The problem of plenty

It was one of those days, a smile crossed my face as I sat reading Pather Panchali, it was a maudlin moment. A sublime reminder when Satyajit Ray adapted the book beautifully into a movie and was aired in our school auditorium where we watched it with rapt attention. A thought lingered as I delved; today we have too much to watch and viewers are gobsmacked in the incredulous world of content. I am sometimes overwhelmed by the content available across disparate streaming platforms and miss out on some exemplary content worth seeing. Those years back then we waited with baited breath for Chitrahaar at 8 pm and English news at 9 pm on Doordarshan. With limited choices we depended on the broadcaster’s choice of content, while  today it is diversified into long form content for those who have the leisure of time and short form content for those who squeeze time to watch something that is for mere entertainment or something that adds value.

Time and technology have come a long way I reckon.The OTT platforms have redefined television with personalised content for all ages. There has been an undeniable boom in the sphere of quality content. Growing up we were presented with the option of television much later, let alone shows for children and teens apart from a few dedicated ones on Sundays as opposed to an entire streaming platform dedicated to children now. With parental control, children can actually delve into some fun learning and meaningful entertainment. Artificial Intelligence aligns with personalised content understanding and analysing the genre and preferences regulating and restricting content from their purview.

Television back then was a social gathering, almost like a house party, with few people who had the television sets, people would gather together in the houses of those lucky few and indulge over chatter and laughter. It reminded me that there was no live cast until India got into the semi finals.The Prudential World Cup finals between India and West Indies on 25th June 1983, had broken transmission, poor resolution yet the exuberance of India taking the Windies at Lords extended in our living room. Perhaps akin to the game nights as the millennials call it, the atmosphere at home was nothing short of electric, the entire neighbourhood rejoiced, with their own personal commentaries. When Kapil Dev lifted the trophy for the first time in the history of Indian cricket, the sport turned into a mania for generations to come. Today every sporting event is telecast in real time with 4k resolution, almost negligible latency and also with the plausibility to watch an event at a later time. 

I realised there is so much content that discoverability is impossible without personalising it. AI did a fine job at understanding the interest, analysing the content you watched and the meta tags you followed (which in fact spoils one for better.) However the biggest problem was where to watch? With so many simultaneous streaming partners, viewers are lost and confused about what to watch rather than spend time watching it. Back then, when television was linear, we were loyal viewers glued to the channel that brought good content. I remember as a teenager, being glued to DD National especially on Sundays because it telecast a series called Indradhanush that was all about building a computer that could teleport people into the Andromeda Galaxy. Later with the satellite channels being aired, we bid our goodbyes to aerial tv antennas and welcomed MTV and Star TV that gave us a glimpse of the other side of the world. We learned about cultures through series like the Bold and the Beautiful and Santa Barbara. Content then was limited and loyalty went to those who consumed that content. I also fathom that content was then limited to a certain segment of people who knew the language, but today anyone who has an access to a smartphone and a reasonable internet connection can view any content in the language or subtitles of their choice. 
The perks and perils of then and now are prodigious, with every one in the family having streaming access, everyone is a viewer and every one has options and preferences. However everyone is watching content of their choice, the perils I’d say is the togetherness and bonding during television hours. The perks that baffle me is the tumultuous task of having loyalty to one streaming partner, when one has a tough competition in terms of good content and a plethora to choose from.

The host of content that is available has made viewing a baroque marketplace where each platform is trying to grab the attention of its customer through data and video AI analysis, comprehending the preference palette and then creating content to remain in the race. Not just that, broadcasters have an additional onus of growing the audience, add inventory and ROI to expand and garner viewers. The viewers are all around, every single person is a potential viewer, whether it is for bite size videos or the long form content but the cake goes to the one who creates high- quality content and keeps viewer’s loyalty both ascendable and deftly. It reminded me of the book that I had read, a Wall street journal bestseller by David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott called Fanocracy, where they talk about turning fans into customers and customers into fans. I typed the meta tag Pather Panchali, clutching the book closer, the search engine showed that it was streamed on Prime Videos, clicking on the icon, I sat back and watched the master director bring a forgotten world to life.

Footy vs Footy

On a holiday to the Big Apple, a few years ago, a friend and I walked into a sports bar to unwind. The place was brimming with fans gathered to watch the NFL game. There were flags, tee-shirts, even beer mugs of the two teams playing on the day and the atmosphere was nothing short of electric.The game had just started and there were a lot of vociferous people on either side of the bar and a few like me were in the neutral center there for a good beer and conversation. Next to me at the counter was a burly man in his fifties, his eyes transfixed at the large screen. While I was speaking to my friend, the volume was muted during commercials for drink orders, everyone turned to me with indiscriminate expressions as I said, “I have never seen a Rugby match like this before!”.

My American friend turned red and I fathomed I might have uttered something utterly preposterous. The bulky man beside me stood up from his stool, almost like the real version of Hulk and said, “Because this isn’t one dear!”. With so many glares directed at me, we quickly paid for our drinks and made a quiet exit.

A very common mistake people often make between Rugby and American Football is they think it is a pseudonym of the same sport. My faux pas at the bar meant it was about time to understand how these two sports differed. Lesson one – just because hot Herculean men are seen chasing the ball in both the sports, it doesn’t mean they are the same!
Chasing the history I found that Rugby was first played in Europe in the early 19th century with the governing body known as the Rugby Union. By 1875 the European settlers took the game to America and adapted with new sets of rules and named it American Football. Consequently, the NFL was founded in 1920 with 32 teams. ‘Convergent Evolution’, a reference from Biology would best describe the relationship between Rugby and American Football.
The first gen that illuminated my grey cells was that the dimension of a Rugby field is 120 meters by 70 meters while American Football has a field that is 110meters long and 50 meters wide. Also a significant difference between Rugby and American Football is that while the former is played with 15 players, the latter has 11 players.

Another important revelation that made it a different ball game was the difference in the characteristics of the ball. The ball in American Football has honed ends and weighs about 200 gms, that helps the ball to fly across the entire distance of the field as opposed to the Rugby ball that has flat ends about 28 cms long and 60 cms wide weighing in between 400 to 460 gms. Long throws are not really common in Rugby, it is all about precise terse passes with underarm grip that helps in stability and accuracy for short distance. “Shape” matters was a lesson well learnt!
A Rugby match is an 80 minute affair where the match is divided into two 40 minutes halves with only 7 substitutions. With mere gum shields and shin protection the players collide, of course with very stringent rules that call for serious infractions including the legendary red card. Winston Churchhill has famously remarked “Rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen.”

American Football is divided into two halves of 30 minutes each and four quarters of 15 minutes and unlimited substitutions. The players in American Football gear up with more protection that comprises helmet, shoulder pads, gloves, the ‘pigskin’, leg protection, teeth protection, however that definitely does not imply that it is less collisions. On the contrary, because of the protections, players are known to play more precariously with some serious life impending injuries.

Passes and scoring differs in both the games, when a player enters the opponent’s end zone, it is considered as a score in American Football. “For every pass I caught in a game,I caught a thousand in practice.” Don Hutson has said on numerous occasions. Incidentally, practice and perseverance brings precisions irrespective of the sport.
When the ball is kicked in Rugby and touches the ground over the opponent’s try line it is considered a touchdown, also there are no forward passes in Rugby. I wondered what’s with the World Rugby Law 12: Knock on or Throw Forward? I had to go back and brush up on my physics to understand the whole concept.
Educating myself on both the games was quite a reality check on how little I knew and how much more there was to know. However, during my self-tutoring to avoid any further stupendous embarrassment, I chanced upon the famous Shefiq Kuki’s celebratory swan dive in Rugby and Joe Mixon’s TD celebrations. These were some historical dance moves and so many more that I will save it for another time.

Now that I was clear with the basic differences that were too stark to be called the same, I went back to the bar the following week, this time I watched the match as much as I enjoyed it with an updated dossier. The striking similarity between both the games was the verve, the beer and the passion. Fans cheering on their teams and their favourite players. The excitement in the crowd and the emotions the game brought out in the fans was real and palpable.

Back from holiday and heading to my friend’s pre-wedding ballroom dance lessons in the garden city of Christchurch, New Zealand, I noticed the crowd in front of a Rugby stadium. I was reminded of a famous statement made by Heyneke Meyer “Ballroom dancing is a contact sport. Rugby is a collision sport.” It is also perhaps an oxymoron of life as we live it.

From its humble beginnings in 1745 to the present day, women’s cricket has come a long way

The colour of ribbons in their hair distinguished the team of women from Bramley and Hambledon in the year 1745 that played cricket in England. That was the beginning of women’s cricketing history.
Not much happened for the next few decades apart from women who got a little opportunity to play after they left school. The outbreak of World War I might have wreaked some havoc and devastation in the world but for the women of England, they left their ducks at home and went about realizing a dream. The lasses dared to play without being tabooed with ludicrosity and disgrace. Although a silly point! The Women’s Cricket Association gave women an opening to structured cricket. After a working day, the girls just wanna have some fun. Ah! so did the ladies, they were classy and quite fabulous. By the middle of the 1930s, fervor reached Australia and New Zealand. Women’s Cricket continued whenever women could time and incur their expenses.

In 1958, the International Women’s Cricket Council was formed to facilitate and liaison with teams of other countries. England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Holland were the teams that became part of the inception. India and West Indies in 1973, Ireland (1982), Denmark (1983), Pakistan (1997) and Sri Lanka (1997) enlisted gradually as time went by. Rachell Heyhoe-Flint lobbied for women to use the ground and her lasting friendship with a businessman Jack Hayward led to the Women’s World Cup in 1973, The mamas taught the Billys to roast the ducks and hammer the stumps.

Women’s cricket was never a well-funded sport and the struggles continued. Cricket was pursued by women for the ardour and vehemence despite the poor training base, awards and recognition as opposed to their male counterparts. Despite the maidens seldom bowling a maiden over. Sport is mostly benchmarked as a male domain, archly because of anatomical differences between the genders, only that Cinderella knew when to leave the ball!
Although both men and women played a sport called cricket, nonetheless it was appraised differently based on entertainment value which is an interface to the bucks behind the games. Most of the stands would remain empty while the girls played without a television telecast and news seldom made it to the newspapers. The women redefined their game by owning their own style of cricket, we would like to call it the game-changer. In the year 2005, the International women’s Cricket Council (IWCC) handed over their reins to the International Cricket Council (ICC) that allowed the influx of funds. That was a fine day for cricket ultimately.

From the year 2005, a reset button was hit in the world of women’s cricket where there was a surge in the number of games that were played. With over 11 world cups played to date and debutante countries continue making their way in the cricketing world, it is indeed a victory for women’s cricket. In 2009, the women made their debut in T20. The women played their matches before their male counterparts, it helped boost them with better telecast and larger spectator numbers. For a cricketer, ground full of spectators is a day in paradise. Over time it was seen that the women were no longer poosebacks on the men and were copiously successful of being independent in their own arena.

In the second decade of the 21st century, women were not just glamour quotients in the commentary boxes, with noodle straps and pencil heels, there was a major image overhaul with an increased women audience. Beating trolls, the babe brigade marched on, gradually making their entry into the big box with the cricketing gurus, naturally armoured with their gen about all the gullies, the leg sides, the offside and the boundary, beating sexism with their poise and grace. Most spectators learned to unmute and listen to Bedi, Langer, Guha instead of focussing on their “oomph quotient”
In 2017, Claire Polosak was the first woman as the umpire of the men’s OD and in three years ICC inducted 12 women officials to the International Panel of ICC.

Development Umpire proving that cricket for women wasn’t just an amateur pursuit. More brands backed the girls with sponsorship and endorsements with their groundbreaking steady on-field performance.
In 2020, the girls took the viewership to a different level with a record of 1.1 billion views across ICC platforms. 87 countries participate in the T20 level with 56 ICC ranking, although there are 11 teams across the world that hold ranking in ODI. That surely marked the sign of times, the gladiatrices left their gladiator slippers behind and swapped them with some fine rubber spikes. Boy, they just got playing.

An advertisement by a renowned chocolate company in the ’90s dedicated to cricket lovers has recently seen a gender swap, with a man cheering a ‘batswoman’ on her winning run has been received with accolades that conquer gender bias.

“Cricket is not gender-biased. It isn’t that men’s cricket is different and women’s a different one.”- Mithali Raj, captain of the Indian women’s cricket team.

Women’s cricket has been sustaining despite the comparison, however, the time has come to understand its own premises with impartiality and receptiveness. Coloured jerseys have replaced the coloured ribbons and the ladies are finally seeing the sunshine they deserve. The cricketing gals are far from relenting, they have paved their way into the boys’ circuit with their sheer grit, a vision to improve their game and “roobish” the wagging tongues.
Ellyse Perry the beautiful damsel, represented Australia in both FIFA and Cricket World Cup, caused much distress by scoring 90 runs in 95 balls with a run rate of 94.73, while getting the wicket of Sarah Taylor. The world that considered cricket as a gentlemen’s pursuit bobbed their eyes as they watched the “grasshoppers” catapult. Women across continents including wartorn ones, from nook and crannies, have embraced the sport with a newer zeal defeating disapproval and vetos.

“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of; the heck with sugar and spice.” – Bethany Hamilton.

The power of short-form content

The beauty of video lies in its ability to show your consumers what you’re selling along with being able to tell a story about it. When you can showcase your product and story in 30 seconds or less (which is what 49% of videos are), you’re bound to gain consumers faster across every online platform. If we’re really awarding titles, content has now adopted the role of the queen dowager. Short-form video content is the new monarch and shows no signs of abdicating its throne anytime soon. 

No longer just a ‘GenZ’ trend, short-form video content, both consumption and production, has snowballed into a thriving industry that consumes at least 20% of anybody’s day, aided by its ubiquitous tools  – the smartphone, and social media.  

Here’s why: short-form video content is like a tasty bite-sized snack –  it is straightforward, it is easy to consume, and you can help yourself to several bites without feeling like you’ve spent too much time, yes even on ads. This is why sitcoms generate more leverage than movies or encourage ‘binge-watching’. it is also why stories – all of 10 seconds long video content – have quickly gained traction to be promoted as ad campaigns on social media platforms.

This evolution of how content is being created to be consumed in a matter of seconds is already being explored by marketers who have had to switch their tactics from one-size-fits-all advertising to adjusting video format to different OTT and social media platforms. (in equal measure for B2B and B2C consumers).
Short-form video content production has created a sense of urgency: the first to market is the first to win. However, the early bird (the content creator) only gets the proverbial worm (maximum user engagement) if the early bird’s footage is a)beautifully edited b)in real-time

Example: Well-produced key highlights released in real-time of a vital ongoing football match won’t just appeal to the devout fan base of a sports channel, they help reel in a potential audience who appreciates good content, notices key branding, and relevant sponsored information and wants to stay atop of important events. Such consumers are more likely to revisit, giving the channel a chance to market its moniker and those affiliated with it. 
Here’s where the marketing adage holds true: high-quality content helps bring in new customers while maintaining existing loyalty. And repeat customers are the driving force behind any company’s monetary success. An attractive side serving of brand loyalty from valued content only spurs potential monetization and builds loyal brand advocates.

How Toch Amplify makes this come to life:
Toch AI has developed state-of-the-art Machine Learning and AI technology that helps your organisation drive maximum user engagement with seamlessly designed content. Instead of spending hours on manual editing, Toch.ai offers video editing and design options that produce professionally rendered video layouts in real-time with easy logo affixations and relevant sponsored information. Insert slates, add graphical overlays, basically edit your short-form videos to showcase your brand on the fly and share it across 30+ social platforms in real-time.  
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The content rat race: Being first is imperative

There are two precise reasons why excellent content loses its impact. The first is when it goes unnoticed. There is simply no point in creating good content if it is not placed in a position to be savoured, enjoyed or absorbed. The second is when it is beaten to the punchline by another piece of information, even if the former is not as beautifully produced or explicit as the latter; particularly when you consider the speed at which content is available and being consumed across age groups today.

As the world becomes smaller and simultaneously more complex, content has had to change and evolve, and fight furiously for engagement from its consumers, thereby encouraging the current trend of superior short-form video content. 

Cutting back to the two issues that render good content ineffective, here’s why overcoming both is important: attention spans are shrinking in proportion to what? Longform content is far from dead, however bite-sized videos and quick key highlights have become an explosive avenue because they offer a quick connection with consumers, high traffic generation for businesses and subsequently large revenue for broadcasters and OTT platforms.
As popular as short-form content has become, it has accelerated the urgency to produce material faster than ever before to hit maximum engagement. The ability of short-form content to capture engagement is easy to convert into potential revenue simply because the creator already has the interest of the reader on a device that he carries with him/her everywhere, aka the smartphone. 

The challenge lies in the intense competition as organisations everywhere compete within the same lucrative space, counting on quicker productions of their content, particularly in the sports, media and entertainment industry. 
This is where Toch.ai comes in to maximise your viewership, and potential cash flow by delivering beautifully designed videos in short formats in real-time. Toch.ai’s highly developed AI and Machine Learning technology helps package and condense content, splicing and editing long-form material in seconds with its rapid production processes. 

Toch.ai helps organisations compress long-running video footage into short, crisp content that is edited on an analytical model that reads reactions of audiences and helps capture performance in action (example: ball movement during an important cricket match). 
Moreover, instead of spending hours and manpower resources editing , this content is available almost instantly thanks to the OCR, speech detection and vision models that are employed by Toch.ai. 
Slicing aside, Toch.ai also offers video editing design options – logo and brand affixations, graphical overlays and insertion of relevant sponsored information, that can all be utilised in seconds to produce professional content for advertising and marketing purposes. 

With the plethora of social media platforms available, one size never fits all. Instead of spending hours resizing video formats, Toch.ai’s tools feature easy and limitless resizing to fit diverse formats across various publishing platforms, be it social, search or apps. Customise live broadcasts and short-form videos to feature on multiple screen sizes instantly across any portal or device. 
Toch.ai’s ever-evolving technology frees up human resources that should be engaged in more valuable and complex operations for one-on-one consumer engagement and produces material at the fraction of a cost and it does this all in real-time enabling our clients to win the proverbial content rat race.