Entertainment is one of the most desired form of respite and it can be attained in various ways. This section deals with Entertainment in the New World. No longer do we have to watch our favourite shows according to the TV schedule. Everything is a click away. Besides big name channels, Youtube offers tons of entertainment and has made a star out of many a Bangladeshis and we explore those stories as well. Finally, we broach the topic of how important travelling is and fulfil your wanderlust by taking you on a journey through the best spots this beautiful country has to offer. Are you entertained yet?
It is no news that globally non-linear media is fast overtaking traditional forms in terms of entertainment consumption. Researches in the West show a clear, steep shift to digital, on-demand content over the likes of television and radio, and the markets there are quickly adjusting to the shift.
But that is all in the West, with their Netflix and Amazon and Spotify and whatever new app or service that just popped up today. In a country like Bangladesh, that is still some distance behind the first world in terms of Internet connectivity coupled with a vast rural population outside the online/digital content consumer demographic, we must ask if it is a significant transition yet, or will potentially be in the near future?
Prepare to be (at least mildly) shocked.
A single company in Bangladesh alone has a daily YouTube consumption of four million minutes. To put that into perspective, imagine yourself watching YouTube videos 24 hours a day; if you did that every day for more than seven and a half years - that would make four million minutes.
That is the daily content consumption of all channels by leading TV channel Ntv. They have 14 YouTube channels, according to Khandakar Fakaruddin Jewel, Head of Ntv Online.
The channel anticipated the potential of YouTube before many others, back in 2014, and now uploads all its television content for the streaming service, with great success. Their biggest channel, Ntv Natok, has over 100,000 subscribers, with other channels providing content such as talk shows, lifestyle shows and even films.
“People are now not just watching content on YouTube, but many are buying smart TVs to watch YouTube content on their televisions,” says Jewel.
He also identified the main reasons people are switching to the web-based service over traditional television and their cumulative effect makes a strong case.
Firstly, there is no interruption of adverts while watching on YouTube; secondly, it can be viewed at the viewer's own preferred time and finally, they can watch it anywhere with the choice much more varied.
Flexibility and control are the two biggest benefits that YouTube (or any other web-based content streaming service) provides to the user. Why would someone wait for a specific time to sit in their living room and sit through two hours to watch a 40-minute drama? Especially when they can choose what they want to watch from a large selection, watch it sitting anywhere they want, at their own leisure time, without the interruption of advertisements?
Another major advantage that users on YouTube get, according to Jewel, is to discuss and comment on the content.
“Many people tell me that they first read the comments before watching a film or TV play, to know if it's worth their interest,” he says. “The ability to express their opinions and interact with other people watching the same video is something that also draws the audience to it. You can never do that on TV.”
The library of Bangladeshi entertainment content is also quite massive on the Internet. On YouTube alone, a number of channels are created by CD and DVD companies where they upload TV dramas and films on a daily basis and the consumption is massive.
At the top, there are single-episode TV dramas about 45 minutes in duration that have a daily average view of 40,000-50,000. The same is with films. Bangla films, for all audience tastes, are available in abundance, uploaded by the CD and DVD companies themselves and they rack up big viewership numbers in no time.
And that makes for another very interesting epiphany: it is not just the upper class of society that's consuming the entertainment content on the web. With smartphones becoming increasingly cheap, cellular operators offering mobile Internet at various packages and relatively good speeds, and even Wi-Fi becoming a common concept among people of all social classes, it's not just the social elites who are glued to YouTube.
Lower-income people are also increasingly finding their daily dose of entertainment on the Internet. Everyone has a smartphone (and in some cases, one of those non-branded Chinese tablets) and many of them are cooperatively getting an Internet connection with a Wi-Fi router. And the demographic that is coming under the 'digital entertainment' umbrella is growing. It is already starting to spread among the people in other major cities and towns, and at this rate, the numbers will only go up.
However, it is not just TV shows and films, and it is not just on YouTube either that the entertainment consumption is taking place. There is at least one company that has been licensing content for the digital media and releasing it on multiple platforms.
Bongo BD has over 25,000 videos on their content library, all of which they have legal distribution rights for. Their movie library has an impressive range – from classic movies like 'Neel Akasher Niche' and 'Emiler Goyenda Bahini', to today's blockbuster 'Rana Pagla The Mental' and 'Action Jasmine”; they have it all, along with an excellent catalogue of documentaries and docudramas.
They are also producing original shows in web series formats, in collaboration with other YouTubers and talents.
One of the other most important types of content they have acquired digital broadcast rights to – which is also one of the most vigorously - consumed by the Bangladeshi audience is live sports, particularly televised cricket taking place in Bangladesh.
Most importantly, it is not just a YouTube channel, but a proper digital entertainment service provider. Aside from a YouTube channel, they have content hosted on their site, a WAP portal and a smartphone app. According to the founder and managing director of the company, Ahad Md Bhai, they have a daily visitor count of 1.5 million per day across all platforms. And the revenue they generate is also not just from viewership, but pre-roll, in-roll and post-roll advertisements, and popup and banner ads, as well as subscription charges on their WAP portal.
“There has been a huge shift in the market since we started business three and a half years ago,” says Ahad. “When we wanted to license content from producers and distributors, they would not even understand what we want but now the scene has completely changed,” he says, adding that Bongo is already licensing content in Nepal, Sri Lanka and India to launch similar services there.
“If you see abroad, subscription-based on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon have taken over traditional TV by a fair margin and I think it is only a matter of time before the concept comes to the sub-continent,” he adds.
Although, it has not been that strong a case yet, music streaming services are also making their mark slowly but steadily in the market. Two major telecom operators have their own subscription-based music-streaming smartphone app-based services, while there are a few independent ones as well, like Gaan.
However, with web content consumption on the rise, there will be cases of people trying to illegally benefit from it. Freeloading (using someone else's content to make profit) is a problem with digital content worldwide and Bangladesh will be no different.
The case of “Aynabaji” is a glaring example of that. The film's producers made the film available on a telecom operator's on-demand streaming service and despite their best efforts to prevent piracy, the blockbuster hit film was pirated from there and multiple copies of it ended up on YouTube, and even on Facebook Live Streams.
No matter how hard you try to protect it, there is always a way to copy it and re-upload it by someone else. So what is required here is a clear idea of the procedure. Bongo BD says they have won a staggering 30,000 cases regarding content rights, which shows that if someone knows the rules and plays by the book, there are ways to protect them.
The digital entertainment shift is happening, and it is happening fast. As for content producers and distributors, whoever capitalises on it better will be the bigger winner, as the two cases in point, Ntv and Bongo, clearly indicate.
The legal aspects also need to be ironed out better and maybe the government can come up with something specific for this, so that no one can unfairly profit riding on someone else's rightful property.
As for whether people will watch television content sitting in their living rooms with their families in five years, who knows?
Less than 30 years ago, the people of Bangladesh only watched one TV channel and radio was a prime entertainment medium. The change in people's idea of entertainment content and consumption in the last five years alone is a big indicator of how fast this world is moving, and leaves it quite impossible to predict what entertainment will be like in five years.
But here's a guess: a lot of it will have to do with Virtual Reality.
The writer is a sub-editor of Arts & Entertainment at The Daily Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org