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Will digital threaten traditional TV?

MUMBAI: While consumption of digital content is growing in the country, it is not coming at the expense of TV. One will have to make serious efforts at creating content targeted to a digital audience and this is what is expected to be seen in the coming couple of years. At the same time, there is an opportunity for digital content creators to target the top end.

These remarks and observations were made at a session at FICCI Frames during a panel discussion on ‘Chasing viewership in a digital paradigm’.

Gaurav-Gandhi-interviewViacom18 Digital Ventures COO Gaurav Gandhi noted that TV is still growing and there is room according to BARC’s rural data. “For certain audiences, content on demand is the default way to watch content as 95% of homes have a single TV. People want to watch content on their own time on their own devices.”

Gandhi also noted that kids aged 2–10 have grown up in the iPhone era and are moving away from TV. He, however, said that digital is adding to the time spent on TV.

He also said that the OTT industry is just 1.5 years old and business models are emerging. It is too soon to expect OTT providers to create original content like Netflix, which itself launched as a catch-up TV service. The economics math works backwards. At the same time, mature topics are being tackled in doing original digital content.

Gandhi also feels that with BARC showing that rural audiences are growing, TV channels will also focus on creating content for that market. They will move away to an extent from serving the Metro audiences and that is where the opportunity for digital players to create content will come from.

He noted that an issue is not having a common metric to measure digital for advertisers. “Trackers are there for digital ads. No advertiser puts in money without a tracker. Advertisers are now trying to build brands through digital video.”

uday-sodhi 1Sony Pictures Networks India executive VP, head digital Uday Sodhi agreed, saying on digital there is no wastage for an advertiser. “You know how many people something and from where. Advertisers want reach and impact. The viewability of digital ads is good.

“Smartphones today are lit up with 4G. They are a valid entertainment device. Consumers now look at it differently. It is just about the number of consumers on digital. The time being spent is rising. The consumption of Euro on Sony Liv was phenomenal.”

dittoTV business head Archana AnandZ5 business head digital Archana Anand noted that while TV is not going anywhere there is the kids’ generation who look at YouTube stars and TVF to get content. To a large extent, they are not interested in TV. TV is old hat for them. One needs to start creating content for them. How strong a group that audience will be remains to be seen. She gave the example of Adidas to show that brands are increasingly using digital to reach audiences. That is because the company knows that its consumer is in the digital realm.

Anand also reiterated the point that cord cutting will not happen. “Digital will be the secondary screen. We have gone from consuming one hour content to five hours of content a day. For the extra consumption, we reach to the second screen.”

Ditto TV, she explained, lowered its price to Rs 20 as it wanted to democratise TV. In rural areas, people have bypassed landlines and have gone to the mobile straightaway. Often in the country when people get married buying a TV set is lower down on the priority list because content can be viewed from other sources.

BARC India business head digital Jamie Kenny said that the company would offer digital measurement services this year. TV+ Digital measurement will happen next year. BARC is looking to put out numbers across media.

“The US and UK had quick digital growth, but digital viewership is still higher. People travelling to work might watch content on digital,” he added.

Gandhi noted that there are different business models. The AVOD model works for broadcasters who have a large catalogue of content which can attract large eyeballs that can then attract good ad revenue. Others can look at subscription at a price of sub Rs 100 if one wants to be mass and over Rs 100 for premium. The audience might not be that large in that case but it is a start. He noted that data costs are relatively cheaper and payment gateways have opened up.

Eros Now business head Zulfiqar Khan spoke about the importance of having a subscription model rather than going to media agencies to convince them to have clients advertise. Subscription has to become habit forming. He conceded that subscription would be a slow burn.

“Audiences need to get used to paying for content. Historically, people have paid for a movie ticket. We need to evangelise it in the way the US has evangelised the drive against piracy saying that if it continues then it affects the ability make quality content for the consumer,” he stated.

So, will OTT platforms be able to take away audiences from traditional TV? Or will the growth story be TV plus digital?

“We are looking at creating a mainstream cinema and releasing it on the digital platform first. This could be one of the trigger points,” said Khan.

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