The media and entertainment industry stands at the forefront of digital innovation, actively embracing a series of transformative technologies. Technologi­c­al advancements are fundamentally altering how content is produced, distributed and consumed. This transformation is also reshaping audience expectations and business models within the industry.

India’s media and entertainment industry is unique compared to other markets due to its extremely high volumes and rising ARPU. This has significantly aided the industry in leading digital adoption, and has provided enterprises with uninterrupted, rich data to de­liver an enhanced user experience and dri­ve business growth.

A look at the key digital trends and their adoption in the sector…

AI-driven innovation

Artificial intelligence (AI) has found widespread application in the media and entertainment industry. AI-powered technologies are being leveraged across various do­mains, from automating repetitive tasks such as metadata tagging to offering personalised content recommendations to users. AI tools such as predictive analytics, recommendation engines, customer journey mapping and audience segmentation are streamlining operations and boosting au­­dience engagement. Some of the most po­pular applications of the technology wi­th­in the industry are:

Machine learning

Machine learning (ML) algorithms power content recommendations tailored to individual preferences in order to drive audience engagement and retention on various platforms. The technology can optimise content delivery, predict network congestion and gauge audience reactions, aiding companies in refining business strategies. It can automatically tag pictures, videos and other media with descriptive keywor­ds, improving content searchability. Pre­di­ctive analytics is widely harnessed for targeted advertising and effective marketing campaigns. ML is also used to enforce in­tellectual property rights by detecting un­authorised use of copyrighted content.

Generative AI

Generative AI, a unique subset of AI capable of being creative, has disrupted the me­dia and entertainment industry. AI algorithms learn from a vast amount of data and produce creative outputs that cl­osely re­sem­ble human-made content. Ge­nerative AI can help in making a wide range of media content, including text, images, mu­sic and videos. It can assist in creating scrip­ts and stories for films, books and newspapers. It can create unique and visually app­ealing designs and graphics for various media applications and ad campaigns. The technology can also generate subtitles or dub content in multiple languages, making it more accessible to global audiences. According to a World Asso­ciation of Publi­shers poll, 49 per cent of respondents cla­im­ed that their newsrooms use AI platfor­ms such as OpenAI’s Chat­GPT. Spotify la­unched its AI-enabled DJ feature in February 2023. The service can sort throu­gh a user’s music library and recommend music that they might be interested in. How­ever, the process is not completely au­tomated. Spotify uses generative AI algorithms in conjunction with human editors.

While generative AI presents fresh op­p­ortunities for the sector, it has also sparked discussions about ownership, creativity and authenticity. Addressing these concerns will be important for the media and entertainment sector as it increasingly integrates such solutions into its workflows.

AI news anchors

AI-powered news anchors are virtual entities that are created using generative AI and natural language processing. They can read news scripts, replicate human speech pa­tterns and imitate human actions. AI news readers can seamlessly deliver news in multiple languages, expanding a channel’s reach to a wider audience. They also eliminate time limitations, as they can present real-time news on demand. How­ever, there are certain challenges and ethical considerations. AI news readers lack the authenticity of human presenters, whi­ch might impact audience trust and engagement. The use of AI news anchors to disseminate misinformation or biased con­tent has also raised concerns about responsible content creation.

More Asian countries are introducing AI news anchors. In 2018, China became the first country in the world to use AI news anchors – a pair of men delivering a bulletin for China’s state-run Xinhua news agency, one speaking Chinese and the other, English. Sana is India’s first AI news anchor, launched earlier this year. She presents daily news on the news channel Aaj Tak, and answers questions from the audience during live sessions. She has also reported on the weather and co-anchored with human journalists.

Blockchain and NFTs

The current digital ecosystem presents various challenges in managing digital rights, royalty collections and transactions among various intermediaries. Blockchain technology is regarded as an effective solution for enforcing accountability in the industry. Blockchain’s distributed ledger approach can help offer a high level of transparency, efficiency, speed, security and control across the media supply chain for all spots in a transaction process. It can safeguard intellectual property rights, thereby reducing piracy and plagiarism. The technology can also help streamline royalty payments, enable micropayments, support peer-to-peer content distribution and curtail ad fraud. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have emerged as a disruptive app­lication of blockchain for content monetisation. As NFTs verify the authenticity of digital content, the owner of such an NFT can be verified through the blockchain ledger. Digital creations such as music, art, movies and advertisements can be owned and tracked.

Shemaroo Entertainment and Polygon Labs announced a partnership earlier this year to launch Shemaroo’s NFT marketplace, Shemaroo aims to demo­cratise cinema by bringing Bollywood and art on to its marketplace. The company recently announced a partnership with Ne­ar Foundation to launch a Web3 innovation cell supported by Near’s blockchain infrastructure and smart contract capabilities.

Extended reality

Extended reality (XR), which encompasses augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), is changing the way audiences consume and interact with content. XR enables video and film makers to transport audiences into fictional universes through VR for an immersive experience. In the journalism and news domain, AR enhances storytelling by overlaying digital information on to the physical world, offering vie­wers a deeper understanding of complex topics. XR is also revolutionising marketing and advertising, with brands leveraging AR to create engaging campaigns. XR enables virtual attendance at live events, concerts and sports matches. Viewers can enjoy a front-row experience from anywhere in the world, enhancing accessibility and engagement.

In March 2023, JioCinema launched a 360-degree immersive button within the JioCinema app for watching Indian Pre­mi­er League matches. It also launched Jio Di­ve, a 360-degree VR device for its viewers.

Foraying into the metaverse

While the metaverse is experiencing varied responses and levels of adoption across different sectors, the media and entertainment industry is fast capitalising on the opportunities presented by the technology. Enter­prises are hosting virtual events and exhibitions in the metaverse to offer uni­que user engagement opportunities, and enable participants to interact in a virtual environme­nt. The metaverse offers tools for virtual pro­duction, making it more co­st-effective and practical to create high quality virtual sets for film and television productions. Me­dia companies are also exploring social metaverse platforms for hosting interviews, talk shows and discussions, creating a more immersive way for au­diences to connect with hosts and guests. In March 2023, Dis­ney Star, the In­dian unit of Walt Disney Co­mpany, rolled out its metaverse platform “Star­verse” after mo­nths of testing the pro­of of concept. As per the company, Star­verse is its first iteration of an immersive 3D eco­system for sports fans. Meanwhile, News18 Network introduced an extraordinary metaverse ex­pe­rience for Mother’s Day this year. Th­rough this platform, Ne­ws­18 provided its audience with a captivating virtual world where they could fully immerse the­mselves in the celebration of Mo­ther’s Day. Thou­sands of participants us­ed their avatars to take the Mother’s Day pledge.

Future outlook

Although the media and entertainment industry is increasingly implementing new-age technologies, several challenges need to be addressed for mass adoption among en­terprises. These include high up­front costs and investment, skill gaps, and data privacy and security concerns. Additionally, automated content creation can compromise qu­ality and authenticity, jeopardising the credibility of content. The ease of digital re­plication can also exacerbate issues of piracy and intellectual property rights.

Nonetheless, the future entertainment la­ndscape is poised to undergo a marked digital transformation. The shift will help in transcending traditional mediums and redefining the boundaries of audience en­gagement and immersion. Enterprises in the sector will become more comfortable with AI/ML solutions, and use them to speed up workflows and drive customer en­gagement. In addition, more filmmakers will embrace virtual production, which can shorten production times and bring real-time computer-generated imagery and visual effects out of post-production and on to real-life sets. Blockchain-based digital assets, including NFTs, are expected to be a key element of the media value chain in the metaverse, enabling digital identities, asset ownership, royalty tracking and payments. The metaverse will co­ntinue to be in focus. Overall, this transformative era will necessitate strategic pla­nning and investment in research and te­chnology for enterprises to stay relevant and thrive in the future.

Sarah Khan