March 26, 2011 04:15:37 PM IST Rajesh Kumar Singh, Glamsham Editorial
Bringing in a licensing regime in the cable sector and making the consumer pay more for his entertainment needs is the recipe of growth according to the UTV head honcho Ronnie Screwvala who, like every other year, was there to sum up the proceedings and deliberations in various sessions of FICCI FRAMES 2011 on the concluding day of the convention.
He was echoing and endorsing the sentiments expressed by James Murdoch and reiterating the issues raised by him. He advocated the introduction of a licensing regime in cable sector to end the sufferings of broadcaster. He said that it would pave the way for Indian and foreign players to bring in the huge investments needed to digitise and expand the coverage of cable network and make it addressable.
This is the latest manoeuvre employed by the broadcast industry to rein in the recalcitrant cable operators. Though Screwvala called them a cottage industry that led to the spread of cable network, he also termed them as illegal and dangled the bait of a lucrative 'licensing regime' to lure the government into fulfilling the long cherished dream of the broadcast sector. We all know how much the governments, and politicians love the word 'licensing', that actually means an additional source of revenue for the government by doing nothing more than putting official seals on some documents and of course it may also enrich the coffers of poorly paid ministers and bureaucrats in some known and unknown instances. We have to see if the stratagem works. Incidentally, Screwvala started his first serious business with a cable TV venture in June 1981, which has now grown into UTV, an entertainment and media conglomerate with its presence in all the sectors of the M&E industry.
Screwvala also highlighted the fact that the actual growth of the Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry has not kept pace with the projections made in various FICCI sponsored reports over the years, falling short by more than 50% in almost every sector while the film industry experiencing 'degrowth' of some kind if you take the rate of inflation into account. He wondered why the growth in M&E industry continues to be sluggish while Pharma and other traditional industries have been doing so much better. He blamed the industry, the government policy, and even the consumer for this dismal state and refused to admit that FICCI reports might have been flawed and over optimistic and their growth projections might have been based on unrealistic assumptions and suppositions.
While looking to the future of the entertainment industry he said, '4G will be the game changer. Entertainment should be part of the Indian consumption story. We must compete with industry sectors like FMCG to have a greater share in the consumption pie. Our business model has been advertising led all these years, it should be subscription led and we should look at 4G from that perspective.'
He also urged the industry to invest in developing a mechanism to fight piracy and pirates who employ muscle and money power to carry on their illegal business and can be countered effectively by a united effort alone. Though the laws exist on paper, the corrupt law and order machinery does not enforce them effectively. This 'permanent leak' forces us to shrink a film's release windows, which results into the loss of our 'core audience'. He was actually ruing the fact that cinema audiences have stopped coming to theatres because they have the option to watch a pirated DVD at home.
Screwvala's exposition was followed by a presentation of a 'memento' by Aishwarya Rai to the hunky Hollywood star, singer, and actor Hugh Jackman who was happy to be in India on his short trip facilitated by Vijay Singh of Fox Star Studios, India. A chat between Hugh Jackman, Shahrukh Khan, and Karan Johar was the next on the agenda that provided them an opportunity to exchange notes about the workings of Hollywood and Bollywood and their differences and similarities. It was a lively, fun and action filled, no-holds-barred, and entertaining interaction that ended with SRK teaching Jackman a few Bollywood dance moves.
(Rajesh Kumar Singh is Editorial Consultant for Festivals and Markets for BollywoodTrade.com. He is a filmmaker, critic and market analyst)