Television is undergoing a radical change today, with digitisation and integration with digital services, and convergence and integration with the Internet are some of the most important considerations today. John Medeiros, Deputy CEO of CASBAA, talked about these topics and more to exchange4media while he was on a visit to Delhi.
He said, “At CASBAA, we see digital as an extension of television. We have a pretty broad tent, which covers cable, broadband, mobile and a lot more. The fact is that the consumer does not distinguish between technology. He says I want to watch TV now, and then he watches it on whatever device is most convenient for him at that point. In India, most content is based on an advertising model, and this same model can easily be taken online as well. The important thing is not about distinguishing between mediums, but working out a successful business model for each medium together.”
The growth of video content online reinforces this point, and Medeiros also gives an example from China, where he said that owing to the nature of the government, television was highly censored. He said, “People have been going online and getting a lot of content there, but there is little quality control. Now though, there is a target for ad showing, revenue sharing based models, which will ensure quality.”
At the same time, Medeiros felt that a lack of regulation towards online content could become a problem in the future. He said, “I think there is a bit of a double standard. Content on television is judged very harshly, while content in the Internet space is not considered at all. But governments need to balance this out a little. Obviously, content on a free channel that any six year old can access has to be completely appropriate for a society and an audience, but on a paid channel that someone has actively subscribed to, the government could have a lighter touch. At the same time, the government should also be looking at regulating the Internet, in a socially appropriate, legal framework.”
One of the big questions being raised in the US today is whether digital content services like Netflix pose a real threat to traditional TV, but Medeiros believed that the risk to television was overstated. He said, “We believe that television offers great value, the consumers get a great deal. This is even more true in a country like India, where the rates when taken across all the channels come to pennies per hour, and broadband penetration is still limited.”
However, he admitted that the changing technologies like DVRs or video on demand services like Netflix were also changing the way television worked. He said, “We are moving away from appointment television – Netflix has seen to that. All technologies must now adapt to be able to support this functionality, whether we talk about DVRs or any other technology, they have to be consumer friendly.”
That DVRs can be used to skip ads and record shows for repeated viewing is another major issue though, and Medeiros felt that here television should learn a lesson from online. He said, “YouTube does this very effectively, with popup text, which doesn’t interfere with the viewing, but can’t be skipped, and pre-roll ads too, which are more difficult for consumers to avoid. That sounds manipulative, but people don’t want to pay. And if you don’t pay, and you don’t watch ads, then there’s no money to create the content with, so advertising is very important. The important thing is to not overdo it, which some channels come very close to.”
He added, “Industry and consumers need to learn to live with each other. Product placement is an inevitable next step as people skip ads. We’re in the process of finding the correct creative and business model in a changing scenario. The model could go all the way from HBO, which is paid and premium, without ads, to home shopping channels, which are essentially nothing but ads.”