Javed Husain, a leading media veteran, walked away with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the recently held Asian Viewers Television Awards (AVTA) in London. BizAsiaLive.com took the opportunity to talk to Husain about the prestigious prize, as well as the pressures Asian TV broadcasters are facing due to falling audience numbers.

How does it feel to win the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award at AVTA 2018?
Humbling and feeling of joy to be recognised by and in front of the Industry and Colleagues. Thank you AVTA.

Your interaction with Rajan Singh on stage when picking up your award, may have come across harsh but true – How would you describe the direction Asian TV in the UK is heading?
Honesty is the best policy, I don’t believe in beating around the bush. “Yes Sir”, “Ji Sir” doesn’t work and will not serve the industry in a decline. I feel the industry need a overhaul, its time to re-look at the model. Audience behaviour has changed. The industry has been slow to make changes. Channels should invest in research and see what is required, not just change direction. Streaming is the way forward, but it needs understanding.

Bringing new talents from India, is not the solution, they may be talented individual, but they will again surround themselves with people with “Ji Sir”, “Yes Sir” mentality…

You have worked with all the major Asian TV networks in the UK, what’s the feeling you’re getting from them about the current state of the market?
As we know this year, as compared to last year, TV viewing in general has dropped and revenue has dropped by 7% over-all. While the TV streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, have first time surpassed paid TV subscription. This will impact the trading price for Sky. And that will impact revenue more for those channels dependent on BARB.

What I am hearing is they are scared and uncertain about the future and reducing cost and shedding the teams.

For me its a vicious circle of lack of ground experience. Bringing new talents from India, is not the solution, they may be talented individual, but they will again surround themselves with people with “Ji Sir”, “Yes Sir” mentality Indian professionals / advisors who will give them a complete wrong picture. The channels need to get back to subscription for television streaming model, with Hotstar etc.

Who would you blame for the decline in audiences on Asian TV in the UK?
Multiple factors, viewer’s changing habits, but I will list the following:

A) Lack of investment, innovation in content and home grown professional / talents.
B) Principles from India’s short term thinking and Indian executives lack of ground knowledge and understanding.
C) Channels pushing a brand image created for Indian sub-continent audience on to the UK / European audience.
D) Lack of investment in audience research.

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Do you feel its entirely Netflix and Amazon to blame for the dwindling Asian TV numbers?
No! its good programming from mainstream channels, which is taking the younger Asian audience away. And also Netflix and Amazon.

What do you forecast happening in 2019 as the big change in the UK Asian TV industry?
Reduction on the number of channels, some film / GE (general entertainment) channels closing down as content will be available on live streaming. Reinventing content will drive audience, more TV streaming and appointment TV.

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