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FICCI Frames 2006: It’s the beginning of the end of television, says Subhash Chandra

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FICCI Frames 2006: It’s the beginning of the end of television, says Subhash Chandra

“This is the beginning of the end of television as we know it.” Zee Telefilms’ Chairperson, Subhash Chandra, chose these words to begin his keynote address on ‘Digital Entertainment Living’, on Thursday, March 23. The visionary brought a whole new meaning to the importance of the role of digitisation as he took on the television business - aspect by aspect – and established that nothing would be spared from the digital conquest.

Taking the audience back in time, Chandra drew a comparison to an age when the remote control – the friend and the foe of the broadcaster, as he termed it – came into the picture and led to an era of appointment viewing.

“But what is going to happen now in the digital age is that the viewer is going to demand the kind of content he or she likes, where they like and at the time when they like it. All three will go in the hands of the viewer and not us broadcasters,” cautioned Chandra.

And how is this going to affect the Indian broadcasting industry? “We are all going to confront unparalleled levels of complexities in our business,” Chandra stated. He cited the example of the relationship between the Indian broadcast industry and the Indian film industry, and added, “It’s already a complex scenario and despite us talking to our friends in the Indian film industry, it is still very complex. To give an example, my belief very clearly is that if today the film industry sold videos after they sell satellite rights, they would make more than they are making today, but they still operate the way they do!”

According to Chandra, the broadcast industry found a way out when they started buying video rights, whenever they bought a film. “We release the video after we have shown it on satellite. That gives us more ratings and more advertising revenues. I’m sure if the film industry themselves did it, they will make more money. As a result of this complexity, we are going to stop buying films from the industry.”

Clarifying his statement, Chandra added, “We will change the mode of buying films or content. From the ‘buyer and seller’ relationship that we have today, we want to change the relation into a partnership.” Chandra sees the need to create partnerships with creative people and content providers, as otherwise, the industry would not be able to exploit creative talent or content provisions fully.

Another point he raised was the emergence of a window system in broadcasting, which would enable the viewer to view more than one screen on his TV screen. This would be a complex system to manage, and would require content providers to be able to offer content on any addressability platform – video on demand, mobile telephone or Internet protocol. “Which is why we partnered with IBM last year to covert our 50,000 hours of content and 1,500 movies into digital asset management system,” Chandra said, adding, “This has already taken six months and there are another 12 months to go for its complete execution.”

Addressability platforms would bring more active viewers to the table, contended Chandra, who pointed out that a majority of the viewers today were passive. But as they saw content on their terms, there would be more active viewers, he said, adding, “In the beginning of the next decade, there will be more active viewers than the passive viewers and that will drive change.”

Reflecting on how the broadcast fraternity would tackle this, Chandra listed five things. He enumerated the need to segment content as the first task on the ‘To Do’ list. On a philosophical note he observed, “We are moving back to what India was in the medieval ages when we concentrated on the individuals. As they say in the Vedanta, the contact between the subject, that is the individual and the object, that is the world, creates experiences. If I apply the same learning to the delivery of content, it would mean content would be individualised.”

While personalised advertising would be possible, similarly, personalised content would also come into being, he predicted. “Viewers will create their own content, they will become the broadcaster and the broadcaster will only become a content providing platform,” he explained.

This took him to the next point that highlighted the need for more innovative work and tailoring programmes to individual needs - what he called ‘data base content creation via innovation’.

The third on his list is experimentation. Quoting the example of the award winning 120-second promo created for Zee Cinema, he said, “You will have to experiment with new ideas and concepts to hang to your audience.” Chandra’s fourth pointer was to be prepared to deliver content seamlessly on various kinds of platforms. He noted that greater steps on this regard, as an industry, must be pursued with open standards. The final step here according to Zee’s head honcho was to be prepared for the future. “And if we are not prepared for the future, we should be prepared for the consumer deserting us,” said Chandra.

“My belief is that unless you are very focussed in your approach on the content-delivery-distribution, it is very difficult to succeed,” concluded Chandra.

Chandra's mantra for Zee:

1. Digitisation of content - IBM partnership for converting content into digital assets

2. Induce interactivity - Partnership with Open TV

3. Creation of a separate company - Digital Media Convergence Ltd (DMCL)

4. Restructuring the business


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