Is Indian entertainment industry heading towards a digital future?


The average consumer’s growing affinity to digital platforms is forcing the industry to rethink older paradigms of entertainment consumption and revenue generation.

Remember the days when entertainment options available to the average Indian were limited to the nearest single-screen movie theatre or the occasional play/music concert organised at community centres? Chances are that most of the present generation won’t.

The new millennium, which brought with it the promise of globalisation, also saw the advent of swanky multiplexes and malls that completely changed entertainment for many Indians. With satellite TV and internet, we got to know the world around us a little better and a whole generation of young Indians became familiar with western music, cinema, and pop culture, while the MTVs and Channel Vs gave rise to new-age youth icons.


The new millennium also brought with it a whole new regard for the arts, both performing and visual, as storytelling styles and concepts in television and cinema evolved to match the evolving sensibilities of the young, urban and English-speaking Indians.

With our country now in the midst of another revolution of the digital kind, all of this seems like ancient history. However, its influence in defining today’s entertainment industry is too great to disregard.

The media and entertainment industry in India

The Indian media and entertainment (M&E) industry grew at a CAGR of 11.61 percent between 2011 and 2016 to reach a valuation of $19.59 billion. It is expected to grow further at a CAGR of 13.9 percent, and touch $62.2 billion by 2025. Although areas like film distribution and marketing, television, and radio advertising grew by leaps and bounds in 2016, the biggest winner without a doubt was the digital medium.

Shifting trends in the media and entertainment industry

The average consumer’s growing affinity to digital platforms is forcing the industry to rethink older paradigms of entertainment consumption and revenue generation across various verticals like music, films, television, and live entertainment. The focus of entertainment providers, as a result of this digital boom, has also shifted from the urban, English-speaking India to the multilingual and extremely diverse Bharat, a term often used to describe the massive semi-urban and rural populace of the country.

A major impetus for the rising consumption of digital entertainment is also the reduction in 4G tariffs by telecom companies, combined with a strengthening digital network even in remoter parts of the country. Rising income levels and fast-changing lifestyles have driven an increase in demand for aspirational products and services, while a rapidly growing young population and proliferation of digital devices have led to the rise of the alternative screen as a medium for the consumption of content.

To capitalise on these trends, creators and content platforms are revising their strategy to cater their services to a growing number of regional viewers by creating high-quality regional content with significant mass appeal.

Nevertheless, the popularity of digital content in no ways means that television as a medium is any less popular in 2017. Going back to the above stated point about the demand for all things aspirational, television has seen its demand increase in the past year. The average number of televisions for each household in India increased from 181 million in 2016 to 183 million in 2017. There are, at present, nearly 780 million TV viewing individuals in the country. Furthermore, with television entertainment generating revenue of US$ 9.62 billion in 2016, TV continues to dominate the entertainment industry.

With the conversation on digital media intensifying, it is hard to overlook the effect of social media on film marketing and promotion. Social media marketing and its massive impact on branding has increased the budget for movie promotions by nearly 15-20 percent. As a result, word-of-mouth promotions and creating a buzz on social media have become extremely critical in bringing audiences to the theatres on the opening weekend.

Recent examples in the Indian film industry have proven that high-quality, content-driven cinema can compete with any marquee names and that even a major star’s past record cannot guarantee box office success.

Young viewers today, having been exposed to international cinema, television, and arts from an early age, want relevant, high-quality entertainment avenues to satisfy their evolved sensibilities.

They do not want to watch the run-of-the-mill soap operas and movies that most producers have been churning out for decades, and are vocal in their demand for entertainment options that are modern.

Digital is the binding force for not just film promotions and marketing, but is also a major strategy adopted by the rapidly-evolving live entertainment sector. A perfect example of evolution, the events industry is encouraging innovation like no other to engage audiences through experiential events that are gaining popularity among the young Indian demographics. The role of digital is increasingly becoming more important as the target audience for most event producers and organisers widely inhabits the digital universe. This opens up a whole new range of opportunities for organisers to leverage digital and social media to run branding and marketing campaigns for live events.

The popularity of recent properties like Sunburn Festival, an annual EDM music event, proves that India is a rapidly growing, high-potential market for experimental and experiential events. Goa, where the festival originated, is not new to such events; live events with DJs mixing music along with art, crafts, and food started sometime in the late 1980s and continued all through the 1990s and 2000s, giving rise to a new wave of live indie music events that had nothing to do with Bollywood music.

Organising events today has more to do with creating unique experiences and improvising than with following a conventional blueprint.

Proactive engagement is the new paradigm in the Indian entertainment industry, not just of guests and audiences, but of other partners involved in the organising process as well. Whether it is inviting sponsors for a music concert, vendors for outdoor and destination events, or reaching out to the audience, social media and online channels are playing an important role in building professional networks for events. Hence, the major trend to emerge from the current phase of innovation in the live events space is that engaging audiences through live communications and experiential events can provide massive returns not only on big ticket properties and brands, but also for the independent or less mainstream of the performing arts like theatre, classical music, and dance, as well as visual arts.

The future of the entertainment industry

The next five years are going to be all about digital technologies and content, although the scale of their impact on the entertainment industry is anybody’s guess at this point. Online video, for one, is going to be the new normal for the entertainment sector. YouTube hopes to grow its user base in India to 500 million as rising internet penetration and smartphone ownership in the rural areas enable access to online videos. Similarly, other online video platforms, both Indian and international, are currently looking forward to ramp up their presence in the country and capitalise on the massive shifts in consumer behaviour.

Given the trends, it would suffice to say at this point that the potential implication of this trend on both film and television industries will be huge.

Dinesh Singh is the Founder of production house Navrasa Duende.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)