Bite-sized entertainment: Timepass kadlekai! | Deccan Herald

In Karnataka, there is a quick snack called ‘timepass kadlekai’ (peanuts). I guess one passed time popping these peanuts into the mouth one at a time while sitting on a street-side culvert and chatting with friends – hence the name ‘timepass kadlekai’. The peanuts vendor would have a small measuring cylinder that was used to dole out the snack into a paper cone at many street corners. The vendor would always generously add some extra peanuts over what the measure could hold.

Today, you can still buy ‘timepass kadlekai’ in some areas, but methods of whiling away time have changed. The smartphone is the ubiquitous ‘timepass’ device today. The smartphone is handy, provides entertainment on-the-go, and provides privacy even within a home. Content viewed ranges from social media posts, news, user-generated videos, web series and movies to gaming and game-streaming. The ‘timepass’ options are limitless. Looking down at the phone is the new ‘popping peanuts into your mouth’!

A significant share of entertainment has become bite-sized and short-lived content. Bite-sized entertainment options are mostly user-generated. Be it tik-tok videos with humorous special effects or viral hook step dances, everyone is now an entertainer. Some of the most popular entertainers are from rural areas.

Bite-sized content has interleaved well with the long-format content such as video-on-demand, online gaming, and game streaming. Game streaming is a relatively new segment of entertainment that is based on watching other people play online games, live or recorded, with or without player commentary, and sometimes with influencer remarks! This kind of content can have hours of video either being streamed live or stored and delivered.

The volume of digital entertainment content is increasing exponentially and challenging the bandwidth, storage, and pricing of platforms. With 5G, even with higher speeds, the demand for higher quality content will only increase the challenge.

With the choice of available content, intelligent recommendation based on consumer insights is another challenge. The recommendation engines of today will evolve and provide more pertinent choices based on the day of the week, time of day, the busyness of the calendar, and the mood of the viewer! Consumers themselves will do well to guard against addiction and be in control of their choices.

While providers of entertainment are focusing on content, they will be well served by paying attention to content delivery costs. Today, OTT providers are struggling to be profitable as content delivery costs are 60% of the total costs. With better encoding standards and better ‘edge AI’ approaches, the content delivery costs will be halved, providing a path to profitability. Storage cost is another major challenge. Players such as FB messenger address it by lowering the quality of the content to perceptually unacceptable quality. Again, edge AI-based quality enhancement can reclaim some of the lost quality in future versions.

Not so long ago, when the only thing the phone could do was place a call, one would not have imagined the role it has come to play today in entertainment. It’s anybody’s guess what the world of ‘Metaverse’ will offer.

Yet, while all this is happening in the world of entertainment, we still do serve ‘timepass kadlekai’ at my office!


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