Content is the king and those who create their own have nothing to fear from OTT or video-on-demand platforms -- challenges which international broadcasters may face. Keertan Adyanthaya, Managing Director at NGC Network India & Fox International Channels, talks about trends and expectations in the television industry in 2015.
What are your expectations in 2015?
We were on a pretty good trajectory in 2014. So far, we have managed to get 8 -10 weeks of leadership from NGC itself. We hope to expand in the first half of 2015 and continue along this trajectory, where we create winning shows and more successful local productions.
For Fox Life, it is to continue being the gorilla in that space. But getting larger is always difficult. In the first few years, it was easier as nobody saw us coming. It is always easy being No.2 and attacking the leader. But when you are on the top, everybody’s eyes are on you and you have to keep challenging yourself. This is the key challenge for us. Local production has always been difficult. To get the right kind of people on the channel, selection of talent and coming up with the right concepts play a major role. So far, we have been lucky. We have to continue to be innovative and perform better.
What are your expectations on the advertising front?
This year, we hope to do a lot more other than regular spot and sponsorship buys. We want to get many more advertisers involved in the programming and see if we can co-create it. We are in talks with Hero (MotoCorp) and L’Oreal. We want to reach out to many more.
We also want to do documentaries on Indian projects. At this point, we are looking at Adani Port and Mumbai Airport. We want to create many more local documentaries on successful infrastructure and factory projects. In terms of the mega factories and mega structures, our editorial retains complete control. However, a lot of brands come forward to offer assistance in terms of shooting and logistics.
We also have some plans in terms of covering mega kitchens in the country.
For example, there is a mid-day meal scheme called Akshaya Patra, where they serve meals to 150,000 schoolchildren daily. We videograph people who cook meals, how they put it into place, the kind of quality control they maintain, etc. In several small villages, children are sent to school primarily because of the midday meal. Even on weekends, the school provides midday meal to them. We are doing a show on mega kitchens and one of the episodes is on midday meal.
From a government policy perspective, is there anything that needs to be implemented in 2015 that will take the industry forward?
I think digitisation, something that we have started needs to be finished. The industry wants no more deadline extension on the project. More or less, this industry has been left alone for the longest time and that is where most of the innovation and progress has happened. We have been following the policy of less government and more governance. We are pretty good at self regulation. I wouldn’t say there are no black sheep, but we have dealt with them. We are effective at putting our governance into place. We have stringent SMP guidelines. We live by the law of the land and have maintained the country’s social fabric.
What are your thoughts on BARC coming into effect this year and its impact on the industry?
Exciting times seem to be ahead. From the seminars on BARC that I have attended, it seems that there are some well-thought out plans in place.
However, it depends on how balanced the sample size is going to be and what kind of viewership patterns emerge from that. Is it really what we see? Because there was some key lacuna that was there in the previous system, which they plan to address. We need to see whether those things happen. I think they are doing some test sampling, but we haven’t seen the results yet. At this point, it is too early to take a call on how good or bad it is.
What are the trends that you see in the international market?
In the international market, the key changes taking place are over-the-top (OTT) and video-on-demand. A lot of TV channels are worried about their existence because many do not create their own content. They buy content from studios and display it to audiences. Now, with players like Netflix and others coming around the world, you don’t need to stick to a channel anymore to watch the content. You can go to Netflix directly and get it. But as long as you create your content, you have a platform to go back to viewers and make them buy the content. That is going to be one of the main things that will disrupt our world in years to come, a key insight from the international market. Means and methods of distribution will keep changing, but if you are a content creator you always have a scale in the game.
Are TV channels equipped to deal with the digital front going forward in 2015?
The biggest challenge for digital is monetisation. For example 1GB of data costs around Rs 500. In 1GB, you will get around three hours of content. If you had to buy that content, you would probably buy it for less than Rs 10. So the distribution method is costing you Rs 500 and your content is only costing you Rs 10. I find it complete imbalance, which is scary. That is what most broadcasters are struggling with. They are giving content at a really affordable price to customers, but the method they can use to download that content or view it on digital is highly expensive.
On an average, customers watch television for two-and-half hours daily, which 15-16 hours a week and 64 hours a month. If he was to watch that much, his bill would be very high. He will get a big shock at the month-end. Will he then continue subscribing? That is the biggest problem.
Until this cost of data consumption comes down to more affordable levels, there is no digital video play in the country.
Also, there are multiple devices at home such as mobile phones, tablet, television, etc. Ideally, people still like to watch content on television like sports, movies, infotainment, etc. If it is immediate consumption or short consumption kind of things, they would like to watch on a handheld device.
The industry has figured out how to condense content for handheld devices. But these screen videos still take a lot of bandwidth. These are some of the obstacles. As soon as they are addressed, most broadcasters I know are making efforts to acquire rights to content in order to make it available.
The challenge is how do we monetise because there is no marketplace. In the past few years, everybody had their content available on YouTube and now about a month-and-a-half ago everybody has pulled it off. Star India has yanked all its YouTube content because it realised it was not earning anything from it. When you put it on YouTube you earn even lesser than sharing it through Vodafone or Airtel kind of a platform.
Do you see this happening in other markets? How do you see this changing?
If you look at a Netflix-kind of model and how it made a killing, you learn that there were two kinds content that it picked up. So even in the US just like ours, there is a first window, second window, third window for movies. It picked up movies that were 4-5 years old and the entire library. Then, it picked up old windows of TV shows and made that available. There was a large audience that wanted those kinds of shows. In the US, studios own the rights and not TV channels. In India, it is vice-versa. I am not so confident that any of the TV channels will give up their content to an aggregator player like Netflix, without trying to launch their own version of it in India.