I am what some call a cord cutter. I am not fully there yet as there are still cords coming into my house with television content, meant primarily for the kid of the house. Despite these paid television subscriptions at home, I have not watched it for a year and am unlikely to watch anything until the next season of MasterChef Australia. I do consume a lot of content on my television, but they are all internet-based. At the moment there is nothing on Indian television that would make it watch it, not even news (not that there is news on Indian television either). I think herein lies a problem for television in general.
At home, I have multiple options to watch content. An LG smart TV that has YouTube and Netflix. An old TV connected to Apple TV with a whole bunch of apps that stream content—for the rest I can just play on the phone or Mac and mirror to this screen. I have also tried Google Chromecast, which lets me stream from an Android smartphone and there was my old Amkette EvoTV that gave me access to a whole bunch of Android apps as well as my entire collection of videos. The choice is endless, especially now since the Amazon Fire Stick has also been introduced in India.
To see what the future of TV looks like, you just need to plug in an Apple TV and see the apps that reside on this small box. The most telling one is Facebook.
We all use the social network, but its avatar on TV has just video, and it is a web of content that is hard to come out of as the platform knows what you like to watch. Then there are apps like Hyper and Big Story which just decide that this is the best of what you can watch at the moment. This is the curation of content based on themes and topics, and often the selection is good enough to have you hooked. And it works, drawing you into a pool of content that you love and or had no idea you loved.
For those who still need their dose of straightforward old fashioned television, but at their convenience and timings, there is always Hotstar, which is now becoming the go to place for live sports. For those looking for made for digital content—by that I mean content that is made for binge watching and thus using up your monthly quota of data in a few days—there is Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Once these two entities start creating more Indian content there is a possibility that Indian television will feel the pressure, at least in the urban households. Cheaper hardware and data is only making the transition smoother for a lot of households. Once exposed to this content, it is only a matter of time before they realise the inferiority of what they are being served at the moment. Even for cheap soaps, YouTube is a better platform these days as you get all episodes on a platter and can easily skip the ones that don’t take the story further.
If you ask me, the future of television is digital and by that, I don’t mean flat panels of the move away from analogue. The future is content that has been created for consumption over digital pipelines, for people who are used to digital consumption patterns and know the power of choice is what makes these content creators weed out stuff that has no chance of working.
Also, the internet lets Indian viewers expose themselves to content from all over the world and it is only a matter of time before more content players like Hulu make a beeline for the country. This is why it is time that India television houses start thinking ahead like HBO has, for instance, by creating content primarily for a digital audience. The television audience is moving and it is time companies started looking beyond the idiot box.