I made just one prediction last year, that IPTV will flounder in 2007, and got it right. So, enthused by that success, I’m taking a bigger gamble this year – a whole bunch of predictions for digital content in India for 2008:
— Social Networking: The hype around social networking will mean that more and more media companies will eye that space. So expect some niche social networks around brands and content to launch, replacing forums and discussion boards, but integrated with content. Don’t expect social networks to shut shop – they’ll be up for sale – but they’ll continue to decline as Facebook and Orkut grow in prominence. Some social networks launched over the past couple of years will probably be acquired by media companies to reduce time to market, but no big exits.
— Bluetooth Marketing infrastructure will come up in Consumer Hotspots – in coffee shops and malls, probably integrated with the Digital Signage Networks already in place. So more interactivity there.
— Cross Media: I expect this to be the biggest trend in 2008 – media publications using online and mobile to supplement TV, Print and Radio, and vice versa. More push for citizen journalism, as content will be gathered online and on mobile, and also some cases of ‘citizen paparazzi’, maybe for the likes of India TV.
— Big Media Deals: Expect at least one more cross border big media strategic deal of the NBCU-NDTV, Viacom-Network18, Turner-Miditech and Disney-UTV league…if not more.
— Advergaming and Branded Content: This will be the year for advergaming, both online and mobile. More and more brands, including media companies, will use casual games, branded portals, and niche social networks to connect with their audience. A lot of this mobile content will be distributed via the bluetooth marketing infrastructure.
— Outsourcing companies look closer to home: it’s already begun, and expect that trend to continue, both in Gaming and Animation. Lower margins for sure, but it’s about ownership of IP, and valuation play.
— Funding and acquisition of Content Providers: Original IP will be big game – funding and acquisition for digitization. Also established producers will raise money and look for a bigger, global play.
— WiFi and WiMax: More hotspots, mostly paid. I think some retail chains will take a gamble and offer free WiFi to users. No WiMax for another year.
— Funding and Acquisitions in Mobile VAS space: Expect consolidation in the Mobile VAS space as a few will raise more capital by either VC funding or IPO. Some of that capital will be used to acquire some of the smaller niche players, struggling for survival.
— No 3G, no Mobile TV in 2008, IPTV will continue to flounder: Sorry, but that’s the way it goes…the legal and media battle will switch from 2G spectrum to allocation of 3G spectrum and mobile TV licenses. Deployment of infrastructure across the country will take time, so wait till 2009 (at least). I’ll leave the ‘3G will flop’ prediction for next year. IPTV will continue to flounder in 2008, despite Airtel and Reliance launching their services.
— Regional Content: Creation and aggregation of regional content for distribution to big media will be a big theme for 2008…perhaps in anticipation of big media deals in 2009. 2008 is the year that they build up a content base.
— Location based services will be launched, but not take off.
— Newspapers & Magazines: Indian magazines and newspapers will increase their presence online. More international magazines are going to be launched in India in 2008, but they wont target the online space; they’re after the print bounty.
— Broadband: no miracles here. It’s going to be a long hard fight, until the last mile gets unbundled, or affordable wireless services are launched. No unbundling of the last mile in 2008.
— Music: Nokia’s (NYSE: NOK) OVI is expected to be a big boost for music downloads, but I don’t think that will happen unless they launch subscription based services (which is unlikely). The ringtone market will decline, and ringback tone market will grow.
— Mobile Internet: I don’t believe pay-for-view content on the mobile will grow. I expect more WAP sites for existing Internet portals, but don’t think mobile-only portals will work. There needs to be cross media integration. Mobile Advertising will be mainly search based and on established portals.
So enough soothsaying from me…What’s your take?