Media honchos hold forth on opening day of FICCI Frames

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MUMBAI: The opening day of the FICCI Frames 2019 witnessed UTV founder and media entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala and Star India chairman and CEO Uday Shankar taking centre stage.

In his media mastermind keynote, Screwvala tried to address some of the issues that the media & entertainment sector is grappling with. Shankar’s address was an appeal to the industry to grab the opportunity that the Indian M&E industry presents.

Addressing the audience at the event, Screwvala noted that the Indian media & entertainment (M&E) industry has made progress over the past several years but the cup is still half full. He noted that the M&E industry has been falling short of its targets due to several structural issues.

Screwvala, who is also the chairman & co-founder of UpGrad, stated that the companies of tomorrow need to be more consumer companies and not just media companies. “The M&E sector cannot just function with passion, we also need leaders, founders, and entrepreneurship,” said Screwvala as he emphasised that media and entertainment industry needs to focus on consumers.

According to him, one of the reasons why the M&E industry has not been able to realise its full potential is that there aren’t enough entrepreneurs and founders driving the ecosystem. Another reason is that there hasn’t been enough equity infusion. The internet commerce sector has seen much more fund infusion compared to the M&E sector.

Another reason for falling short is that to build a successful business in the M&E space an entrepreneur needs to show resilience. He also pointed out that a successful M&E business is not about a great idea. There can be 10 great ideas coming about at the same time but it is all about the execution.

He also noted that the focus going forward should be less and less on arbitrage and a company of a service model and doing work for hire. The focus should rest on innovation, origination and IP ownership.

He also expressed concern that India is one of the least regulated countries when it comes to media. There are a few anomalies but by and large, you don’t need to be a resident of this country to own a broadcast network.

Screwvala feels that the broadcast and cinema sectors will go through challenging phases, the content creation and sports sectors hold a lot of promise in the future.

In his opening remarks, Shankar noted that the FICCI M&E committee has been instrumental in bringing about key reforms for the industry, including a downward revision in the GST slab and the tabling of the anti-cam-cording provisions under the Cinematograph Act.

He also said that there is a need to streamline policy to accelerate growth. “Wherever we find drags in policy, we should be able to step in and align them while making sure that the larger social interest is always at the front and centre.”

Indian creativity, he said, is being talked about globally and attracting the interest of one and all. “However, we need to make sure that our policies are aligned to accelerate creativity and growth. We are in a position to be the flag bearers of a brand new India all over the world.”

Shankar also said that the Indian M&E industry is standing at an inflection point. The choice before the industry is to either sit on past laurels or use the winds of change to embark on an even more exciting and glorious journey.

“The transformation in the media & entertainment industry in India in the last 20 years has been mind-boggling. Every major global company is trying to give shape to its ambition in India, and the Indian companies are challenging them vigorously,” he stated.

On day 1 of FICCI Frames 2019 in a session titled ‘Looking back as we move ahead’, Viacom18 Group CEO and MD Sudhanshu Vats was in conversation with Indian Express Executive Director Anant Goenka. The burning question that came out to dominate this conversation was ‘does the industry even realize how to and what to evolve to?’

Vats began by stating that a lot has changed in the industry for the better. He went on to state, from the content space, the first thing that has changed, irrespective of the platforms, is that the industry has moved away from broadcast to microcast online. The industry has moved from beaming things to having more conversations making things more interactive.

According to him, the second most important change led by technology is that it isn’t necessary to tell stories to everyone, rather tell it to limited number of people and tell it successfully. 2018 has seen films target certain audience and these films performed exceedingly well in spite of not being blockbusters such as Andhadhun, and Badhai Ho.

The third and most interesting thing he pointed out to is the changes and differences between curator, creator and consumer. It used to be much simple to differentiate between these three in the past but today the lines have completely blurred. And this is also followed by audiences across, where audiences have also become content curators.

While reiterating the fact that the industry is experiencing many important changes, he states a welcoming change is the narration of diverse stories in a classical content sense.

He stated that because the TV model is an ad driven model, telling stories in the authentic manner has become a little difficult as compared to the past as its driven by ratings. He noted that while playing with the original story, many a times the industry is taking away from the story. He stressed, importance must be given here and that the focus must be on the ability to tell stories which will eventually sell rather than looking at only selling the stories.

Speaking about ‘Formula’ as a safety net, Vats believes that formula works as a safety net at some level. With minds being patterned in a particular format, and sometimes from the commercial point of view, one must believe in intuition. With reference to the western world, he added that the media industry in the West follows a pattern format leading to success.

Vats believes that there will be a lot of custom use in the story and segmentation in the audience. According to him, there will be a set of audience that will love, and there will be one that doesn’t. But in the future, it won’t matter as every story can reach its audience and every audience their story.

The session ended on the note that the future can be rafted only from lessons learnt in the past. The media industry is in interesting times today, as it witnesses a disruptive process of embracing change to redefine itself for the future.

National Geographic Partners CEO Gary Knell said that the infotainment company’s appetite for storytelling transcends language, religion class, and culture. “At Nat Geo, we believe in the power of storytelling to change the world, and I see that fully coming to fruition in India,” he stated.

Nat Geo India, he said, represents the second largest market in social media for National Geographic in the world. “We have nearly 24 million India-based followers and it’s a testament to the universality of the power of visual imagery.”

He also said that Nat Geo’s core purpose is to deliver content that helps people better understand the world and their role in it. It delivers this promise through its magazines, books, television programmes, films and digital.

“In this challenging world, companies that can step up to declare the purpose and are able to drive their brands to create emotional connections with consumers are the ones that are going to make it in the 21st Century,” he stated.


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