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M&E industry needs to have a unique content proposition: Uday Shankar

It is self-defeating to be drunk on volumes without being able to convert them into value, the Star India CEO told the CII Big Picture Summit

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | October 31, 2012

Uday Shankar

India’s media and entertainment industry needs to tap innovations made possible by digital technology, such as smartphones and tablet PCs, if it were to grow to a $100 billion industry, said Uday Shankar, CEO of STAR India.

The industry, which is currently worth $15 billion, should look at offering a unique content proposition for the 600-odd mobile screens if it's serious about making itself count in the global stage, Shankar said at the first-of-its-kind Media and Entertainment Summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in New Delhi on Tuesday.

“We are drunk on our own volumes – largest number of newspapers in circulation, largest number of television viewers at 400 million, 100 million digital consumers. Digital in particular is an indictment of our creative and strategic limitations – we have 600 million mobile screens and yet we do not have a unique content proposition for the medium,” Shankar said in his keynote address at the event attended by the who's who of the Indian M&E industry. "Our ability to convert that into corresponding value is disappointing,” he said.

Some of the brightest minds spanning senior executives from media companies, famous actors, producers, directors from Bollywood, policy makers and other influential thinkers got together at the summit to exchange ideas on several important issues for the media and entertainment sector in India.

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Secretary Uday Kumar Varma, leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, The Walt Disney Co. MD Ronnie Screwvala, Viacom 18 Media CEO Sudhanshu Vats, Sony Picture Television President for the worldwide network, Andy Kaplan, News Corp. Senior Executive VP David Hill, NDTV Group CEO and Executive Director Vikram Chandra, Times Television Network MD and CEO Sunil Lulla, Sony Entertainment Television CEO Man Jit Singh, Times Group CEO Ravi Dhariwal, Prasar Bharti CEO Jawahar Sircar, Bollywood producer and director Mahesh Bhatt, Mukesh Bhatt, Prakash Jha, lyricist Javed Akhtar, actors Vidya Balan, Shabana Azmi, Anil Kapoor and eminent journalists Nik Gowing, Vir Sanghvi, Vinod Mehta and Aroon Purie were present at the summit to share their views.

Shankar said that it is imperative for all stakeholders in the M&E industry to deliberate on the benefits of becoming a $100 billion industry and ways to achieve this goal.

“The benefits of pursuing this dream are obvious to the industry – larger size should lead to bigger profits, bigger shareholding value and more wealth. It is easy for the industry to get motivated about the goal,” Shankar said.

He said that India’s limited presence in the global media and entertainment industry is one of the key impediments in achieving the $100 billion size. “Media and industry is a globally growing industry – but our participation in that eco-system is zero and India is hardly factored into the global thought process of technology or content,” Shankar held. Similarly, on the domestic front, the industry is yet to fully unlock the potential of the vast Indian market, he added. “At this rate, we will still take 15 years to get to $100 billion. Obviously, we want to get there much faster. The question is: How do we do that?”

Elaborating on the challenges, Shankar explained how a smaller scale and size of the Indian M&E industry compromises its power to negotiate effectively for Hollywood content. He also emphasised the need for the industry to also look beyond Indian shores in its pursuit of the $100 billion goal. “Our media and entertainment industry serves what is arguably the world’s toughest media market: catering to a diverse culture, languages, value systems and sophistication of tastes. If a pan-Indian broadcaster acquires the expertise to speak to an audience in over five or six languages, why should it not allow us to go beyond the Indian diaspora?” Shankar said.

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