Broadcasters may be reaping the benefits of digitisation of cable TV in India, but they are also grappling with a peculiar problem – that of reaching out to their target audience in single-TV households.
According to a report by Media Partners Asia called Asia Pacific Pay TV and Broadband Market 2012, the number of TV households in India by the end of 2012 was 15.5 crore and it has increased considerably since then. However, according to TDSAT, a staggering 92 per cent of these households are single-TV ones.
Given the growing influences of digital platforms, it would seem logical for broadcasters to leverage the medium to get additional and targeted viewership. But are they doing enough to make the most of the internet?
Digital is the key
It is estimated that there are 203 million internet users in India, that has the third largest smartphone user base in the world - 117 million users in 2013. This is expected to increase by 45 per cent by the end of 2014, according to the ‘Internet trends 2014’ report by Mary Meeker, partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). The Digital India 2014 report by IdeateLabs says the year-on-year growth of mobile usage of media and entertainment content is increasing by 78 per cent.
According to Nikhil Madhok, Head Marketing Manager, STAR India, the network believes that the digital platform is here to stay and people should be given the choice to consume content on whichever device. “This is something we cannot fight or ignore in any way,” he said.
Similarly, Nipa Asharam, Vice President, Marketing, Channel V, said “YouTube has already become our platform where we communicate a lot about our shows. The show Gumrah has had 1.5 million downloads till today. We even share our promotional videos on it. The only difference is that, we might not get to watch an entire episode on a mobile today, but it may be possible soon. Our plan is to build a platform that becomes a private screen for the user, where we showcase our shows.”
According to Debashish Ghosh, CEO, India.com and Zee Digital Network, “Everybody has their own website where they are putting up catch-up VODs (video on demand) and episode cuts. Every time an episode is aired and it goes onto digital, and it is viewed. Some channels are leveraging YouTube since they can leap from putting up promos to diverting traffic to their website. A large part of the consumption is also taking place on Ditto TV, which uses Video Analytics Platform (VAP).”
Speaking about the launch of their new digital platform Dil Se for &Pictures, Ruchir Tiwari, Deputy Business Head, Hindi Movie Movies Cluster (Zee Cinema, &Pictures and Zee Classic), ZEEL said, “There are a lot of ideas on digital, the moment it gets associated with a big channel. Video content has a different charm to it, so the idea is to leverage the platform and become a medium as a channel.”
However, channels that source their content from international networks, have certain constraints. Saurabh Yagnik, EVP & Business Head, Sony PIX and AXN said, “We don’t have any digital platform offering our content online. We use them to promote our content only. Studios are not comfortable with this (us uploading their content on digital platforms and YouTube channels). As far as I know, not many other English channels are doing this. Some of them may be working on it though.”
Show them the money
Not just uploading content on their dedicated platform, channels are looking at monetising the content as well. Madhok stresses on the importance of monetising digital content. “There is a perception that if I am paying Rs 250 or Rs 500 a month for cable, then whatever I am consuming online should be free of cost. Whether it is pirated, illegally downloaded or freely available on YouTube. This is not good for the health (of television networks) because anything that is available free of cost over a period of time, cannot maintain its quality. If I am creating a piece of content and selling it for free, that business model is not going to stay,” he cautioned.
According to Vibha Gosher, Senior VP, Digital, 9X Media, there are revenues to be earned on digital platforms because there are enough users. “You are in the business of selling audiences when you go to get any advertiser. There is revenue to be made on the digital platform, but you can’t compare it to television revenue at this point. Television has reached its peak now. I can talk about 120 million viewers on my network. But I cannot yet quote the same numbers for my digital platforms. Not even the strongest brands in the country can talk about that kind of user base right now. When the audiences get on digital platforms, the money will follow,” she opined.
Explaining how monetisation works, Ghosh said, “Ditto TV works on VAP as well and is a pay per view kind of a model where the price depends on the video. Whatever VOD rights Ditto TV has, are being put up over VAP and people get SMS with the link and can view the content there effectively”. He further adds, “Monetisation is a factor of critical mass as far as advertisers are concerned. So any advertiser will look at a certain amount of minimum number of impressions to be served. The big advantage with digital media is, everything is measurable, as opposed to traditional media where we go by the perceived value of audience.”
Evidently, the next step for TV channels is to get more eyeballs for their digital channels in order to be able to monetise them. This may be challenging for niche channels, that may get more audiences for its digital channels in single-TV households.