals as producers of content. Crowd sourcing has given rise to more experimentation and aggregation of capabilities. Media is no longer a mere object of consumption, it is a medium of utilization. Earlier media and entertainment content was a product produced by professionals for the consumption of amateurs. It is now the connection between experimenting amateurs and established professionals with a wider global audience. For example, an average of one hundred videos are being uploaded on YouTube every minute, Twitter receives more than one hundred and seventy five million tweets a day.

With availability of free content, advertising has to become more creative about what products consumer want with free content . Advertising is different in the digital media as it is about one on one interactive communication with audience.

The good news is that a personalization software app , a machine learning system can set up a detailed profile of every person’s interests and then match the digital inventory of content to find exactly what the person wants. It then can provide TV programmes or a set of movies which exactly fit whatever a person finds interesting. Therefore the phenomenon of digitalization has turned entertainment content into information goods.

Data analytics facilitates transformation of entertainment content for mass market to thousands of niches made economically feasible by digital delivery . The evolving technology of delivery allows focused distribution to individual consumers.

The individual consumers using a device or a collection of devices now connect and interact with social network through these devices. The preferences of the individual can be identified and shared across devices giving rise to a never before opportunity of personalizing not only entertainment but advertising that pays for the entertainment. The same individual’s presence on multiple devices along with the ability to pay for the experience provides new opportunities for developers to create applications that link to entertainment as well as the social network.

However, increasingly affluent segments of audience population are preferring to watch premium programming content that eliminates advertising. Therefore the insertion of the commercial products within the scenes of the content and the story line will find favour with corporate sponsors resulting in such product placements in feature films and television content.

The laptops, smart phones and tablets have not displaced traditional distribution systems such as televisions from living rooms. The difference is that today people continue to watch television but they do so also through their tablet or smartphone.

In our country,internet penetration is estimated to cover fifteen per cent of the population. A Nielsen survey indicates that the highest penetration for mobile Internet is in the age group of 15-24. This has its implications for advertising and e commerce and there is an emerging preference for quality content.

However, low quality content will continue to mushroom with improving technology and increasing access to the internet . This is likely to bring a decline in the average content quality. However, the range available would result in clear demarcation of better content and best among the rest . Uncontrolled access to variety of content will lead to self selection of the best which will benefit society at large though it has access to a wide variety of junk.Thus the only mass curator for content will be the instant people response.

The collective shaping of what we believe and watch is going to be done more and more by amateurs creating a visual image. Digital content is turning into a massive cloud of evolving ideas, always in dialogue, influencing opinion with every voice contributing to it.

In this scenario, Big data analytics will provide enough indications about soap operas and characters stirring interest and emotions in specific regions or locations. Virtual delivery of content also will increase the appetite for live stage performances. Live performances in those locations will generate higher revenue. The smartness of senior managers in media and entertainment companies is in orchestrating mass marketing campaigns once specific artists are ready for a significant marketing push.

It is not just the urban localities which have the potential to pay for live performances but there are also street theatre companies mushrooming and growing in rural areas. Performers are speaking, singing or dancing in a language that the audience can appreciate, relate to and make an emotional connect. As the range of sophistication levels of audience widens over time , so do expectations relating to enjoyable entertainment.

If yield management geeks have their way, companies could charge a little more certainly for Saturday night or weekend live staged performances.

Live show producers can begin relying on computer algorithms to recommend the highest ticket prices that audiences are likely to pay for each of the available seats at every performance in the theatre for performing arts.

Live performance shows can employ dynamic pricing system to raise seat prices during heavy holiday weeks . So entertainment companies must reach the level of sophistication achieved by airline and hotels continuously using their algorithm to calibrate prices based on demand and ticket purchasing patterns.

 


Re-Emergence of Cinema & Audience Engagement

admin   June 22, 2020

THE SHOW GOES ON, SAYS DR S RAGHUNATH, PROFESSOR OF STRATEGY, INDIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT (IIM) BANGALORE TRACKING THE CHANGING DIGITAL FACE OF MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT IN THE AFTERMATH OF COVID-19

In the Covid-19 era, it appears that in the immediate and the short term, production and consumption of cinema will undergo change driven by considerations such as social distancing and reduction of local travel for leisure activities including entertainment.

On the production side as the lockdown has impacted film shooting schedules, a whole lot of creative work is continuing to take place in various geographies. Therefore the content pipeline is stacking up well,
while shooting schedules are being delayed. While the silver lining is in the learning curve amongst industry professionals who are increasingly interacting with each other and engaging on digital platforms with experienced experts to discuss and update their knowledge.

As social distancing is a necessary requirement on production sets, use of technology can improve processes in studios. Virtual post-production processes may find their way to replace the traditional ones such as dialogue replacement where actual dialogues are recorded in a studio but are dubbed over live footage. Actors might also choose to perform live within a digital environment.

Pre-visualization software is now available for directors to plan and visualize better to make creative choices and plan logistics taking the current realities into account. Tools and techniques are now available to virtually construct shots, sequences, or an entire movie, without physically visiting a location. The traditional format of development pre-production-production-postproduction sequential processing is going through radical change in productions that contain VFX or CGI. In a virtual production, it is possible for all the creative processes, including live action, video and CGI imagery – to begin simultaneously and in real-time within virtual environments – as the recent re-make of The Lion King demonstrated.

These are also days of potential opportunity for ready content shot on a low budget with clever camera work which can deliver closeup scene shots from a distance to stream their content on OTT platforms. Movie makers on a tight budget are trying to establish mass market connect through the OTT platforms. Therefore digital release of films is beginning to happen and will increase in the foreseeable future for modest budget movies especially with the increase in consumption of entertainment on OTT platforms.

We are witnessing an era where movie goers have turned into movie viewers consuming content in the digital space. This change in the habits of the audience changes the relationship between producers of movies and consumers of movies. As the audience have the privilege of choosing the mode of consumption, cinema has to evolve to deliver impact on multiple screens in multiple formats. Movies must be available on mobile phones, on touch screen tablets and consider the widespread use of a device in delivering cinematic experience to the audience.

There is also gradual change emerging in supporting independent artistes who are changing the art of storytelling through movies, media, live performance, music with the help of technology. With remote working becoming the norm and with educational institutions going online, people are looking for entertainment within self-quarantined areas. Therefore in the foreseeable future, the subscriber base and viewership levels will continue to rise on Amazon Prime, Netflix and pay TV channels. There are other emerging forms of entertainment which include online drama, Alternate Reality Gaming, etc. The action is on!


Tapping India’s Animation & VFX Potential

admin   February 20, 2020

As Indian history, mythology, and folklore resonate strongly with the Indian consumers, It requires scriptwriters, visualizers and techsavvy animators who can translate these stories from live-action to animated content, writes Dr S. Raghunath, Professor of Strategy, IIM Bangalore

As India inches closer to adopting the 5G technology, the consumption of entertainment content will increase manifold, presenting a neverbefore opportunity for broadcasters and OTT platform providers to grow their business. Therefore it is not surprising to witness the trend of increasing investments in original IP content.

Indians are reportedly watching at an average of eight hours and 33 minutes of content a week that is higher than the global average of six hours and 48 minutes of content per week, where animation-based content has a significant share in the online content consumption.

The potential opportunity to expand animation and VFX business is immense while in reality, it requires commensurate talent to realize that potential.

We are aware that Indian history, mythology, and folklore resonate strongly with the Indian consumers, as most Indians are aware of their local heroes and their stories. It requires scriptwriters, visualizers and tech-savvy animators who can translate these stories from live-action to animated content. India is replete with folklore and characters that have a strong appeal in vernacular languages.

Our creative artists and writers can dip into the most valuable assets of folklore and mythology and draw upon a rich library of characters, and more specifically refresh and rejuvenate the connection that these characters have established with end consumers in rural and mofussil areas. The library of characters and storylines can contribute to a highly synergetic business model, in which animation and VFX can play a critical role, and Management graduates can address key marketing challenges in the creative industry.

Creative media, art, and design education requires a thrust and the focus that brings exposure to world class technology to aspiring young minds in the country. Students need face-to-face tutorial sessions with their teachers who have updated their knowledge on the current practices and technology in the industry in a studio-based learning environment.

To prepare for their future careers, students need to hone not only their technical skillsets but also soft skills such as networking and bringing exposure to their work through social network sites, festivals or exhibitions. They need mentoring from industry professionals, starting with workshops and guidance conducted by such professionals. Students can gain exposure to specific knowledge, skillsets, and inspiration for industry standards through these interactions. Participating in Master Classes, or in workshops with famous artists and animators from the industry can help students to develop the mindset of entrepreneurship for their future career growth.

Students require support on their action learning projects through remote access to computer resources. Remote access provides students with the flexibility to determine when to work on their action learning projects.

Educators must consider giving students more independence when they are given more responsibilities for their learning in project-based contexts. More independence and self-paced application may encourage students to do well in their projects. Student autonomy may have a positive impact on shouldering responsibility, creative freedom, and performance.

The Government of India has identified animation, under the audio-visual category, as one of the 12 champion sectors. As part of the champion sector categorization, the government has allocated a dedicated fund of Rs. 50 billion for the development of 12 sectors. Contribution and development of such ‘Centres of Focused Learning on Animation and VFX’ can immensely benefit the industry.

It is common knowledge that margins in animation business are not high and are known to be based on the volume of business. Countries like Canada, France, Spain, Ireland offer tax incentives to their companies in order to remain competitive. Perhaps we must consider supporting this fledgling industry until it attains maturity.


A Heady Potion Of Entertainment

admin   February 2, 2019

Hailed as the best Indian movie of 2018, Andhadhun, an official adaption of the French short film The Piano Tuner, is an ingeniously entertaining plot that seamlessly alternates between romance and murder, comedy and crime, says Dr S Raghunath, Professor of Strategy, Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore, in an analyses of Sriram Raghavan-directed film starring Ayushman Khurana and Tabu

The gun shot on the cabbage field travels in the general direction of the intruder rabbit in the opening scene of the movie and is shown as inadvertently hitting a car towards the end of the film. Similarly, the man who is ostensibly blind comes to an apartment to play the piano in a birthday celebration of a spouse “by choice” and becomes the hounded victim of witnessing the scene of murder “by chance”.

Combining the concept and function of parallelism to not only form structural linkages between separate units of the movie but also to suggest meaningful relationships that bear on the film’s interpretation, writer-director Sriram Raghavan presents an ingeniously entertaining  plot that seamlessly alternates between romance and murder, comedy and crime. The director and his team of scriptwriters use the ingredients of ambition and opportunism, fear and greed, creativity and intimidation to create a heady potion of entertainment. The tag line being – “What is Life? It depends on the liver”.

Cut to the initial scene of the protagonist playing on the piano with the tell tale cat appearing as it does in any murder thriller movie that gives an opening twist that anything might happen. The piano notes establish the atmosphere of the place where the action of the movie is set. The few melancholic, haunting notes rise to a crescendo. The piano notes building up or reflecting dramatic tension. Anticipation deliberately plays on the nerves of the audience as some unknown climax is anticipated, but the moment of release is unsure.

The initial part of the melody corresponds with the camera framing and slowly moving on to capture the protagonist’s intense gaze. The visual pace increases as the camera alternates shots between piano keys, the protagonist and the cat. In the climax of the introductory scene, the camera returns to the protagonist as he stops abruptly while playing the piano. He feels the dialpad on the watch with his fingers to figure out the time. We now realize the melodic piano hook identifies and embodies the protagonist’s character. A high level of tempo, ostinati and drone create tension and the short musical theme for the protagonist’s identity.

Director Sriram Raghavan, music director Amit Trivedi, background score composer Daniel B George and the editor Pooja LadhaSurti apply the precision of editing, in which the musical change aligns tightly with each visual change in emotional and situational content throughout the Andhadhun soundtrack.

The ‘dhun’ (melody) in the Andha (the blind) is captivating as the sound recording and design contribution of Madhu Apsara and Ajay Kumar and the background music of  Daniel B George attend quite closely and innovatively to the movie’s sonic design in which the music itself captures not only the mood but also the  visual image. The close synergy between sonic and visual pervades all through the movie.

The songs of Andha Dhun also serve as the unifier of both cinematic and narrative content. The musical and cinematic result of the collaboration of the director Sriram Raghavan with music director Amit Trivedi and lyricist Jaideep Sahni demonstrate the development of a narrative / musical aesthetic based on the space occupied by the song syntagms in the script. The songs in the sountrack illustrate the mood of the respective scenes. Rhythmic playfulness is encapsulated in the pace and beat reinforcing the nature of the protagonist’s character and the narrative moment in songs such as ‘naina da kyakasoor’, ‘aap se milkar…’, ‘Laila….laila’ and ‘wo ladki’.

Unlike most murder stories that withhold from the audience a piece of vital evidence until the end of the movie, Andhadhun reveals everything. There is no mystery. The chilling and thrilling moments are when the murderer and the accomplice want to decimate those who have the potential to provide vital evidence on the crime committed. The theme of evil against good, the innocent providing circumstantial evidence against the criminally motivated, provides the narrative drive.

Sriram Raghavan’s characters may exist among the gliteratti and the hoi polloi of society but they are smart and verbal, and get quickly to the point. There are a lot of scenes in the movie where characters come into the scene wanting to do one thing and leave doing something else. They are persuaded to change their mind by the seductive lure to find a short cut to  a better  life . As in many murder theme  movies,  the will to succeed translates into some kind of perversion to achieve one’s dream.

We meet a gallery of characters, all played in a laconic key. The lottery ticket seller lady,  the auto driver, Dr Swami, Simi, police inspector Manohar all make plans which involve other people, but which are primarily intended to benefit themselves. The dark humor comes from problems stemming from the use of other people without the consideration of them as people with their own goals. Vishal the protagonist and Sophie do not exploit anyone and are mutually considerate and supportive of each other. Our desire to see them all get what they truly and fairly deserve keeps us engaged with the narrative.

By the time the movie ends, all the questions posed by the film’s opening and a few raised along the way are answered. We have complete closure. Everything that was disrupted reaches a new equilibrium. The disrupted lives of Pramod Sinha, Mrs  D’Sa  the auto driver and Simi end in death and Sophie is back with Vishal.

Dr S Raghunath also conducts The Strategic Management Course in Mdedia & Entertainment at IIM Bangalore for media professionbals