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The War For Content Is Set To Grow Fiercer

If there is anything that IPL or global leaders teach us, it is that technology companies have no choice but to compete in the content space to grow

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Content has always been the king, but typically for companies that made it their mission to understand and create compelling content that would resonate with the audience. The first phase of growth in the digital landscape did not mandate it to own content. That battle began in the distribution space, and that is where it created industry-wide disruption. The large and established media players once had the advantage of strong distribution networks, but social media and even digital display platforms changed all that.

One video on YouTube could reach millions if the content was interesting. It did not matter who the person or company was, but anyone could create content in that age. This led to the dual situation where unlikely heroes emerged and ruled the digital land. A whole new breed of YouTube stars, social media influencers and micro influencers came into being, competing with the big and mighty. Brands turned into content publishers to stay connected with the audience. On the flipside, however, this generated content clutter.

This chaos somehow worked in the favour of technology companies so far. Their prime agenda to aggregate audiences was being fulfilled, giving them growth in all aspects. But like all things, good and bad, this too is coming to an end.

All technology companies, led by the fearsome five: Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, are going all out to either create or procure content. In India, this includes Airtel, Vodafone and Reliance Jio as well. Even though Vodafone did not move forward in actually making a bid for the India Premier League (IPL), it did show its interest in the process. Airtel and Reliance went forth and made some aggressive bids, even though not in the same tune as Facebook.
One may wonder why. But let’s face it, these players have no choice.

The current set of connected global audiences, who have the means to access the web, are already present on these platforms. So the next level of growth will have to come from new users and getting more from the current users. Connecting the next billion — a famous mission for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg among others — is a big theme in that. The other is, engaging the connected people a lot more.

These tech and digital platforms have got people’s attention. Most of them are even providing a daily utility of some kind to bring people back to their platform. But how do they get them to spend more time with them, to engage with them — the answer is through content.

One would wonder, why don’t these really large players just create content instead of making some very heavy-duty purchases. Some of them have tried; success is arguable, but they have. Microsoft did it with MSN. Google is doing with YouTube. Amazon does it with Prime. They have created originals, got into licensing and partnership deals, but they are aware that when content is easily available, they need to do more.

The thought process behind Facebook’s bid for IPL makes sense even if the quoted price will still take some time to. And we can be sure that the social media player, the telecom companies and other tech biggies will make a play for any other content that becomes available. This implies that the content race is going to be much more heated in the days to come and companies will have to brace for some cut-throat warfare.

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