The countdown, as they say, has begun. Ten days to go for the New Year. But as every organisation and members of the Indian media industry prepare the send-off this time, it is not for just the year but for the decade. And that is special.
And this decade, from a media viewpoint, is going to be quoted for a long time. In television alone, the decade began with terrestrial network being replaced by cable and satellite as the key form of distribution housing the more popular media television vehicles. And even before that was settling in, digital distribution, largely driven by direct-to-home thanks to pioneers like Dish TV and genre growers like Tata Sky, Airtel Digital TV and Big TV, has already taken off. For many television industry veterans, it is déjà-vu of sorts – the rise of digital household penetration from 7 million to 28-29 million, with over a million households getting added every month, almost takes one back to the manner in which C&S had grown. And the immediate question staring us in our face is -- when will C&S become a thing of the past and we live in addressability that can be truly measured.
Genres have grown in this decade in a manner no one imagined. News, sports, kids, and now we are talking food channels --- general entertainment is still kingpin but when measurability is impacted, specialist genres would be the first ones to benefit. Ratings would mean a lot more, and speak a lot more.
Players like TAM Media Research geared five years back anticipating what we see today and the digital future is no longer a distant reality or something that is set to take off.
This was the decade that first spoke of sunset date of analogue, of measuring viewership more precisely and of heralding super-specialism in content.
In broadcasting, radio was the next to witness a change one had not expected. It was All India Radio for the longest time, then mid-2000’s FM took off (even though initially with terms that killed FM radio more than allowed growth) finally leading to a stage, when it was possible for media houses to invest and think big in radio too --- to speak of cross markets presence and actually speak of revenues and profits that could be invested back in the medium.
While this was the decade when that kind of scalability in radio was possible, this will also be the decade that didn’t see change in restrictions on content in radio like news and current affairs – a situation one is hoping would change for the better soon.
I almost wish I could write more on what the decade meant for out of home but the truth of the matter is that the achievements of players in OOH was far more modest than what this domain promised in the beginning of the decade given the advent of more players and some amount of structuring in the space. OOH grew but didn’t deliver on those expectations.
This decade was also about breaking barriers, and more said on the role technology played for this, the lesser it is. Digital became a medium, digital became an enabler, digital became a way of life. Digital became the present and the future and it impacted everything there was in the way. Digital divided audiences, it divided professionals of today and tomorrow from those of yesterday.
This will always be the decade that began the debate on what is digital and what is not. So DTH is digital, but where do you park DTH spends and investments, in traditional television or digital. Some still say it would be tradition television but what about IPTV then? Where would satellite or internet radio be placed? When you watch NDTV on your desktop via NDTV Play, where does that viewership count – that may still be a simpler one to answer but the digital-traditional divide is blurring and neither advertisers nor media service brands have yet made that distinction. That said, this will always be the decade that begun the conversation.
Now I know I didn’t mention print – if I had to, I could point quite a few things that this decade meant for print. The growth of regional media and many non-English language publications finding a structure; digital presence of newspapers – some even experimenting with the mobile medium; the decade saw big deals and great partnerships, both national and international but I don’t know if print players changed the game in any form in the last 10 years. The big thing to speak of would perhaps be accomplishment in the readership measurement arena, and perhaps that would be the one thing about print that this decade would be recalled for – a strong, honest attempt from the industry to unify resources and establish a robust currency.
In all, a golden decade indeed for Indian media. Should I be using the word ‘golden’ given all the controversies media, more specifically news media, got embroiled in? I guess I am going to because the setbacks cannot take away from the efforts made by names such as Subhash Chandra, Uday Shankar, Raghav Bahl, Sameer Nair, Prannoy Roy, Ronnie Screwvala (it really is a long list, so I am going to stop). Leaders and visionaries like these recharged the space and reenergised it every time dark clouds loomed. Credit to such luminaries, that recession or slowdown, whatever term one uses, did not become the memorable factor of this decade. And for braving that storm, I would say this is not just another decade, borrowing from another Pink Floyd title, ‘Another brick in the wall’ – well, this decade was not.