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Ficci Frames 2017: Has the M&E industry lost its voice?

The panellists tried to find ways to monetise consumption platforms and create a level playing field for all

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | March 22, 2017

Ficci-Frames-2017The media and entertainment industry has been a steady contributor to national, employment growth and socio-economic development but it is still looked at as a glamour hub rather than an economic nerve centre and a creator of jobs. Of late, the industry has seen a battle of wits between stakeholders and the Government, thus preventing the sector from realising its full potential.

In a panel discussion at the 18th edition of Ficci Frames, moderated by Nalin Mehta, Consulting Editor, The Times of India and Senior Fellow, IDF and Editor, South Asian History and Culture (Routledge), panellists Sudhanshu Pandey, Joint Secretary, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India; Siddharth Roy Kapur, President, The Film and Television Producers Guild of India; Anurradha Prasad, Chairperson and Managing Director, Bags Films & Media Ltd; Bharat Anand, Henry R Byers Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; Raj Nayak, CEO, Colors, Viacom 18; Harit Nagpal, Managing Director & CEO, Tata Sky; and Kapil Agarwal, Jt Managing Director, UFO Moviez India Ltd; Ajay Mittal, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting discussed ways to monetise consumption platforms and create a level playing field for all.

Raj Nayak Raj Nayak

Talking about digitisation and content, Nayak said, “Content is the new water. With digitisation, people have the choice of watching content where they want. If you look at Netflix, it came in the US via television. Breaking news and sports are the two things that people will continue to watch on the big screen. For content creators this is the diamond era but the problem is when it comes to monetisation. There is so much fragmentation I am worried how most of these platforms will survive. If they are not able to put a subscription payment model in place it will be difficult for these digital platforms to survive.”

Harit Nagpal Harit Nagpal

Commenting whether it is possible to make money with water (content in this case) and emphasising the need for a fair playing field, Nagpal said, “I started my career by selling shampoo and soaps. People consume content the same way they consume any other product. Different people want different things. The purpose of television digitisation was one to create an infrastructure where customers can make their own choice and bring in transparency where the government is one stakeholder, the broadcaster is another stakeholder and the platform is the third stakeholder. DTH players that constitute 33 per cent of the industry pay 80-90 per cent of the entertainment and service tax and 66 per cent of the industry, which is the cable operator, pays just 10-20 per cent of the tax. So instead of wasting their time on deciding on how we should price ourselves they should ensure there is a level playing field.”

Taking on the topic of discussion, Prasad said that the industry is not roaring and in fact had lost its voice.

“What I have seen happening since at least 2006 is that the stakeholders and policy makers have put their power and authority in an organisation called TRAI and they themselves don’t know how to move forward. I have been asking for a forum for broadcasters. We are saddled with the telecom industry and the regulatory body doesn’t have the time to look into broadcaster’s issues. Talking about content, content needs to be curated and therefore you need to put money into it. But how will we spend money into it if we don’t have money flowing back into the system? I have believed that content is key but even though we all believe in it I don’t see that happening in any manner. In India we have this habit of getting everything free so how can you create good content?”

Pointing out that the service sector in India has largely remained unorganised, Pandey also stressed on a level playing field for all by taking China and their e-commerce laws as an example. He also emphasised the fact that the service sector will have to move onto the next phase now, which is consolidation of business.

Roy Kapur stressed the need to build the infrastructure in order for the industry to fully reach its potential.

“There are eight screens per million in this country versus 30 odd screens per million in China and 140 screens per million in the US. If this industry is really encouraged to follow China’s or US’s example and attract capital investments then I believe that the benefit to the industry in the long term will be so significant that it will override any temporary concerns,” said Roy.

Agarwal also reiterated the need for more number of screens to be able to monetise content as he believes that the first window to monetise filmed content is theatre.

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