As a child, your father would’ve sat in front of a television screen and watched the 9 PM film screening on Doordarshan with ten others – cousins, aunts, uncles and neighbours. There was one T.V. in the house and it belonged to everybody. Today, you watch the latest action flick on your phone, on a screen that fits in your pocket, with two others – earphones and popcorn. The content that you are watching has come a long way, has had a journey, a history. The channels and methods through which it is available to you have witnessed an evolution. As viewers, we have evolved too. Our tastes, preferences, and the ways in which we consume have changed drastically. They have enabled and been the basis of a revolution in the consumption, production and transmission of content.
It all began with the Doordarshan, a public broadcasting service with a Pan-India audience. Doordarshan screened programs that are fondly remembered and still dearly missed by many Indians. These were the likes of comedy shows, music videos, films, interviews, government news and many more niche programs. Popular ones include historical shows like Bharat Ek Khoj, Ramayan and Mirza Ghalib as well as children’s shows like Malgudi Days. It is interesting to assess the nature of these shows and the audience that watched and loved them. These shows were produced and broadcasted for viewers with an Indian background and upbringing for those who knew and understood Hindi and most importantly, for those who watched T.V. with their families. Doordarshan made shows for a large, family audience.
Over the years, the perception that television is to be watched with the family has changed in many ways and in some households, has been replaced entirely. The T.V.-watching experience has shrunk to fit individuals’ screens and create a private viewing experience like no other. Content has evolved from being mass-produced for a mass-audience for mass consumption to being increasingly tailor-made for the individual viewer for private, customized consumption. Today we watch what we want and when we want, and we have the content revolution to thank for it.
While content consumption has undergone tremendous change to become a personal, individual experience; content production has adapted too. If content is accessible remotely from a bedroom or a phone screen and at any time of the day, production too needs to be fast-paced. In this, lies the danger of inauthenticity. Media channels today are aimlessly doling out content for the individual viewer and often, that content video, episode or article can be run-of-the-mill, as if it is produced for the sake of producing and not for delivering original, entertaining content to the audience.
Enter: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar and the countless other online video-streaming companies you can think of. These produce original, thrilling, funny and relatable content for the global viewer who is no longer interested in adhering to the strict timetable of television shows. In the journalism sector, there are organizations like Buzzfeed and SchoopWhoop that are curating enjoyable content for the millennial who receives his or her daily dose of entertainment online. YouTube is another platform that allows people from all across the world to create content for each other. The YouTube community is wholesome and accessible, allowing viewers and creators to comment on each other’s work, collaborate and connect. Content production no longer takes place behind the closed doors of a multi-million-dollar studio. It takes place in people’s homes, offices and other independent working spaces. That’s how far we have come.
To supplement the dearth of relatable content that is not based on the Ramayana but is more individualized and modern, people have begun creating content that is short, quick and entertaining. TikTok is a prime example of such content. When this app was introduced in the market, it broke the charts right away. People were making videos for themselves, their friends and their built audience to create that private, closed-community viewing experience that is so unique and contemporary. Gen-Y especially, took it upon itself to cater to its content needs. The content was being produced on the streets and in schools and colleges and in such volume that the internet exploded. Tik Tok has had as much of a hand in revolutionizing content consumption and production as Netflix or any other streaming platform has. All these channels put together, have created the content boom we live in and experience today. And it’s a good life.