TV Ramachandran is Honorary Fellow, IET (London), and President - Broadband India Forum. Views are personal. Research inputs by Chandana Bala.
Online Curated Content (OCC) refers to interesting or valuable pieces of content on particular subjects or topics that are collected, collated, classified and readily available for interested parties. The demand for such services is truly growing explosively in India and as many as 148 million Indians subscribed to online curated content (OCC) services in just 2020 alone. Some examples of domestic OCC players are Alt Balaji to Zee 5 and of global ones are Amazon Prime, Disney Hotstar, and Netflix. With the growth of OCC players in India, our broadcasting and online video sector saw an incredible 159% revenue growth. The success and proliferation of local and regional OCC further rewards our country. A whopping $45billion in global collective investments is pouring into India towards more original content (India Frontiers Report, 2021). The market is young and the competition for Indian eyeballs is fierce. Experts opine that increased availability of pro-investment policies will further accelerate our growth on this upward trajectory leading to immense gains in economic benefits.
Content curators play an important role in our society today. When we watch a movie or show on an OCC platform, we see a refined list of choices based on our past viewing preferences. Even using a simple search engine is an exercise in curation. Search results are organized based on the keywords we enter. These OCC platforms use predictive algorithms to identify our preferences and adjust their recommendations accordingly. We are flooded with data all day, every day – it’s a veritable data deluge of information. For an average consumer, it is impossible to find the information they need and make sense of it on their own. Online curators filter, organize, and help select the right content for us.
The OCC market is projected to grow exponentially. Less expensive data plans and the proliferation of low-cost smartphones means millions of more eager subscribers for OCC platforms. The symbiotic relationship between broadband and telecom works both ways. The demand for local OCC content will drive more people to sign up for better data plans. Let us eliminate barriers to success and instead propel the country towards growth.
Countries with more restrictive policies towards the OCC sector see investments drop. According to the India Frontiers Report, protectionist policies can derail innovation, investments, and employment in the entire OCC industry. The report states found that 60% of production costs are spent in this wider community. 2.65 million jobs are supported in the region. As consumers, the jobs we see are just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, actors, producers, and directors are needed. But, under the surface, the bustling, vibrant OCC ecosystem supports thousands of related jobs. These include writers, set decorators, location scouts, cinematographers, catering services, lodging and hospitality, assistants, makeup professionals, data scientists, data architects, business analysts, legal services, IT services, graphics designers, and much more. For every new job position created in Indian Media and Entertainment, two jobs are created in other sectors.
Tax rebates or subsidies for the OCC sector can help. Liberalised Telecom policies of the nineties played a strong role in helping India become a powerful nation to contend with on the global stage. Indian OCC can also help boost tourism. New Zealand saw a 50% increase in tourism after the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed there. The country of Croatia saw a 100% increase in tourism in just eight years after the popular show Game of Thrones began filming. More tourism boosts our economy further. The opportunities are limitless, but if only we seize them early!
The OCC sector also impacts the e-commerce sector. India’s e-commerce market is expected to reach US $111 billion by 2024 and US $ 200 billion by 2026, according to IBEF. As more people shop online, digital advertising continues to be impactful in driving sales. However, powerful content also plays a strong role. Products and services presented and used by characters on a show, for example, can increase an individual’s familiarity and comfort level with the product and brand.
Public demand for more quality content in India is not going away. If audiences are not satisfied with what our industry creates, we will seek entertainment elsewhere. Just look at influx of Korean music and culture in India due to the quality of their online curated content. In 21019, viewing for K-dramas shot up over 370% in the course of one year. South Korea has been so successful in exporting its culture globally that the Oxford dictionary recently added 26 Korean words.
Indian filmmaking and content creators, similarly, are ready, willing and waiting, to reach for the skies, with just a little bit of facilitation! Let us consciously promote tax rebates, subsidies, liberalised policies towards content, and provide the right infrastructure for growth. The payback to the citizens and the economy through the large socio-economic benefits would far outweigh the investment. One might mistakenly think that we are already getting big gains but, actually, this is merely the tip of the iceberg compared to the huge potential yet to be tapped. As Americans might eloquently put it, “You ain’t seen nothing yet…the best is yet to be!”