[TechSparks 2020] The future of connected TVs in India and its effect on the ad industry

At TechSparks 2020 event, a panel featuring prominent names from the advertising, media distribution, and marketing solutions industries discussed the future of connected TVs in India and how that has affected the ad industry.
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Once upon a time, billions of people would return home after a long day at work, take their shoes off, and switch the TV on to watch whatever programme was on at the time. Then came the age of flicking obsessively between several hundred channels to watch the best programmes or show that was playing at the time.

Today, you get back home, take your shoes off, and you know already what programme you’re going to watch. This is the age of conscious content consumption.

Surprisingly though, in a universe with the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney Hotstar, and ALTBalaji exist and where they can be streamed via a broadband connection, SmartTVs don’t feature in a significant way. Instead, most of the streaming happens on normal TV sets, which also connect to a DTH set up.

Linear TVs — where content is broadcasted over the air or via cables — are still the device of choice for people in India, and these are turned into digital systems to stream Netflix and others via gadgets like the Amazon Fire TV stick or Apple TV.

“The remote in most Indian households is still always with an elderly gentleman at home, or even the maid. Linear TV is not going anywhere in the foreseeable future,” said Anuj Gandhi, Group CEO of Indiacast, a media distribution company, at TechSparks 2020, YourStory's flagship event.

The panel Anuj was part of focused on the future of connected TVs in India.

SmartTV sales are growing, thanks massive discounts offered by ecommerce players, but they’re nowhere near linear TV sales.

This paradigm shift in consumer behaviour where more and more people are more and more consuming content via supplemental devices is making it tough for advertisers to push targeted ads — and this has resulted in a unique situation where ad pricing does not have an anchor point.

They’re not the same

Bharat Khatri, Country Head of Xaxis India, a digital media platform that connects advertisers to audiences says when it comes to advertising on TVs connected to the internet, you can’t treat it on the same level as advertising on linear TVs.

“Pricing today has to be dynamic because it’s hard to have a common currency for both these vastly different platforms,” he adds.

Another problem that occurs with streaming is that there’s no way for advertisers to tell what sort of programmes are being watched — and that makes targeted advertising hard.

“In streaming devices, the lack of programming information, at least in real-time, will have to be solved somehow, and then advertisers will be able to use it to push targeted ads,” said Anindya Datta, Founder, CEO and Chairman of Mobilewalla, a consumer intelligence and mobile marketing solutions company.

But once the issue is resolved, connected TVs will be, even more accurately, able to estimate who’s watching what and who’s not watching anything, which can ultimately help advertisers refine their approach across multiple touchpoints, he added.

There’s a larger debate happening in the industry now regarding metrics that can accurately help ad companies carry out targeted advertising.

Some are of the opinion that OEM companies like Samsung and Xiaomi can — by either in-building measurement mechanisms or some other way — help build a database of content being consumed on a TV, and then monetise it by selling subscriptions to media companies.

“Once ad planning get more distilled, I think companies will start to become screen-agnostic and focus instead on the consumer,” said Anubhav Sharma, founder and CEO of SyncMedia & Adtech, a firm that allows advertisers to optimise ad-selling.

The panel was expertly moderated by Rajeev Dhal, Chief Revenue Officer of ZEE5.


TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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