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BW Businessworld

Media And Entertainment Industry: Reconfiguring Amid Recovery

Those media and entertainment organisations that can accept these trends and have the agility and capabilities to capitalise on emerging opportunities, markets will thrive.

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The Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry is never going to be the same as it was in 2019. The pandemic has ushered the industry in an ongoing revolution that will determine its future path.  

The M&E industry is in a constant state of evolution, and the new trends are now accelerating. Consumer behaviour has drastically changed and the industry has now become more remote, more personal, more virtual, and more streamed than ever before. 

Those media and entertainment organisations that can accept these trends and have the agility and capabilities to capitalise on emerging opportunities, markets will thrive.

In a recently concluded roundtable organised by BW Businessworld with some of India’s leading honchos associated with the M&E Industry, a wide range of topics were discussed including the impact of the pandemic on the media industry, shift to cloud, focus on user experience, emerging technologies including AI/ML and redefining future goals. 

Tectonic shift in the M&E Industry landscape: 

Preeti Vyas, CEO at Amar Chitra Katha mentioned that the impact of the pandemic has been so far-reaching that we have been using the word ‘unprecedented’ liberally. 

Vyas said, “We are a legacy brand  and we have witnessed huge changes over several decades; However, the changes brought in by the pandemic were truly unprecedented."

Vyas underlined that there has been a major change due to the pandemic in the way in which parents and students think about online reading. 

She commented, “The shift from the print to the digital medium has been significant. From a children's perspective, there was always a mental block against reading on screens and this was actively discouraged.  But now with schools shifted to online education for the large part of two years, that resistance has vanished."

“The whole conversation shifted from how the screen is bad to how we can provide quality content to children on the screen. The new question is -How can I keep a child engaged online in a way which is meaningful and positive for their development,” she added. 

The pandemic has fast-forwarded the amount of change that would have taken over a decade to a couple of years, and the transformation is in fact led by the consumers.

Vyas commented, “We have seen several positive changes, such as readiness for an Indian consumer to spend money for quality content after years of seeking only free content, consumers reaching out for comfort content – content which helps unwind, and an increased number of users coming from the international market to read our content, allowing us to become a truly global brand."

The journey from surviving to thriving: 

Anil Uniyal, CEO at Bloomberg Quint said, “The pandemic was a double whammy for us.  Around the start of the pandemic, our TV license application got declined and we had to shut down our broadcast operations,”  

Uniyal mentioned that it was a logistical challenge and he had to take several steps to keep the boat afloat.  

Uniyal commented, “We focussed on cost and resource rationalisation, and with offices shut down the top priority was to get multiple home-offices going and to ensure that the daily news operations and the volume of content remain relatively unscathed,”     

After absorbing the shock of the initial months, the organisation took several steps and charted its course to success. Uniyal said, “In the past 10 to 11 months we have built our in-house technology team, which has led to increased efficiency and reduced timelines."

“We invested in the most advanced subscription stack of Piano (Subscription tool); this has helped us to launch new paywall features and subscription conversions,” he added. 

Uniyal highlighted that revamping their website was an excellent move. 

He underlined, “We revamped our website a month and a half back, this has led to better user experience, which has translated into better SEO results, increased engagement and improved visibility of our subscription product.” 

Cloud came as a saviour:  

Inderpal Singh Jaggi, VP at Rajshri Entertainment mentioned that the biggest challenge was to shift online. 

Jaggi highlighted, “The initial challenge due to the lockdown was logistical in nature, including managing content production capabilities and content distribution capabilities.” 

Jaggi pointed how the cloud played the role of a saviour during the lockdown. 

He said, “Since we moved most of our content on the cloud a couple of years ago, it came to our rescue during the pandemic, especially when everything went remote." 

Jaggi commented, “Before moving on the cloud, a lot of content was physically moved between the teams between shooting the content, editing the content, and distributing it to different platforms. Today at any given point of time we work with 30-40 platforms where content is distributed."

“Since the content was on the cloud it was easier for team members to access the content, download the content, distribute the content by encoding the content on the fly,” he added.  

Why shifting from CAPEX to OPEX is a good idea: 

Siddharth Taliyan, Associate Director – Google Cloud & SMB Practice at SEARCE suggested that in the M&E Industry, comparing CAPEX (Capital Expenditure) to OPEX (Operational Expenditure) depends on three variables – content creation, delivery of content, and analysing data.

Taliyan said, “OPEX model doesn’t necessarily mean fixed cost; there is automation in terms of scaling your resources,”  

Taliyan provided an example to further illustrate his point. 

He commented, “On-premises, a certain amount of computing power is provisioned and when the usage peaks, the latency increases bringing in provision for more computing power – which also takes time, however, on the cloud you can scale up/down depending upon the demand."

“Also, there is an administrative cost involved in the CAPEX model, which can be put to better use by investing in content production or content delivery,” he added.

Cloud computing also ensures reliability and uptime which is generally missing in the on-premises model. Taliyan pointed out, “Even if the electricity goes down or the systems are not working, the cloud has got you covered,”  

Benefits of using the cloud:

One can use the data available on the cloud faster. Taliyan commented, “It is easier to index data, search for data, and edit the content on the fly while using the cloud. It also helps to reduce the time for rendering files faster, editing faster and make the content available to your audience,” 

He mentioned, “Data storage is technology but data science is an art. Also, when you make sense of data, how fast do you want to take action?”  

Taliyan provided an example to further elaborate his point. He said, “For example, a user on the app is probably browsing through the collection of movies/series you have, how to make sure that the experience of the user is insightful and the user is engaged."

He added, “Netflix was a game-changer in the way which it recommended people about what they would like to watch. Many OTT platforms are now moving in that direction."

Choosing the right cloud service provider: 

Taliyan mentioned a few pointers that he would keep in mind while identifying a cloud partner. 

Taliyan said, “One should always look at the kind of experiences the partner has had in the past alongside domain knowledge.”  

If the partner is unable to understand the challenges of a media-house or a production firm, the technicians cannot do much without understanding the outcome which has to be achieved,” he added. 

Taliyan added that choosing the right partner is of utmost importance. He underlined, “You need a partner who can provide you with an unbiased opinion, not just in terms of cost but the resiliency of business too."

Need to adopt the subscription model: 

JD Ghai, Owner at SantaBanta.com said, “AI/ML plays a major role in identifying audience who has the potential to spend money and push articles to them, as they may subscribe to your website or app,” 

Ghai mentioned that the subscription model is best as it will help content creators shift focus from advertisement aggregators to their audience directly. 

He commented, “Earlier, there was monetary reliance only on the advertisement aggregators, but the subscription model can be more fruitful as it helps you to connect directly with the people and grow at the same time."

“Since we introduced the subscription model, the revenue generation has increased. Also, one can get good content from specialised content creators, and this can be only viable if people shell out money for it making the entire process viable,” 

Ghai advocated the shift to the subscription model. He remarked, “All organisations are gradually shifting to pay for view content, even if there is selective paid-content, it will help the website grow,” 

Business and Technology priorities for the future:     

Raghu, Chief Business Officer at Way2Online Interactive India said, “Our focus in 2022 will be to penetrate deep inside Tier-II, Tier-III cities, and rope in advertisers who have not even heard about the digital. We have been successful in our initial test, and we will be scaling up the process”. 

Advertising present in small tier towns has not been yet been tapped successfully. Raghu mentioned, "Digital is mesmerising for them, everyone uses social media but they do not how to advertise using these platforms.” 

Raghu mentioned that there will be an increased focus on AI/ML to bolster up engagement rates online. He said, “The focus is not anymore on the number of articles the user read, or the time you have spent on our app but on whether the user has commented or shared our articles, this only happens when they trust us,” 

Nowshad Rizwanullah, CEO at MissMalini Entertainment spoke about the future priorities keeping in mind its acquisition by the Good Glamm Group. 

Rizwanullah said, “Our priority is to deepen our engagement and interaction with the creator economy, not only just established influencers but new individual content creators too which have been mushrooming over the past few years. The challenge and opportunity will be to engage successfully with content creators who are not yet creating or monetising to their full potential."

The challenge is not anymore on increasing the number of followers on a social media page. 

Rizwanullah explained, “The concept of engagement has further narrowed down, the next evolution of audiences will be to convert them into loyal communities, so that it’s not just a one-way conversation between us and fans, but a sense of belonging, even ownership of our brand and camaraderie amongst themselves.” 

“For instance, if you meet someone who is also a fan of your sports team, there is an immediate connection by that fact. Similarly, we need to foster that level of shared identity and loyalty amongst our audience,” he added. 

Rizwanullah underlined that they started the GirlTribe app as they found that building community on a social media platform was becoming difficult due to trolling and harassment. 

He commented, “The app is mainly for women to discover, share, and discuss topics amongst themselves without the fear of being trolled or judged, as is prevalent on open social networks.”  

The panellists concluded the roundtable discussion by stating that the employees should be kept motivated to successfully harness the next opportunity which comes their way. 


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