Ashish Kaul, CEO (Television and Digital)Prakash Jha Productions Founder, Folklore Entertainment
With the debut of digital platforms in India in 2017, a whole new paradigm of content consumers has been unveiled. Digital platforms like ALT, Netflix, Amazon, and many more in the pipeline, are continuously and antagonistically pushing the envelope.
While the party is on, business leaders somehow have chosen to turn a blind eye to severe limitation on liberal bandwidth consumption and the fact that 80 percent of Indian mobility consumers are in the prepaid segment and this segment thrives on recharges of under `50 essentially for talktime purposes. The other 20 percent postpaid segments are primarily niche content.
Turning the focus on rural and urban user behavior on mobile Internet, there is a significant difference in pattern: for most of the rural and semi-urban populace, mobile Internet is primarily used for entertainment (52 percent), followed by social media (39 percent) and communication (37 percent). A particularly pertinent observation is that the consumption of mobile video content in Tier-II and Tier-III cities in India, is much higher than those from urban India. But, a video content of 2 minutes becomes more time consuming due to poor Internet connectivity. This results in buffering and slow downloads, hence, the lost interest and disengagement.
So the big question; how long will the digital content bonhomie last? Not long; many leaders are going to be left stranded with empty bottles when the music stops. Free Jio ride has stopped and all the bonhomie appears to have allayed to answer questions of cost benefit analysis being discussed in taciturn boardrooms.
So, is the digital content party a bubble waiting to burst? Yes, it is – unless we fuss on developing end-to-end mobility platforms that address the primary issues of reach, bandwidth, and differential content. What kind of mobility platforms would address these concerns? Well, cable TV is the most undervalued partner for content creators but sadly, cable TV is in the hands of people who have retired three times over. The future could be different with Wi-Fi/WiMAX enabled set-top boxes connected to family mobile devices. Cable TV can be the largest aggregator and provider of regional content encompassing news and current affairs. The content sticks will also be the game changers with a majority of TV sets turning full HD and 4K and so on – impacting Tier-I premium consumers.
We need to balance content needs with this rapidly changing technological juggernaut. Content no longer solely rules the market. The trend unfortunately seems to focus more on pushing effective promotions/sex laced AFP formats, rather than the quality of content.
Another major segment that has been ignored, I guess because of sheer ignorance, is the surface transportation platforms that comprise trains and intercity luxury coach segments. Indian Railways carries about 8.5 billion commuters annually. With about 60,000 coaches and about 8000 in the luxury segment, a mobility device beaming content will be catering to the largest premium consumer segment anywhere in the world.
India is a land of opportunities but regrettably it is the lack of vision and the inability to lead teams that limits us in our own tracks. It is then left to a fancy consulting firm and few fair faces who then charge a swashbuckling fee to teach us what we ought to have taught the world. Great content stories will emerge out of India but are the so-called visionaries listening?