"Rupee depreciation has wiped out around Rs 1,200 cr from print media"

According to industry experts, cash, content & carriage are the three challenges facing the media industry, even as tough economic conditions put further pressure on bottomlines

by Rashi Bisaria
Published - Sep 12, 2013 8:32 AM Updated: Sep 12, 2013 8:32 AM
"Rupee depreciation has wiped out around Rs 1,200 cr from print media"

The media industry is in a state of flux and is going through a phase of transformation. Whether it is the media owners, agencies, marketers or advertisers, all areas of the value chain have been affected by the changes that are taking place. The channels of communication have become more fragmented, even as the consumers have become more empowered. In addition, there is the current slowdown in the economy.

As Jawhar Sircar, CEO, Prasar Bharati pointed out, everyone is suffering. The three aspects of media that he stressed on are cash, content and carriage. These are the three challenges facing the media industry that need to be tackled. “A few years from now, only the big guys will survive. In these times of mergers and acquisitions, freedom of expression is bound to get compromised,” he remarked.

Speaking about the challenges, Ashish Bagga, CEO, India Today Group expressed his discontent about the regulations that the industry is grappling with. “The biggest macro challenge for us is regulation. Why should the Government want to regulate the media? We need to flourish and grow, but constraints are being imposed upon us. As independent media owners, we are all surviving, but regulations impair performance,” he said.

He expressed his frustration at the cap on advertising, which he said is detrimental for the industry. “The business model of news channels is different from GECs. Ad caps mean curbing of expression,” he added. The decision, he stated, should rest with the consumer, who can decide for himself which content he would like to view.

Commenting on the impact of the current economic scenario on the media industry, Bagga said, “Rupee depreciation has wiped out around Rs 1,200 crore from print media.”

He also spoke about how the growth of digitisation will lead to a surge in niche publications. He threw light on the importance of Indian language content and how it needs a boost.

Lending an international perspective to the discussion on the different trends, Farokh T Balsara, Partner & EMEIA Industry Leader, Media & Entertainment, EY remarked, “The next few years are important for the media industry. Media organisations need to have the ability to take risks; should think about funding. The challenge will be for media that are not agile and funded,” he said. On the topic of regulation, he felt that media companies need to take time out to manage regulation. Most media players are global in character and can imbibe learnings from the foreign markets.

Meanwhile, LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM Media Research remarked, “The politicisation of data is unnecessary. Why do we only talk about television measurement? The analysis of data can reveal so much and can help in improving content. Through measurement, it was found that consumption of TV content in India was stuck at two hours per day. This was only due to external factors such as lack of electricity, etc. Data can bring so much to the forefront; there is no need to politicise it.”

Sunil Lulla, MD and CEO, Times Television Network, was hopeful as he stressed on the need to harvest content. He also suggested self regulation as an answer to the regulation woes that the industry is experiencing. “Our content is going out at the cheapest rates to all and we should know how to harvest it,” he explained. This apart, Lulla further said that another matter to consider for broadcasters is that when the wave of digitisation plays out, how are the broadcasters going to ensure RoI. He stated, “The biggest boon for broadcasters is getting in place self-regulatory codes.”

Speaking about good quality content, Bagga added, “We are a content-first company and we curate and repurpose content.”

The need of the hour is to constantly improve the quality of content and utilise its full potential. The quality of content matters more to the young viewers than anything else.

The speakers voiced their opinions at the 10th exchange4media Conclave, held in New Delhi on September 11, 2013. The session was moderated by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

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