Who’s Afraid of Sensible TV?
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It's been over two decades since we gave up the privilege of being entertained by a single terrestrial channel and satellite invasion changed our TV-viewing habits.
It's been over two decades since we gave up the privilege of being entertained by a single terrestrial channel and satellite invasion changed our TV-viewing habits. I still remember the days when one had to "concept sell" a remote control and the idea of a second channel; from that cable TV was born. The first tipping point came in the 1990s — with the start of satellite TV. The viewer has not looked back since then. The "click generation" brought with it a differentiated viewership pattern, which created the need for content that went beyond the regular.
Previously, India's ruling elite had a dual and somewhat contradictory view of broadcasting. On the one hand, politicians considered it too powerful a force to be left to the private sector, especially in the years after independence, when the nation's unity and secularism were considered vulnerable. On the other hand, television was seen as too frivolous to merit much investment at a time when politicians were focused on turning India into an industrial power.
In India, we tend to leapfrog in everything. Everything that happened in the rest of the world over 10-15 years has happened here in two years. From a multitude of channels to content spanning the entire spectrum of genres, to the proliferation of DTH, television too has evolved here in a short span of time.
The mantra in this sphere is that whatever may be the revenue model — ad-funded, subscription or a combination — the key to sustainable revenue streams lies in providing content that cannot be duplicated elsewhere. A cliché, but content is truly king.
Unfortunately, content has seen little change and even lesser innovation. One can argue that from soap operas we have moved to reality shows and more. But in 20 years that can hardly be termed innovation. The problem is the high (80 per cent) dependence on revenues, which forces programming for the broadest common denominator and allows zero experimentation. This may change going forward.
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