Is it the perfect moment to develop a digital alternative to television?

In a world where traditional television is becoming increasingly outdated, Uday Shankar, co-founder of Bodhi Tree Systems and former Disney APAC chief, believes that now is the perfect time to create an alternative to television. At the recent APOS conference in Bali, Shankar discussed how his new venture, along with Reliance’s JioCinema, is building a new media platform in India, one of the world’s fastest-growing markets.

Shankar highlighted the “digital revolution” that Reliance Jio initiated in India in 2016 with the introduction of low-cost data plans. This revolution opened up new possibilities for content consumption for millions of people who previously had limited access to video content.

With his experience in the television industry, Shankar recognizes the limitations of traditional television. He stated, “I was created by and love television, but its limitations have been exposed for a long time.” His partnership with James Murdoch in Bodhi Tree Systems aims to propel India’s media industry into the next stage of evolution by building out the JioCinema streaming service.

JioCinema has already made significant content deals, including broadcasting the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket and partnering with Warner Bros Discovery and NBCUniversal. It has also integrated the streaming channels of Viacom18, a joint venture between Reliance and Paramount Global.

Shankar believes that there is a vast untapped market in India that has been limited by the lack of affordable and accessible content. He aims to create an alternative to television by delivering a wide range of diverse content through the JioCinema app. This central platform will cater to the social and linguistic diversity of India, offering multiple channels from various sources.

Shankar also criticized India’s SVOD (subscription video on demand) segment for focusing too much on the top end of the market and producing expensive shows that have limited appeal. He questioned the necessity of investing in such shows when the primary market is India and limited to only 5% of the population. Instead, he believes in investing in content like the IPL, which is “super premium” and relevant to a larger majority of the Indian population.

In addition to SVOD, Shankar believes in the potential of AVOD (ad-supported video on demand), respecting India’s AVOD viewers and questioning the notion that only paying consumers are valuable. He believes that anyone willing to consume content is a customer, and there is a need to innovate ways to reach and create value for them.

While JioCinema aims to cater to a wide range of consumer segments, including the top 5% interested in Hollywood movies and premium content, Shankar’s vision is to provide an alternative to television that is accessible to all. With India’s booming digital revolution and the growing demand for affordable and diverse content, Shankar’s idea of creating an alternative to television seems well-timed and promising.