Taking advantage of the growing mobile platform, special mobile apps have been recently introduced to increase the level of engagement beyond the half-an-hour slots to one-hour slots. Channels such as History TV18, Star Plus, Star Sports and many others have launched mobile apps that enable viewers to identify with the characters, watch the show on their own time, play along with the contestants on shows and even give their feedback regarding the changes needed on the TV channels.
Speaking about the launch of their recent mobile app, Sangeetha Aiyer, Vice President and Head Marketing, A+E Networks|TV18 said, “The History TV18 app allows fans to interact with one another around feeds (videos, images, facts), participate in show discussions, and create conversations on various topics. Viewers can see their chats live on TV via a ticker, allowing them to connect with all other fans watching the same show in real time.” The app has already crossed over 280,000 downloads in the country a little over a month since the launch.
Apart from launching mobile apps for the TV channels, some of the broadcasters have taken to releasing apps for certain shows. For instance, Star Plus has released their app for their show ‘Mahabharat’ that lets viewers interact with the characters on the show. For the show ‘Satyamev Jayate’, the channel created social media apps for viewers to discuss, debate and engage in various topics discussed on the show. “For ‘Satyamev Jayate’, digital engagement has been high on our agenda. We have enabled a system for people to discuss, debate, engage and empower themselves on the topic being discussed on the show. This ecosystem has ensured that every single Sunday, ‘Satyamev Jayate’ trends in India and on occasion, even worldwide. The conversations while the show is on encourage deeper participation,” said Nikhil Madhok, Head - Marketing & Content Strategy, Star Plus. As a result, according to report online, the campaign had got 9.9 million positive responses (as on March 6, 2014) from viewers and generated 40,368 followers on Twitter and 725,067 members on Facebook.
Similary, Nickelodeon too had been designing apps in order to interact with kids. The app saw 50,000+ votes coming from kids the ‘Nickelodeon Comedy Election’ and 8.5 lakh game plays in a month for ‘Motu Paltu Cricket Academy Tournament’. “At Nickelodeon, we keep interactivity at the core of all that we do to engage with kids. To connect actively with the screenagers of today, we continuously interact online via video content, games, Do-It-Yourself activities on our websites and a whole host of specially crafted engagements on social media,” said Nina Elavia Jaipuria, EVP & Business Head, Kids Cluster, Viacom 18.
Another channel that has been using the power of mobile apps to their advantage is Star Sports. They have an application called ‘The Star Player’, which is a mobile and tablet application and the most superior ‘catch up’ television application. “Not only do they have the highlights for the matches, but also when they do have the rights for certain games they do live streaming of these games on the mobile app. However, when certain international formats of tennis, such as the four Grand Slams are not allowed to live stream the match on the mobile, they do a live streaming of the commentary and listen to it live via the app,” said Suveer Bajaj, Co-founder, FoxyMoron.
While some TV channels prefer to create apps that deliver their programmes to wherever their audience is, some prefer to use them to bring them back onto the channel in order to boost ratings. Shantanu Gangane, Associate Business Head, Movies Now said, “When we aired ‘Titanic’, it was during the 100 years anniversary of the Titanic. While we promoted it through digital apps, we plugged it all back into on-air. So, you have to watch the channel to definitely win.” Many of these apps are also specifically designed for a lot of viewers that are not on television, but who get engaged through digital and are driven onto the television channel. Fans that go from TV to digital, go there for re-engagement. If they have watched a show and if the channel wants to convert them from a genre lover into a show lover and from there to a character lover, it basically moves up the hierarchy in the pyramid of loyalty of the advocacy for the brand or the show. This is re-engagement and takes the audience from television to digital. But there are many that are not there on television, this can be used to drive them from digital to the television and increase their viewership.
With mobile apps such as these that have led to the migration of viewers outside the realm of television broadcast, viewership of channels cannot be calculated by TRPs alone. “A lot of marketers at the moment are calculating web TRPs and calculating them in terms of TRPs on television. Unfortunately, the evolution of how to calculate web TRPs is not defined because there is no central body such as TAM. Here, each publisher calculates it in their own way and there is no industry standard so everyone wants to take you for a ride,” pointed out Bajaj.
If there is one thing that mobile apps can deliver, it is instant feedback. As most of these apps give space to respond regarding the programming of the channel, it allows the channel to make changes within a short span. However, Sanjay Mehta, Business Owner and Joint CEO, Social Wavelength feels that this depends on the nature of the programmes on the TV channel. “Some channels which have shows that in nature are very engaging, such as ‘MTV Roadies’, can make changes on an immediate basis due to consumer demand and certain feedback or conversations. But most instances there is a lot of programming that are shot previously so they cannot respond instantaneously. Long running soap operas have to constantly evaluate the feedback the audience is giving them.”
With TV channels expanding their reach through mobile apps, the next battle front for channels will move off the air. The challenge now for them will be to create innovative apps that will get the attention of their audiences.