When it comes to entertainment, we live in a fascinating age - watching television on one's mobile phone, recording one’s favourite soap for viewing later. Always connected anytime, anywhere. Nothing will be missed, thanks to technology.
While all this talk of convergence has been around for quite some time now, it is interesting to note that we are not far away from a time when we will have a unified mobile device - a television, mobile and PC rolled into one. Yes, there are operational challenges - limited reach of broadband, regulatory issues, bandwidth concerns and more - but there is a transitory phase preceding the wide acceptance of any new technology.
A convergent array of thought leaders, including Jawahar Goel, Vice-Chairman, Zee Group; Abhijit Saxena, President, Zee Group; Rajesh Sawhney, President, Reliance Entertainment; Sriram TV, GM - Technology, Bharati Tele-ventures; Ashok Mansukhani, Executive Director, Corporate Services, HTMT; and Hemang Mehta, Group Product Manager, Microsoft TV- IPTV Edition, voiced their opinions at the session titled ‘TV NexGen’. The future seemed to be headed towards a right balance of good content and effective platforms. Vanita Kohli, Associate Editor, BusinessWorld, moderated the session.
Mansukhani preferred to stick to reality (there are around 65 million C&S homes in India as against 3 million broadband users) as opposed to selling dreams, as he explained how the cable industry is changing itself in the wake of other platforms’ rapid emergence. He said, “In the past three years, we have spent around Rs 800 crore to equip ourselves with powerful technology.”
Differences between competing platforms are only natural. There was a larger question lurking: Is there an effective platform to deliver good content to the consumer? The IPTV players are pushing their case. The cable operators are doing their bit. However, one is not really far from the day when there will be a single screen on which movies will be watched, data will be analysed and talks between friends will take place. Call it real convergence.
Undoubtedly, it is the consumer who will decide the winner. From a consumer’s perspective, what will matter more is not whether DTH or IPTV is bringing the content, but how good the content is. Technology will certainly bring convenience, though. Saxena explained with statistics from different countries, that consumers have welcomed new technology. It will not be wrong to say that we are at a stage when the questions are many and the answers are not so definite. He stressed on the need to have good local content in a nation of diversities like India.
Sawhney made an interesting remark on how the cable industry needs to gear itself. He said, “There was a time when BSNL and MTNL had around 45 million subscribers. They could have recognised the changing needs of the new consumer, but since they didn’t, the mobile players came in and made hay.”
As regulatory bodies get busy drafting new laws, platform providers woo consumers with their advantages and content developers come up with that great idea, the consumer is surely headed for great times. Welcome to the era of an unified mobile device – your PC, your television and your phone.