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Short and small – The new big of broadcasting

Billions of terabytes being shot and recorded every moment all around us is the new face of Indian broadcasting. Covid too propelled that I have vocalized over the last few years that in the next 5 years traditional wall- held television will eventually pave way for the brave new world of true content. Well, I was wrong – pandemic changed it all. What was denied vehemently by corporate honchos until 2019, is a vile reality sneering into their faces. It is not just TV but cinema too has died for good. The recent cinematic blunders are a true reflection of changed consumer behavior. This provides the ringside view of the India today, and not just today, this is the India that will be in the years to come manifolds.

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How does this indicate the future of content in India? The single largest roadblock in the quantum leap is the hardware that is used for content aggregation. Most of the camera’s that are traditionally used are, let us say bulky, expensive, and complicated to use. This in itself proposes expensive paraphernalia, high-end resources thus making over all package expensive, and a domination of non -creative people. Globally, best content unusually is dominated by producers and story tellers, screen play writers, and then directors, actors, and then anyone else. The overall investment of a project in content research and development is an awesome 18 percent and above. Now, compare that to a pittance paid to writers in India, that too as a favour thus having created a breed of accidental, unprofessional, and illiterate writers willing to write any crap without even having the basics correct. No wonder, traditional TV content is losing popularity and revenue both. My estimate is traditional wall -held business has lost nearly 27 percent viewership in the last 14 months; that should be roughly Rs 2500 crores. I believe, this sort of disappearance of viewership and revenue has roots in the infrastructure that niche content is deploying. Android seems to be at the heart of this revolution –- fueling the new wave of content creation. However, its not just android, but the new wave of mirror-less cameras, radically improved DSLR cameras, and 4K being the new HD, ; are quietly fueling the new wave of content creation. Easy- to -use interface and advanced autofocus have brought the creative control into hands of simple storytellers. Recent years have seen a whole new breed of outstanding short and long form of content, shot with simple cameras thus reinstating focus on the art of story telling. This recent success has more than amply proved that viewers and reviewers are breeds apart. Technical excellence is the forte of reviewers and thought- provoking story consumption is for the viewers – they are the ones who contribute to popularity and revenue.

The new breed of directors is not averse to experimenting with IOS and other formats – that means the new wave of content will come from simple mobile cameras. This has just begun to push the writers to ‘think’ beyond the traditional stories. Consider this: over 400 movies languish unreleased every year including the leading film stars and an equal no number of movies do not see more than two days on the box office. Between the two Fridays, regional cinema has been lying dead, and now with digitization creating channel capacities in excess of 500 will create opportunities for regional movies and content to debut, and earn money. Digitization will pave the way for creation of a whole new regional and niche content industry in Mumbai, which traditionally has been a bastion for Hindi content. Brands like Sony, Nikon, and Pentax are on a new high. Even Fuji has renewed and revamped the technical horizon. It is not just cameras but also mobile devices and have video at the core of the business now. Other brands are overcoming the issue of video, stills, and audio interface – one device triple play (utility) is the clearly the new business focus.

Leading TV channels have already begun deploying handheld devices for news gathering,; reflecting the changing times. For long, IT and technical heads have lost fortunes for projects while making millions –- sad but true. Billions could have been saved and strengthened the bottom line of standalone companies. Pandemic reporting has reinforced my belief that news channels have overburdened technology CapEx. I believed in 2008 that virtual newsrooms and handheld devices need to be experimented with. However, the cabal believed in rendering the bottom line a deep scarlet. I am glad it has taken a pandemic to enforce change and in near -term will bring back news broadcasting from perceived lossmaking proposition. Its not just about saving monies, but also about creating a smart talent pool and eventually a smart business environment that will be low on OpEx and CapEx both. Business models should be simple for longevity; therefore, let us understand what is the core of media, technology or content management? Off course, there can be no smart business unless technology is supportive of content but technology can not predominate the entire business essence and in the end become a hurdle. Future belongs to simpler devices – devices like GoPro series, which I have used extensively along with Samsung S10 to complement EOS Mark 3 and Sony Alpha series – I have shot my film Streedesh with it and it was great fun shooting adventure for adventure and high- altitude filming modes and above all – underwater sequences. Couple of years back, it would have costed a fortune, a team, and days of preparation.

So what does technology and content teach us? Let us get simple seems to be the message I hear ; what do you hear?

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