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TV will continue to be the big daddy, digital to find growing space

MUMBAI: Balaji Telefilms joint MD and creative director Ekta Kapoor, who makes content for all three mediums, believes that television will continue to be a large medium while digital will allow content creators to tell stories that cater to a smaller audience with a polarised taste.

Digital is an individual medium unlike film, which is communal, and TV, which is for the family.

FCCI-FRAMES Ekta Kapoor“TV is such a large medium, such a large voice. Will it get marginalised by technology? I don’t think so. Its challenges give birth to more fresher and interesting content,” says the queen of TV soaps.

For Balaji Telefilms, the next big growth driver is expected from the digital medium. ALT Balaji, the OTT platform of the content platform, is readying for commercial launch next month.

Ekta, however, has tremendous faith on television. “I may not be on TV after five years. But television is going nowhere,” she says.

Ekta believes that TV and digital can co-exist. “Television is the family face. Film is communal. Digital talks to you directly as an individual. It will allow me to tell stories that I couldn’t tell otherwise,” she says.

Speaking at a session called ‘Grammar of the new TV content’ at FICCI Frames 2017, Ekta also addresses the criticism that her shows are regressive, contending that they have reflected a social fracture that is very much present in Indian society. So the character of Tulsi went through issues. Marital rape was shown. TV gave women a voice especially during 2000–05.

“Television is India’s biggest feminist. It is a medium of and for women,” she says.

Kitchen politics and snakes are very much part of the TV content. “India is a country beyond South Mumbai. Somewhere these stories connect,” avers Ekta.

Gaurav Banerjee, General Manager, Star Plus 1Star India president and head of content studio Gaurav Banerjee sides with Ekta. “All the three Hindi GEC shows vying for the top spot have Ekta in common,” he says.

Banerjee, who was moderating the session, believes that the big advantage that television has is reach.

“Television has become what connects the dots in this country. Viewers would go to digital but they would still want to have the same shared experience on TV,” he says.

So, how will digital impact the traditional TV business? Will it kill the TV medium?

“Radio was supposed to die in the 1950s, the film industry was supposed to die in the 1970s, Doordarshan was over in the 1980s. We keep foretelling these deaths but in reality it has never happened. Even in America, where a lot of these changes have happened, TV is still incredibly big. Same is the case in India,” says Banerjee.

For Discovery South Asia GM, head Karan Bajaj, the focus is more on localisation. The company is also shifting from a documentary-style approach to being a storyteller. “We have gotten to the route of Discovery. This is fact inspired storytelling and we focus on genres like military, crime and investigation.” This is a shift from focusing on outdoors and natural spectacle.

Keshet International Gary PudneyKeshet International’s aim is to not just sell formats to Indian broadcasters but to also acquire local formats for global distribution and also do co-productions. This approach has worked not just in markets like the UK but also in markets like Argentina and Croatia.

“We look at countries where there are good storytellers. The skill is to find talented people and give them the tools and platform to bring stories to life. In Asia, China and India are the powerhouses, but India is funky and will offer more opportunity. Talent needs to be identified,” says Keshet International Asia head Gary Pudney.

Ryan ShiotaniBBC Worldwide Asia VP content Ryan Shiotani notes that his company focuses on three areas. The first is distributing high-quality content like ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Doctor Who’. The second area is to run branded channels and services like the BBC Player. The third area of focus is doing productions in various countries.

“In India, we have produced shows like ‘Jhala Dikhla Ja’ and ‘Nach Baliye’. Whatever the BBC makes, the quality of story is important. While new technologies have come in and the BBC uses the latest production techniques, the focus of telling great stories well will not change. The focus is on story and its emotional connect. So for ‘Planet Earth 2’ drama techniques are used,” Shiotani says.

GoNews founder, editor-in-chief Pankaj Pachauri notes that digital is having a big impact on the news genre. His is a mobile-first news company that also does live streaming on YouTube. “TV as we know today will disappear in the coming five years. In some markets, digital news revenue has crossed TV news revenue,” he states.

According to Bajaj, India is following the mobile rather than the smart TV route. This means that TV can be used for consuming long-form content while mobile will be for short-form content and there will be interplay between them. The smart TV trend is one that India has bucked.

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