Ficci Frames: Consumers must pay for content, says Disney's Uday Shankar

Topics FICCI Frames | Disney India | media

Uday Shankar, president of The Walt Disney Company (Asia-Pacific) and chairman, Star and Disney
Media businesses have prioritised advertising over content and the industry is set to take a huge hit because of its reliance on advertising, Uday Shankar (pictured), president of The Walt Disney Company (Asia-Pacific) and chairman, Star and Disney, said on Tuesday during the FICCI Frames virtual summit. 

Held annually in March, Frames was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The summit started on Tuesday and would continue till Saturday.

Shankar said the media industry’s short- sightedness was responsible for the “disproportionate dependence” on advertising and that consumers must pay for content. 

“The biggest bane of this industry — especially for print, television and even digital — has been its over dependence on advertising. If the industry has to grow to the next level, I think the one thing that must be fixed is our ability and our desire to get people to pay for what they consume. That’s the only way this industry can grow,” he said. 

Advertising revenue in media, Shankar said, had grown to $10 billion now from $1 billion in 2000. While advertising had helped the media industry to sustain itself over the years, it has also been a huge distraction, he said. 

The media industry in India is pegged at $20 billion, of which half is contributed by advertising alone in terms of revenue. Television remains the largest medium in terms of advertising, followed by the print and digital. But, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the business, with advertising across categories taking a significant hit. 

Globally, the media industry has grown on the back of establishing a ‘direct’ relationship with consumers, Shankar said. 

“All of us are guilty of this. We decided to be shortsighted, we decided to subsidise our products and created hurdles for small challengers,” he said.

The media veteran also said that there was an urgent need to expand the local talent base and create a supply funnel that delivered writers, actors and directors on a regular basis. 

He urged the government to give the necessary support to the sector to help expand the country’s ‘soft power’. 

Prakash Javadekar, Union minister, information and broadcasting, said the government was formulating standard operating procedures for shooting and re-starting filmmaking in India, which had come to a standstill because of the pandemic. 

“Content produced by India is consumed in more than 150 countries and Indian cinema earns significant revenue,” he said. 

However, Sanjay Gupta, country manager and vice-president, Google India, said nearly a million people could lose their jobs in media and entertainment due to the lockdown. 

“In 2020, we will see the sector shrink from $20 billion to $15 billion,” said Gupta. “An even bigger challenge is the impact on jobs and livelihoods. As we adapt to a new normal, it is estimated that around 20 per cent of our workforce may lose their jobs, potentially impacting nearly a million people,” he said. 

Gupta also said that to be a ‘creative powerhouse’, policy initiatives such as a simplification of the taxation framework, adoption of a light-touch regulatory approach, infrastructure status to the industry and support to accelerate exports of films and games was needed.

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