Television, especially those who produce great content, will continue to be relevant irrespective of the rise of other media, affirms Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India.
In an insightful speech delivered at the Pitch Madison Advertising Outlook 2014 event in Mumbai on February 19, 2014, Shankar said that both advertisers and broadcasters need to work together to achieve their common goal.
“I cannot but seriously recall how we advertisers and broadcasters scraped through last year and, therefore, I am quite determined to start the new year on a right note,” he said, adding that though sometimes ‘scraps’ are desirable, there is always a danger that it will continue for too long, which does not make good business sense for both parties. “There is no one in the broadcast business who thinks that the business of content creation can exist without advertising support and, with all due humility, I would say that television is critical to your (advertising) business as well,” he said.
Speaking on the importance of television, Shankar extolled the fact that television reaches out to nearly 600 million viewers for almost three hours every day. Talking about how satellite television has changed since its inception, he also mentioned that from a very urban skew at the outset, at present, rural viewership is actually slightly higher for television (CNS).
Coming to the topic of the digital medium, Shankar said, “Last year, we heard a lot of talk about digital and how it was going to become the advertising center stage. I am not undermining the power of the digital medium, which does have a lot of potential, but I also think that a lot of conversations that happened last year were because of the frustrations that advertisers and agencies felt because of their stand offs. There was a genuine desire to look for alternatives.”
He raised the point that in early days of any business the defining identity of the business is the technology itself and that is why many times the business gets branded by the technology. Speaking about broadcasting, he further questioned that if people did not call broadcasting as satellite and cable transmission, then why create labels like broadband and mobile access as a completely different business and position them as loggerheads to broadcast. “We (Star) don’t see ourselves as broadcasters. For me digital is just another mode of delivery. For me, we are in the business of creating content. The content remains the same, the consumer remains the same, it is just the delivery pipe that changes and digital is just another delivery pipe,” he said.
Giving his thoughts to arguments about the increasing role of the digital medium and the questions raised by certain sections of the community on the relevance of television as a medium, Shankar expressed his belief that as long as there is a market for good content, people who create it will exist. “The way I see it; we are in the business of telling stories. That is something we do every day. When you do that for so long you don’t wither away just because the technology has changed. We fill the pipes and that will continue to exist as long as there is a pipe to fill,” he opined.
According to Shankar, the importance of good content or storytelling can never be undermined, irrespective of the medium of delivery. “Whether it is Hulu or Netflix or YouTube; the power of high quality, imaginative stories or narrative has not changed so far, and will not change,” he said. Giving the example of the US, where Hulu and Netflix are quite popular, he pointed out the content created for these channels is by the same creators that do so for television too. He also pointed out that even in India, 30% of the content consumption on YouTube is through content from channels like Star, Sony, Colours and Zee.
The power of content
Reiterating the power of content, he said, “New media is good because it challenges us to do reinvent ourselves. After digital, there might be something else that will arrive, but the centrality of creativity does not shift. This debate is happening today because we as content creators have misrepresented ourselves. Over the period of time, you have started seeing us as broadcasters as have we.” Adding to this point, Shankar spoke about how advertisers and broadcasters need to think beyond and change the old statues of working and thinking. “Those structures of working we all created for our organisations were based on an old world; but that world has changed,” he said.
Further explaining the point, he said, “We reach 600 million viewers for 3.5 hours a week but no advertiser has got in touch with us to figure out deeper engagement strategies with the same viewers. This is because the perception is that there is a different genotype needed to hold the attention of the viewer for 10 seconds (length of the average ad) as compared to the 23 minutes of content.” This, according to him, is another example of the old way of thinking, something he feels will not hold the advertising and broadcast community in good stead in the future because of the digital revolution, reduction in advertising inventory, changing nature of consumers and landscape of economic growth.
“We need to find a way to create relationship between the advertiser and the content creator that would be relevant, robust and constructive for both parties. If we don’t do that, we will continue to get into standoffs and we will erode value of both parties. The world has changed around us and we need to work together,” he signed off.