What are the five big things that will happen in the Indian media and entertainment industry in 2014? Here goes my list:
01) There will be more variety in programming and channels on television. You can see some of that already as broadcasters started offering the latest global shows — Castle or Sherlock for instance — in the week of its release. Hindi channels are segmenting the market finely with second and third general entertainment channels. Most are now offering second and third film channels too. Much of this is happening because of digitisation. More than half of India’s 150 odd million TV homes are now digital. According to the law, all should be so by the end of 2014. Digitisation removes bandwidth issues and makes slicing and dicing audiences easier. Think of what multiplexes did to films, that is exactly what television digitisation will do to. Sure there is some pain along the way — filling those KYC forms if you are a cable subscriber for one and figuring out how to operate a set-top-box. But in the end, by say 2015-16, much of this will result in a TV industry that is less dependent on advertising and more on the money you pay and therefore on catering to your programming needs.
02) There will be some correction in the film business. The inflation in talent costs has been more than 100 per cent, way above the growth rate of the industry. Not surprisingly much of this rise has benefitted only the top few in most departments — acting, cinematography, direction, writing or the others. For very long veterans such as Manmohan Shetty and Subhash Ghai have been saying that the business of films is getting skewed. This year it finally tilted totally to a cost-heavy, talent business. Though 20-30 per cent of the films eventually recover their money, very few are managing to make a profit since a huge amount is soaked up upfront. Expect some bust-ups in this one.
03) The whole issue of media ownership will become hotter. The financial implosion at Tehelka happened when the scandal over the alleged sexual assault of a junior colleague by its editor Tarun Tejpal, broke. According to news reports a combination of investors in Tehelka, lost about Rs 40 crore over the last four years alone. This begged the question — why were those investors then buying and selling the company’s shares at crazy premiums? Just like Tehelka there are several media firms waiting to implode. For example of India’s 135 odd news channel, about one third are owned by people who have no desire to run a news channel. They just want a tool to extort, influence or woo people with the fact that they have media to use. There are dozens of such Tehelkas waiting to happen. The regulator is already taking a closer look at this one.
04) The boom in online video consumption will keep everyone in the film and TV industries busy. All the biggies that sneered at the lack of revenues online are finally seeing enough traction to move in. Zee, T-Series, Star, almost every major media firm is giving the scores of random ‘content shops,’ a run for their money. T-Series is the number one channel on YouTube out of India, for three years now. Star is the stickiest one. This means people spend more time on its channel online, compared any other in the top ten. With 227 million Indians logging into tablets, laptops, iPhone or other devices to watch, read, listen or simply talk, this market is now a serious number. Watch out then for a lot of jostling for online territory in the coming year.
05)English newspapers better keep a tab on their readership numbers. Going by trends this should be the year when it finally stagnates. Strangely enough none of the papers have got around to looking at and getting advertisers to look at blended metrics. If they could get online into the readership numbers, it will be wonderful. This then should be the year that online will start affecting, at least English print, in India.
Happy new year!
The writer is a media specialist and author. Follow her on twitter at http://twitter.com/vanitakohlik