India faces digital challenge

18 March 2013

MUMBAI: The media and entertainment industry in India faces major problems with digitisation and measurement, failings which could hinder its growth, according to a leading expert.

Speaking at FICCI Frames 2013, a conference organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Uday Shankar, CEO of Star India, said the country was poised for the "the fastest digital transition anywhere in the world".

But, as reported in Campaign India, he was critical of the government's lack of support, and pointed to the recent budget, which imposed taxes on set-top boxes, asking: "Why would you not nourish an industry which has the potential to become a huge employer?"

Manish Tewari, minister of information and broadcasting, later responded that a slight increase in customs duty was intended to benefit Indian manufacturers of set-top boxes. In the end, he wanted to see "a win-win situation for the broadcasters and the consumers."

Shankar also said that the media and entertainment industry urgently needed to look at the issue of measurement. He argued that this went beyond simple television audience measurement.

"As a broadcaster, I'm not 100% sure of how many viewers do we cater to as a network," he said. "There are 140m cable and satellite homes, but the measured universe is only 52m households."

"How can this industry move forward without knowing basic facts such as these?" he asked. "Numbers are the rationale behind most important decisions."

In a separate session, LV Krishnan, CEO of TAM Media Research, observed that problems relating to television audience measurement are only brought up when ratings go down.

"Broadcasters don't complain when the numbers are in their favour," he said. And he suggested that in a future of multi-screening, viewer measurement would move from being platform-centric to platform-agnostic.

Another concern for Shankar was how the industry could sustain content quality. He noted that the number of newspapers, radio stations and films had grown significantly in the past ten years, "but there is not even a nominal increase in the number of quality training institutions to support this kind of growth."

Data sourced from Campaign India; additional content by Warc staff