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Media cos will have to create, aggregate, disseminate content for consumer

Sitting in the 18th-floor meeting room in the Marathon Futurex building in Lower Parel, Mumbai, Punit Goenka, MD & CEO of Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEE), is visibly excited, having stitched up the merger with Sony after nearly three months of late nights and tough negotiations spanning Mumbai, London, Tokyo and Los Angeles in the midst of a legal tussle with Invesco.

“We are creating a future-ready company that will deliver top-notch content across platforms,” says Goenka. “The merged entity will have 75 channels, 2 OTT platforms and a presence in 190-plus countries. Though I think, for the foreseeable future, India will remain a linear and digital market, investments in digital will significantly increase.” NP Singh, MD & CEO of Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), who joins via video conference, says, “This is the right time to build a next-generation media company with size, scale and global collaboration.”

As major shifts unfold in media in terms of how content is created, consumed and purchased, leaders like Goenka are making bold bets to be on the right side of history.

The media landscape is facing a tough challenge from big tech. Companies will have to be multi-channel, multi-platform and multidevice ready, and products such as news, movies, TV shows, games and concerts will have to be reimagined.

Operating in a hybrid ecosystem, they will have to create, aggregate and disseminate content for a consumer who wants on-demand entertainment—at the time of her choosing, the place of her choosing, and to be accessed on her preferred medium. “It’s been the actualisation of the convergence that we have been talking about. There is a mixing of genres and mediums,” says Jehil Thakkar, leader media & entertainment, Deloitte.

Media companies will have to adapt to this new market reality. Experts say they will have to implement the phygital model in India. “Newspapers will bundle physical and digital products. Films will be released online and in theatres. Episodic content will be launched online and on linear TV. The games will be both live and virtual. It’s all about segmenting to maximise reach,” says Ashish Pherwani, media and entertainment leader, EY India.

Interestingly, media consumption is growing by leaps and bounds, and no generation in history has consumed as much media as we currently are.

According to a report released by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Boston Consulting Group, the Indian media and entertainment sector will grow at a CAGR of 9-11% to reach $55-70 billion by 2030.

Even as the sector grows, it is morphing.

Take video streaming platforms, called OTTs. According to the RBSA report, India’s video OTT market is expected to touch $12.5 billion by 2030, up from $1.5 billion in 2021.

And companies are trying to attract eyeballs. Netflix India has a big slate for 2022. “There will be 1 billion internet connections by 2025. India does like to have entertainment in its pocket, but India also likes to consume entertainment on every possible device. We have to be available to people wherever they are and offer them what they want to watch. We want to keep a very consumer-first approach, a very entertainment-first approach,” says Monika Shergill, vice-president (content), Netflix India.

Though OTT players are attracting a number of users currently, the multiplex owners are sure about the future of the exhibition business as the market is fragmenting. Ask Ajay Bijli if people will still come out to watch movies. “There will always be a segment that will like to sit at home for whatever reasons — comfort, hesitancy or cost. But, fortunately, we are in a very populated country, and the bulk of my consumers are between 12 and 39 years. They want to get out,” says Bijli, chairman, PVR.

The last two pandemic years saw screen time go up exponentially, and content providers came up with a rich array of offerings.

“Almost all broadcasters aggressively created digital front ends to serve on-demand and linear services, social media-based content packets, etc. There are entirely new genres of movies and features that have cropped up. Pushed to the wall due to the ad slump, many traditional content players have made steps to put out subscription-based digital content services that they would not have otherwise tried,” says MK Anand, MD and CEO, Times Network.

“We therefore took the new operational conditions as a lab.” As the TV and movie industries grapple with tech-driven disruption, the pandemic has forced the events industry to consider a hybrid model: smaller venues and concerts streamed online.

Ashish Hemrajani, CEO of BookMyShow, says, globally, the intersection between virtual and on-ground entertainment is shaping up in an interesting fashion. “The big trend that has the ability to change the way we experience entertainment is the intractability between the virtual consumption of an event such as a music concert or a sporting event and the on-ground event through wearables/smartphones,” he says. He believes nonfungible tokens have the potential to be gamechangers in the live entertainment industry.

Who will watch the data?
Industry executives say the new-age media company will be far more digital, data-driven and process-centric than ever before.

“Having user profiles, easy navigation and smart recommendations, including based on customers’ languages of preference, are all super important in making the streaming experience personalised and delightful. The key is to super-serve our customers with more of what they love and yet give them the joy of serendipity— discovering new amazing content that will absolutely surprise and delight them,” says Gaurav Gandhi, country head, Amazon Prime Video India.

Media companies will also become more interactive. There will be more content like Netflix’s 2018 interactive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

Meanwhile, one sector that saw a breakout growth trajectory, was gaming, and experts feel that time spent on gaming will rival time spent on OTT apps for the 16-24 years demographic. Akshat Rathee, MD, Nodwin Gaming, says, “Esports could become the top three sports in India in terms of viewership and prize pool in the coming years.”

Experts also say that market success will largely depend on media and entertainment companies’ ability to make the most of the data that resides in and is generated across their enterprises. And that leads to another issue—data privacy. “Companies must balance the act of collecting data in a way where benefits outweigh risks. Only then will they earn and sustain customer trust,” says Sreeraman Thiagarajan, CEO, Agrahyah Technologies.

To gain and retain consumers’ trust, media companies will have to create effective solutions to beat misinformation, hoaxes and propaganda on multiple platforms.

The big media giants will face multiple challenges while creating new content strategies in a rapidly changing milieu, but the winner will corner a bigger share of views as well as revenues. Mac Pro Tricks

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