2019 was the very definition of disruption & 2020 will ride on the same: Rajesh Sethi

Rajesh Sethi, Managing Director, NBA India, writes on the various instances of disruption in the past year and their implications

e4m by Rajesh Sethi
Updated: Jan 14, 2020 1:03 PM

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Rajesh Sethi

Disruption: A break or interruption in the normal course or continuation of some activity or process. The very definition of disruption is what 2019 was about and 2020 will also ride on the same theme. Having been a media and technology executive for a while, I couldn’t find a better word than “disruption”.

The biggest disruption came from implementation of the New Tariff Order (NTO) in February 2019. This order brought in a transparent mechanism for channel pricing for the first time in India.

Much debated, but the expert opinion remains divided on its impact on its three major stakeholders in the television industry – consumers, broadcasters and distributors.

I believe “Content is King” and the consumer today is savvy and knows what he/she wants to consume. With consumers always on a move, multiple entertainment options at their disposal, it is in the best interest of broadcasters to put their best foot forward in providing relevant content. This is where OTTs have done well and captured India’s imagination by offering content at the snap of a finger at their own convenience. If this trend is not arrested, then “cord cutting” will become a norm than the exception.

India’s national passion - cricket - was a classic example of this in 2019. The mobile phone wasn’t a second screen but a preferred mode of consumption. According to a statement released by International Cricket Council (ICC) then, the 2019 World Cup semi-final between India and New Zealand set a new world record of highest-ever concurrent views on Hotstar with a peak of 25.3 million. We, at the NBA, believe in the power of this platform and offer our core product not only on linear exclusively on Sony Pictures Sports Network channels but also on digital on SonyLIV, FanCode and on our direct-to-consumer platform NBA League Pass, which offers fans access to all Games with live stats and real-time analysis through the season across multiple mediums.

The increasingly ease of availability of quality content at convenience has made multiple OTT platforms a much-needed ‘disruption’ of 2019 and will continue to be so in 2020. Greater affordability, high speed internet has led to growing consumer confidence. The factors of digital growth aren’t just affordability and high-speed internet but also consumer preference. According to a report by KPMG, Indians have second highest per capita consumption of online video content in the world. The estimated swell in video streaming users in India is expected to cross 50 million for SVoD and 600 million on AVoD.

The continued growth of regional markets is a great sign. Broadcasters will continue to be positive about the growth of this segment and pump in resources over the course of 2020. They will remain to be the drivers of TV industry. Out of the 595 channels tracked by BARC, 332 of them are regional. Even the growth in the print industry, experts feel, will come from increasing readership of regional language papers. As a matter of fact, 53 per cent of newspapers published are in local languages and between 18-25 per cent of total ad revenue in 2019 on TV came from regional channels.

In a bid to improve their subscriptions, OTT platforms too focussed on regional content in 2019. Players like Zee5, Amazon Prime see a growth in regional content consumption competing with the bigger regional players like SunNxt and Hoichoi. Hence in the next year, regional markets will rule the roost as digital ad spends will continue to dominate the media industry.

I also feel the arrival of 5G in 2020 could be a big game-changer. Data consumption in India is reaching new heights every year and that trend doesn’t look like bucking down very soon with increasing demand of smartphones. It is not hard to believe a report that states that Indian mobile data users consume 9.8 GB of data each month on average. According to KPMG India’s Media and Entertainment Report 2019, titled ‘India’s Digital Future’, a billion Indians will have access to the internet, about 839 million will be regular smartphone users and over 500 million will access digital content in regional languages by 2030.

The last, but a very crucial change in scenario I foresee for 2020 is consolidation in the media eco-system, something that was inevitable. All industry stakeholders will be keeping an eye on the possibility of a merger between Sony Pictures Network India and Viacom18. Another interesting possibility, though, could also be the consolidation between Airtel Digital TV and Dish TV. Media companies are realising that they need to find ways to increase their subscriber base at a low cost of acquisition and that too maybe done through some innovative ‘disruption’.

The D-Days have come and are here to stay and the ‘D’ here stands for ‘Disruption’.

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