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Interview with Jagran Prakashan Limited's Sarbani Bhatia

October 21, 2019
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The past few years have seen widespread adoption of various information and communications technology (ICT) solutions across the media and entertainment industry. Organisations across the industry are increasingly deploying new-age technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), machine learning, (ML) and blockchain, among others, in an effort to improve their business efficiency and deliver better quality services to their customers. Sarbani Bhatia, Senior Vice President, IT, Jagran Prakashan Limited shares her views on the key ICT trends shaping the sector, significant technology adoption and the challenges faced along the way...

What are the key ICT trends shaping the media and entertainment industry?

Consumers today want to access personalised, curated content any time and from anywhere, which is reflected in the current ICT trends. Media consumption in digital formats is surpassing that in traditional forms. Moreover, consumption of streaming services and on-demand content is at an all-time high now. The tremendous popularity of Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar and other streaming services has led many consumers to part ways with the traditional cable companies. Streaming companies are using AI and ML to suggest appropriate content to audiences. Further, media and entertainment organisations are also reassessing their strategies around customer engagement and experience by adding virtual reality and augmented reality capabilities in their content. A constant multi-platform experience needs to be provided as the linear model of content delivery is no longer valid.

What are the ICT solutions deployed by your organisation and how have they benefited business performance and efficiency?

We have implemented IoT-based solutions in our printing press to create a managed print environment. We are able to receive data from printing machines and power sources, which help us to control wastage and cut costs. Data dashboards are viewed remotely, thereby doing away with the need for routine press visits. This has brought down the downtime drastically and has helped improve operational efficiency by at least 35 per cent to 40 per cent.

We have designed and developed our own chat solution called JChat. The chat content is stored on the enterprise server storage system, thereby leading to better accountability, work continuity and information security. We have also enhanced our enterprise mobile app to facilitate data collection during surveys.

Our apps and websites are using deep analytics to serve curated content and targeted advertising. We have tied up with Facebook, using it as a forum to upload our short videos on news and entertainment. This has been a great brand building exercise, and has enhanced our viewership and hit rate to a great extent.

How is the growth in video consumption and emergence of multiple platforms transforming business requirements of enterprises in this industry?

OTT service providers like YouTube and subscription-based digital content providers like Netflix, Amazon and Spotify are driving the growth of audio/video data streaming. In spite of this, players are still struggling for monetisation. In India, consumers are so accustomed to accessing huge amounts of free content across diverse platforms that they are reluctant to pay subscription for premium content. To this end, players are coming up with hybrid models, which are partially free, but some of the premium content is available only to subscribers. Some direct-to-home (DTH) players are also offering hybrid packages, bundled with their DTH subscription.

Multichannel is omnipresent. Linear delivery over a single platform does not work any more. Many content players are already offering content, which is platform-agnostic and works across platforms and screens. Many traditional TV channels like Zee TV (Zee5) and Star TV (Hotstar) have entered the on-demand and mobile space in the past few years.

How has the adoption of new-age technologies such as big data analytics, AI, IoT, blockchain and ML been transforming the industry? What are your future plans regarding these?

AI and ML are the most helpful emerging technologies being used by media and entertainment organisations to address the concerns of declining revenues and monetisation challenges. Their main utility lies in providing personalised content for consumption, designing advertisements and film trailers, and organising content and search optimisation.

The use of IoT in this industry has got a huge boost, especially in the broadcast and publishing spaces. Data based on consumer preference, demographics and geographical location collected from various sensors and devices is helping to deliver personalised content to the target groups. Based on data received through IoT, advertisements can be contextual depending on the location and requirements of the consumers.

The huge proliferation of data presents new opportunities for monetisation and business models in terms of data collection, analysis and interpretation.

Blockchain-based technologies are slowly picking up because of their numerous benefits for the media and entertainment industry. Micropayment-based pricing models give a boost to the paid content. Consumers can make micropayments by using stable cryptocurrencies without issues around exchange rate fluctuation or high transaction fees. It is difficult to market low-priced content or small bundles of content because of high transaction fees but blockchain-based micropayments help solve this problem.

We wish to make use of the fast evolving AI and ML technologies in our organisation to develop chatbots to assist our users through routine tasks, for ad hoc queries and for the online advertisements booking system. We also wish to introduce robotic and process automation in many of the routine tasks to reduce time and effort. We have planned to deploy and expand our IoT-based projects for better control over our production facilities.

What are the key challenges in the deployment of new technologies and the existing IT and telecom infrastructure management?

The biggest challenge is coping with the ever-changing and ever-evolving technologies and making a wise decision regarding the choice of implementing only those technologies that are relevant to the organisation.

The second challenge is to integrate the implementation of new technologies seamlessly with the existing business processes and platforms. The IT and business goals must be aligned at all costs, as no initiative would succeed if the two are disconnected.

The new technology should be incorporated with minimum disruption, which requires hiring of resources with the required skill set and training of the existing manpower so as to reap the maximum benefits from it. Often, people shy away from training costs, but in my opinion those costs should be factored in while presenting the business case. Budgetary constraints often pose a great challenge in the way of new technology deployment. These should be kept in mind while formulating the digital strategy. Investment and implementation in phases would rather work better.

 

 
 
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