The medium has changed, but has Bangladesh evolved along with it?
Recently, on World Television Day, I ran a mini-survey in my workplace on how many people watch TV and what they watch. Among 10 people, four said they watch Gazi TV when the Bangladesh cricket team is playing international games.
Three women said they watch Duranta TV; one said she never watched anything. Two said they watch sports channels. Seven persons said that they don’t watch any local TV, but they view Netflix for movies and one watches movies on Amazon.
The outcome tells us many things about the culture of viewing television these days in Bangladesh. Times have changed and so has technology; at the same time, people’s tastes and interests have evolved.
It’s worthwhile to recall the era when there was only one TV channel -- the state-run Bangladesh Television -- and how, in post-independence Bangladesh, people were awed by it.
In those days, TV sets were expensive and only the rich could afford them. Back then, going to the cinema was less expensive and almost everyone could afford to watch a movie in a cinema hall.
Slowly, TV took over. I believe television has been, so far, the most successful among all the mediums that we have seen till now. We could provide more and diverse content through TV than we could provide through the cinema.
The TV became so powerful that we went to other people’s houses to watch it. Some programs became so popular that the audience waited eagerly to watch them.
Television now has new competitors; they now challenge what TV had disruptively done without any worry a few decades ago. The new mediums are acting the same nowadays.
In Bangladesh, we can only access Netflix, Amazon, and Hoichoi. But, globally, there are more, such as Inc, Sling TV, Crackle, and Sony Corporation. They provide streaming content, replacing the set-top box or TV combination as the only way to view entertainment.
When the uberization of the content began with the march of the internet in the media market, TV lost its lustre. We are no longer willing to pay for a hundred channels that we don’t watch. The cable TV model has now become ancient, and they have been usurped by streaming options of choosing and watching only what we want to watch.
Remember the movies that also came on TV? We watched “movie of the week” and various drama serials in the recent past. We also saw a plethora of media companies that started streaming movies through television sets.
But nowadays, the media companies that used to offer and own the most sought-after content such as ESPN, HBO, Star Movies, and many more have realized that there has been a change in consumer behaviour, and they have started to experiment with new streaming content.
The audience is more wired today, more connected, and they prefer the ease, comfort, and convenience of the devices such as laptops, mobile phones, and other wearables that the internet connections can offer.
The data business has revolutionized the entertainment business and people’s habits. TV companies have gone online, striving to attract the audience. But is going online enough? Are the viewers interested in what TV companies are offering? I guess not.
I have worked for two TV channels in Bangladesh -- the first being private channel Ekushey TV, and much later, Ekattor TV.
In the age of Ekushey TV, we never thought that the days of TV would soon be numbered. We thought it would continue till the end of time. It didn’t.
But when we launched Ekattor TV and started doing lives from various spots across the country, we understood the importance of streaming. We also understood that the medium has started to change, and we also needed to transform.
But we didn’t transform. Rather, contrary to all the global signs of a decline, Bangladeshis invested heavily in conventional TV companies.
And now, unfortunately, they cannot earn any revenue anymore; they have to go for consolidation of the workforce; the media men are losing their jobs like nobody’s business.
Now, what will we do with all these dead TV companies? Television, as a platform for providing content, is no longer a viable business.
Would they embrace change in order to survive? Would they transform themselves? How would they transform in Bangladesh? Is there any research regarding that? Well, I don’t see anyone researching this. We would be happy to be dead, wouldn’t we?
Ekram Kabir is a story-teller. His other works can be found on ekramkabir.com.