Cinema is an entirely human endeavor. As the inventors of the Kinetoscope in June 1889, Thomas Edison, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, and Charles A. Brown would be amazed at the progressive nature with which we entertain ourselves . The idea that we have the technological capability to store vast amounts of data, specifically, exceptionally high-quality cinema shot in an ultra-high-definition in the “cloud,” would make the gentleman mentioned earlier’s jaw drop. Companies such as Netflix, Apple TV (Apple), Amazon Prime Video (Amazon), Voot (Viacom CBS), Pluto TV (Viacom CBS), Hotstar, (The Walt Disney Company), Hulu (The Walt Disney Company), Disney +(The Walt Disney Company), HBO Max (AT &T), Peacock (NBC Universal), and others, would be fantasies for a generation of not just Americans, but citizens of the world.
The intersection of the smartphone, cheap connectivity and a varied price of entry has allowed various participants to participate in this media/entertainment democratization. While the platforms listed above serve the U.S. audience specifically to generate a significant revenue source, a market that dominates the world of cinema is the furthest separated and advanced from its point of origin. The market referred to is the Indian movie industry, a designation only granted as early as 2001, which “finally opened up to legitimate financial channels and partnerships” . The National Investment Promotion & Facilitation Agency of India estimates the media and entertainment industry to grow to $34.8 billion by 2022 . Media and Entertainment in America is still the dominant player globally, with a value surpassing some small nation-states’ GDP. When one thinks of Hollywood, an assumption starts from the significant cultural landmark located on Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles, California. It is an industry that has produced a Governor and President of the United States of America. According to selectusa.gov, “The U.S. media and entertainment industry is the largest in the world. At $717 billion, it represents a third of the global M&E industry, and it includes motion pictures, television programs, and commercials, streaming content, music and audio recording, broadcast, radio, book publishing, video games, and ancillary services and products” . To put it into perspective, that is more than double the GDP of Asian economic powerhouses like Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia.
It would be futile to think that the Indian movie & entertainment industry would dominate the U.S. market, but it already does. India produces the most number of movies in a given year, far outpacing the U.S. According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics, India accounted for one-fifth of the total production of films (1724 feature films), after which came America (738 feature films), China (638 feature films), Japan (591 feature films), and then France (270 feature films) . The primary reason for such dominance is India’s linguistic diversity and exclusivity. Even though the languages share common roots, they express vastly different behaviors and emotions. The other countries produce films primarily in their native tongue. India is unique because its native tongue depends on which geographical corner one is referring to. For example, a person native to the city of Chennai would be more inclined to watch Tamil movies compared to their counterparts in Mumbai, who would prefer to watch Hindi movies. Such exclusivity cannot be found in America, where a native of Alabama or New Jersey would be inclined to watch a “Hollywood” movie. India is also unique because its entertainment industry includes massive “English-medium” news outlets and large repositories of multi-lingual soap-operas and TV shows. There can be media and entertainment property for every language in the Indian diaspora, a diaspora consisting of 22 languages .
Out of the multiple entertainment industries that exist within India, the biggest by far would be Bollywood. With its participants, both glorified and demonized, Bollywood offers an exclusive glimpse into the Indian consumer. Indians bought 1.03 billion movie tickets, approx $128 million, to watch Hindi (33%), Tamil (19%), Telugu (18%), Hollywood, and Malayalam movies . Interestingly, in a country where news is consumed in English, entertainment is preferred in the specific native tongue. This is important because it is entertainment. The role of entertainment is to entertain the viewer and the bias to reach for an understandable medium is natural. Explorations divested from natural inclinations can seem challenging and appealing. The Indian media and entertainment industry is scarred with allegations of plagiarism. Setting aside those outrageous examples, it must be noted that serving the most diverse population is remarkable. This attempt to deliver will only be tested thoroughly in the age of cheap data and connectivity.
In a report titled, Which country offers the cheapest mobile data?, by the World Economic Forum, the average cost of 1 Gigabyte of data in India is $0.26, compared to the United States at $12 per GB, citing that “countries with developed cable networks are among the most expensive places to buy mobile data” . A simple check on Verizon Data Calculator and AT&T Data Calculator for 1 hour of streaming HD video per day in a month conclude that the user would need approx 60GB of data. On a cost basis, stream 1 hour of HD Netflix would cost $720 in America compared to $3.12 in India. Bundling services in America makes them affordable; still, on a cost basis it seems drastically different. Accounting for the dollar’s valuer, it is remarkable to think how cheap data in India is for the average Indian. With India quoted to be “one of the largest and fasted growing markets for digital consumers, with 560 million subscribers, second only to China” , one can only think what media and entertainment would look like in a modernizing India.
The photo used in the essay is from the first feature film made in 1913 in India called Raja Harishchandra. A silent movie inspired by the “Godfather of Indian Cinema” Dhunhiraj Govind Phalke or Dadasaheb Phalke, is an attempt to recreate the motives of the silent film, The Life of Christ . Like Mr. Edison, Mr. Phalke would be in awe at what their humble beginnings have transformed into. As of 2020, there existed various streaming apps with Youtube, Hotstar, JioTV, Amazon Prime Video, and Voot representing the Top 5 Video Streaming Apps by Time Spent in a report released by MICA Center for Media & Entertainment Studies . If one looks at the Media & Entertainment market, India holds a significant advantage in terms of content. While cord-cutting is a hot-button topic in America, in India, there don’t exist many chords. Regional exclusivity and commonality are intersected to create content for the Media & Entertainment Industry. Excluding some archaic practices such as an Entertainment tax and an actor-driven model, the Indian Media & Entertainment industry can benefit vastly from this technological revolution. The demarcation of the smartphone and data made available to average India shall make delivering high-value content in the providers’ self-interest to maintain competition. This low price of data shall not persist forever, since it can be assumed that this is an attempt to create a point of entry. Overall, even if data prices rise, there would not be a decline in the need for Media and Entertainment services, making the sample size of close of 2000 films and countless TV shows, Cricket, news channels, YouTube shows, Religious Streaming networks, an ever-expanding paracosm to keep notice instead of China.