TV on the line?

World over, currency might be taking a harsh beating, but one form is flourishing. Social currency is seeing a boom like never before. And TV channels are cashing in.

A still from the first episode of Satyamev Jayate that focused on female foeticide in India

Two weeks ago, when Satyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan, premiered on Star Plus, it created ripples across the country. That very day, the entire show was also uploaded on the web. Easily accessible on the show’s site and YouTube, at last count, the first episode had 9,35,551 hits and the second episode got 6,14,306 hits. It’s a welcome change from the time when web users had to scrounge the Internet for a few minutes worth of clips.

Says Gayatri Yadav, executive vice president marketing and communications, Star India, says, “Satyamev Jayate was premiered online as soon the telecast on TV was over. The web has become a new platform to deliver content to specific audiences. Serving content online helps reach out to audiences who may not be heavy consumers of TV, but are still a relevant target group from the point of view of content.”

Ranbir Kapoor on an episode of The Front Row with Anupama Chopra.

Similarly, it’s safe to assume that MTV India’s core audience — the youth — are the highest users of the Internet. Keeping their preferences in mind, shows aired on the channel are almost immediately uploaded online. So shows like Roadies, Splitsvilla and Sound Trippin can be found on the web as soon as the end credits roll on television. In fact, Sound Trippin releases a short music video a day before the show breaks on air. Other perks of being an online viewer include short webisodes of shows like Roadies.

Why is this happening? Channel heads say the youth is not looking for entertainment and information solely on TV. Youngsters are now engaging with different forms of media. Keeping this factor in mind, MTV ensures a strong presence online. Says Aditya Swamy, executive vice president and business head, MTV, “We believe that engagement is happening across all screens, so a lot of our content has been breaking one day after or at times even a day before it breaks on TV. MTV believes life is beyond TV.”

In fact they believe so strongly in the digital medium that their new show Drive with MTV can be viewed only on Facebook. It’s a reality show where four teams drive across the country and upload their videos on Facebook. They will also blog and tweet regularly. The team with the maximum social interactions will be declared the winner.

Since Star World airs internationally syndicated shows that they might not have the rights to upload online, they place their original content online. So shows like The Dewarists that got musical talents to jam together and more recently, The Front Row with Anupama Chopra have found online viewers. Saurabh Yagnik, senior vice president and general manager, English Channels, Star India Pvt Ltd, says, “Since a majority of our viewers are present in the digital space, we have experimented by launching shows like The Dewarists and The Front Row online. The response to both these shows has been very positive and we plan to continue with similar strategies in the future to engage viewers in the digital space.”

Channels also look to social media for its interactive nature. Web users share, comment, like or even dislike videos. Yadav explains, “Presence on the net and social media also leads to sharing of content and recommendations, which drives credibility for the show that helps recruit new viewers.” He adds that they release the shows online to increase their reach, as they have great demand and appeal amongst the digital audience.

However it’s not just new viewers who flock to these sites. Viewers who have watched the show on television but would like to view it again without the hassle of waiting for the repeat telecast or those who would like to see only certain sections of the show also choose the online medium. Yadav says, “Viewers who have felt a strong connection with the show and would like to engage more deeply with the content or watch their favourite parts of the show again, can do so online. This helps build both affinity and engagement with the show.”

But that doesn’t mean all formats adapt well to the online medium. Which is why not many soaps are easily available online. Swamy says format is important, but what you do with it is even more so. He elaborates, “The content has to be engaging to those who are regular web users. Web users have different tastes from non-users. That is where the ‘One Per cent rule’ becomes applicable. One per cent of viewership contributes to digital content. It is becoming a social currency — when people share and recommend links it’s a way of increasing the popularity of the show.”

Speaking of currency, advertisements that are a huge revenue source on television, are missing online. Websites earn revenue through traffic and sponsorship. This revenue is also shared with partners. Would this then mean that television has something to fear? Not really, say experts. Television is secure because it offers a different viewing experience. A better one, clearer and with better sound quality. Swamy says, “The game is no longer just about one platform, but multiple ones that overlap and co-exist. It’s all about transmedia conversions. TV is not a thing of the past. You can watch Roadies on MTV, chat with Raghu and follow us on Twitter. Mediums are merging into each other.” 

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