Sarbani Bhatia, senior vice president, IT, Jagran Prakashan Limited

The media and entertainment industry has been leveraging cutting-edge technology solutions to enhance user experience and monetise content. With the increasing adoption of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), machine learning (ML) and blockchain, organisations across the industry are exploring new sources of revenue and improving their business efficiency. However, challenges pertaining to cybersecurity still need to be addressed. Sarbani Bhatia, senior vice president, IT, Jagran Prakashan Limited, shares her views on the key ICT trends shaping the sector and the challenges along the way…

What are the key ICT/telecom technology solutions currently being deployed by your organisation?

In order to make consumer experience more engaging, we are providing personalised and targeted content in real time using AI and analytics. We are also using AR technology to provide a rich video viewing experience of digital advertisements along with digital offerings.

In addition, operating expenses have been curtailed by using IoT to track the multiple segments of the supply chain as well as the printing process. The efficiency of assets and machines on the shop floor has been improved through remote monitoring, predictive maintenance and smart asset management. Further, cybersecurity postures have been enhanced to address any vulnerability that may have emerged while implementing remote working solutions. The frequency of periodic assessments has also been increased.

How are new-age technologies like AI, IoT, blockchain and AR/VR transforming the media and entertainment industry?

The media and entertainment industry has been witnessing disruptive and brisk transformation in the past few years. Digital media has fast emerged as the dominant and most rapidly growing medium in current times.

AI finds application in many areas, from improving consumer engagement through personalised content recommendation and target advertising to increasing profit margins by achieving operational excellence. AI, big data analytics and ML can help media organisations understand consumer preferences and behaviour patterns. The process of creating content, both pre- and post-production, becomes much more efficient by using AI. It can effectively classify and identify huge amounts of data that is generated, allow organisations a better control over their data and address concerns related to data privacy and data security more effectively.

By establishing connectivity between sensors, devices and people, IoT offers an endless stream of opportunities and possibilities to media organisations to anticipate user preferences and respond to them appropriately. The data generated by sensors, coupled with AI and ML, can help understand the consumer better than ever before. By detecting motion, velocity and rotation, IoT presents a limitless array of possibilities in the fields of mobile gaming, 3D animation and 3D motion tracking applications.

Meanwhile, blockchain can help achieve greater transparency, enable real-time consumption-based pricing and prevent piracy and copyright issues. Content creators can directly access consumers and bypass the distribution channels to earn a larger revenue share. VR and AR have limitless applications in the media and entertainment industry. 3D presentations enhance customer experience in museums, theme parks, theatres as well as in gaming.

What are some of the challenges faced while deploying these solutions? How are you addressing them at present?

The first and foremost challenge faced by a technology leader is selecting the most appropriate solutions that are relevant to the business and resisting the urge to deploy all the latest technologies. In our organisation, a new technology is chosen only if it adds business value, provides a competitive edge or helps achieve operational excellence. After making a well-thought-out choice, the challenge of working out the viability of expenses involved within the organisational budget framework can be daunting.

The challenge of seamlessly integrating it with existing applications and business processes is perhaps the biggest practical challenge. Minor but critical processes to link the new process with existing systems are often overlooked. A lack of strategy and planning could create great havoc in the organisation. We only implement a solution if it fits into our tech landscape and can be easily assimilated into an existing application.

Getting users aboard a new technology can also pose a challenge even after the smoothest and best implementation. Sharing of relevant and timely information, setting of clear expectations and goals, adequate training are all important for getting users to embrace new technologies. Deploying a new technology can expose the organisation to new vulnerabilities, which might need enhancing of the security posture. Cybersecurity is a top priority in our organisation and we always build in a security assessment by a third party into the maturity cycle of a new implementation. We also check the application to see if it is compliant with industry standards.

What opportunities and challenges has the ongoing Covid-19-induced lockdown brought forth for players in the sector?

The Covid-19 induced lockdown has had a significant impact on the media and entertainment industry. While there has been a substantial increase in the consumption of digital media, TV, OTT and gaming, traditional media platforms that rely on a social gathering, that is, films and events, have been badly affected. Therefore, film producers are now turning towards television and OTT as the new launch platform. While big-budget movie makers are willing to wait, small-budget movies are being released on TV and digital platforms.

There have been challenges in the distribution of print media, but the credibility of newspapers has gone up because of the abundance of fake news on social media. However, monetisation could still prove to be a challenge as most of the media and entertainment verticals still rely on advertising for their revenue, and there has been a downward revision in ad spends.

There are opportunities for generating subscription revenue as people are mostly homebound and are likely to consume a variety of content. This also requires that fresh and good content should be made available frequently, which is currently a challenge due to an abrupt halt in filming and production since the lockdown. This could lead to more innovation and new delivery models could emerge. Live events are getting converted into virtual online events with technological advancements playing a major role. Finding sponsors and generating sponsorship revenue is an effective way of monetising these virtual events.

Going forward, what are the key technology trends that will dominate the media and entertainment sector?

It was projected that India will have a billion digital users by 2030, but the growth trajectory has considerably accelerated due to the lockdown. OTT platforms and digital media have already been attracting new consumers and expanding to new locations and demographics. The demand for OTT original content will compel organisations to innovate and leverage technology to make the production and distribution process more efficient. The demand for at-home media will also give an impetus to broadband internet/fibre-to-the-home companies. The much awaited 5G will contribute greatly in this area.

The digitalisation of content, rise of social media and surge in mobile consumption have changed the way media companies monetise content. VR, OTT media and internet advertising are predicted to be the top revenue earners. It is being anticipated that mobile will be the most important trend for media consumption and gaming. Reliance on videos and images by media organisations will be high and native advertising will be an important source of revenue. The economic slowdown will force enterprises to look towards technology not just for improving content offerings for consumers but also for building intelligent enterprises with higher efficiencies, maximised revenues and managed costs to facilitate profitability and healthy growth. They will depend on AI, ML and analytics not only to predict consumer behaviour but also to manage their back offices. The pandemic crisis has proved that remaining agile is the only way to sail through difficult times and downturns, which makes the dependence on technology all the more important.

To sum up, M&E companies need to revisit each and every part of their value chain. They should rely on the right technology, produce great content, distributed in an efficient and cost-effective manner to the right target audience, to keep them contented and engaged.