Uday Shankar, Chief Executive Officer, Star India Pvt Ltd spoke about the future of the M&E sector during his address at FICCI Frames 2016.
Commenting on how the M&E sector was reeling under challenging circumstances, Shankar said, “It does seem that not much has changed in the last several years except for some incremental growth or decline depending on which vertical you are talking about. Cable TV continues to struggle - struggling to improve its business case, struggling to improve its talent & technology quotient and above all to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world. DTH, that set out to revolutionize distribution, increasingly seems to be intent on locking its destiny inside an isolated box in a networked world. Even the story of digitalization that started 6 years ago remains incomplete. The advertising revolution of the 90’s when a large number of international and Indian brands were built on television screens, doesn’t seem to be breaking new ground in terms of what I call brand revolution 2.0. Content creators, a community that I belong to, generally seem to be caught in a time warp with the same themes playing in a loop again and again.”
Adding that beneath the surface of entrenched stagnation in M&E there was a gigantic disruption playing out; he cited the example of AIB and how they have redefined the media space. “This is a group that has the audacity to have a name so offensive that our news media calls them by their acronym AIB. They have the gall to take on the combined might of big telcos and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook when they felt that the freedom of the internet was being parceled away. As a group, these four youngsters made more headlines last year than probably the entire creative community put together,” he added.
Highlighting the growing relevance of digital platforms which are fast overtaking the traditional media, the Star India honcho spoke about how their online venture—Hotstar has redefined the consumption patterns. He said, “The most talked about launch in Indian M&E last year was not a new channel, or a new newspaper or a new production house – actually it was a mobile app that had the gall to ask consumers to go solo. In just about a year, hotstar has been downloaded over 50 million or 5 crore times. A call fundamentally at odds with the concept of content consumption in this country, that believes that the entire family watches TV together in the living room.”
Addressing the audience, Shankar spoke about the tectonic shift happening in the M&E industry and the obsessive desire by some to protect the antiquated business models that have been painstakingly built over the years. “We can arm ourselves with the same weapons that our challengers possess, and venture forth into battle, sometimes even against the same businesses that we have created. Change or Perish,” he added.
He also spoke about how technology and creativity are coming together and how new screens have once again highlighted the importance of the story.
“Design and engineering can no longer be divorced from the story – this is a radical departure from everything that we were taught all these years. We learnt this the hard way through hotstar – how small changes even in the browsing experience could lead to dramatic shifts in consumption. Today I am happy to remark that we at Star probably have more engineers in our team than any other media and entertainment company. Equally we have more designers and more story tellers than anyone else because those are the three pillars on which we see future M&E companies getting built,” he explained.
He concluded his address by calling upon the change makers to direct the M&E industry onto a new path and added, “Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is not just a senior minister of the Union Cabinet – he holds the key to India’s transition into this digital world. Chairman R.S. Sharma will have to decide how much can he accelerate that leap, and finally the whole country is looking at Mr. Ambani’s initiative called Reliance Jio to unshackle that truly global, truly democratic dream of 125 crore Indians. Let’s all hope that they do the right thing, for it is in the best interest of this country that they all must succeed.”