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Five key challenges for Indian television industry in 2021

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Guest Column: Shailesh Kapoor, Founder & CEO, Ormax Media, examines the road to recovery TV industry will be taking on the revenue front in 2021

2020 has been an unusual year by all accounts, whereby a pandemic impacted every aspect of business and life. The television industry had to face the brunt of the COVID-19 impact too. The impact came in two forms. Production of the original software was halted for more than three months, leading to a content crisis of sorts. And while the content pipeline was restored in large part by July, the advertising impact will continue to be felt well into 2021, if not later.

As we get set to enter 2021, here is a list of five key challenges the Indian television industry will face in the new year:

  1. Road to Recovery

2021 will be a year of recovery on the revenue front. The real impact of the economic slowdown may be felt in the early months of 2021 in particular. Channels have to wait it out and let things inch back to normalcy. There’s always a chance that the rebound, whenever it happens, may bring in windfall gains, as suppressed consumer demand from 2020 will come into the forefront. But that will also depend on how the economy recovers, and there is little channels can do, except to be more prudent in their expenses and their content choices.

  1. The Measurement Crisis

There’s a measurement crisis brewing at a time when the industry can only ill-afford it. Specific channels, mostly in the news genre, have been accused of people meter tampering. One of the immediate fallouts of this controversy has been BARC India’s decision to disable channel-level ratings for the news genre. The Government has dropped hints that it wants to be involved in the rating process more actively. One hopes the coming year doesn’t see more disruption in this regard.

  1. Nostalgia & The Ramayan Risk

2020 has been the year where nostalgia has been evoked in no small measure. Ramayan, with its huge success, became the flagbearer of this trend. But with every trend comes the risk of misreading (and over-reading into) it. One hopes that GEC content in 2021 does not become a victim of this problem, because an overkill of anything, be it mythological shows or nostalgia, is unhealthy.

  1. The Niche Channel Challenge

Times have been tough for niche channels since the implementation of the New Tariff Order, and the COVID-19 outbreak has not helped. Several niche channels have shut down in the last year or two, of which the most recent ones are Turner’s English language movie channels. Even as GECs, movie channels (despite a pipeline deficit for new content) and news channels continue to prosper, niche channels, especially in the music, infotainment & lifestyle genres, will have to work doubly hard to sustain.

  1. The Digital Impact

This brings us to the last point on the list: The impact of digital media, including the OTT platforms. Far too coverage has been given in the media to debates that rely on false binaries, such as OTT vs. Theatres or OTT vs. TV. Television is firmly entrenched as the family medium for mass India and is here to stay. But deep penetration of the smartphone is creating fundamental societal changes that the television industry must adapt to, in its choice of content, in its marketing, and in its brand promises. If done well, the digital impact can be a plus for a medium that’s largely immune to it, except channels of the niche variety mentioned above.

Here’s hoping for a great 2021 for the Indian television industry!

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of pitchonnet.com.

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Shailesh Kumar

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