If we go back five years and compare the world today with the world then, nothing has changed more dramatically than our dependence on technology and all things ‘connected’. We can look at businesses like commerce and travel — where consumers are increasingly moving to online transactions. We can look at banking where users are feeling increasingly comfortable to transact, enquire and request online. And we can also look at how services like maps and messaging are making our world far more productive, efficient and connected. But, to my mind, the most amazing change is happening in the world of media and I speak of media here at a little broader level — the change is quick, dramatic and something that will permanently change the way we consume content.
Over 100 million users watch video online every month. An equal number watches video on their phones, but in an offline/side loading format currently — a behaviour that will change in the foreseeable future. And almost all market researchers agree that this number is set to double in a year! Smartphones that stream content are making single TV homes, which currently constitute over 90% of television owning homes in our country, into multi-screen homes. In fact, in the next few years the number of homes having a streaming device will cross the number of homes with TV sets.
Content creation, in today’s world is far more collaborative and democratic as well. As a matter of fact, are we all not creators, distributors and viewers — all at the same time? Building reach has a new meaning and the geography/language barrier for content consumption and distribution no longer exists. And we are just about starting on the data revolution in this country — the 4G rollout has just commenced and data prices are now showing signs of rationalising. What we are going to see in the next 24-36 months is a brand new landscape in media and content consumption.
Dramatic stuff, isn’t it? Or is it dramatic for only you and me — who are born in the latter half of the 20th century — and have gone from one channel TV to multi-channel TV; from Nokia phones to playing brick-breaker on Blackberry to touchscreen phones and streaming videos on them. What about my five and 10 year-old daughters who have only known the ‘touchscreen’ world and don’t even understand the meaning of ‘oh-I-missed-that-show-on-TV’? For them TV is just the larger screen in the living room that should do exactly the same thing that the smaller screen on their tablets or an even smaller screen on their mom/dad’s phone can do.
For them, TV is not a collection of channels that relay a pre-programmed order of TV shows that will not wait for you — that was TV for their parents. Now these kids (and tens of millions like them) are going to be the teenagers and grown-ups with the expectation of only making their viewing experience more customised and richer. This throws a very interesting and huge challenge for media and content companies. But before we worry about what will happen when they grow older, our first task is to entertain them in the world where laptops and internet are part of their primary school curriculum.
As a network, we know how to entertain kids but now it’s just not enough to build a ‘preferred destination’ for kids in a world where the devices are controlled by parents. We have to talk to the parents and the kids both — in a single communication — to get the desired results of access and watch time. Now, that’s a tough task — one communication that has to work for both parents and kids! But this is the evolutionary step that marketing a product or service to kids will now have to take.
Get kids to agree to do things that are ‘good for them’ by offering things that are ‘fun for them’ as a reward. This dynamic has existed for a long time, but in the world of online video this has become hugely pronounced. And herein lie both the challenge and the opportunity!
The day isn’t far when internet becomes a utility service in the mind of a growing consumer base. In such a scenario, the biggest beneficiary will be video consumption on data, drawing more people to watch more videos online. And kids will be at the forefront of driving this change, from a user perspective. The task for us is to ensure they have access to all their favourite characters and shows in a safe and secure environment and they will love to keep coming back for more.
We live in a world that we have borrowed from our children, let us endeavour to make it a super-entertaining one for them!
The author is COO, Viacom18, Digital Ventures