The digital platform has slowly and steadily become one of the most significant areas for broadcasters today – from both, the programming and the marketing point of view. With the digital platform going from strength to strength, various players in the television space are more than eager to gain from the same. Most of the players in the Hindi GEC space have launched their channels on YouTube, which consist of content that is aired daily on television. These are also regularly updated to keep the audiences at par with the daily episodes.
Apart from the television-related content, there has also been an advent of specialised content that players such as Bindass have created for the web for greater audience engagement. Channels apart, platforms such as Ditto TV are in plans to launch specially-created content for viewers.
With an objective to stream premium quality shows, Star India launched Star Player a few years ago, which is the online video destination for premium copyrighted content from the STAR Network shows and news to other web original content. This platform allows Star India to exploit synergies within its own ecosystem and create a better delivery system for advertisers, wherein they engage meaningfully with their audience via the STAR Network.
The mobile TV boom
Apart from the digital platform, mobile television platform has been steadily gaining significance, with more and more players in the broadcast space associating with various such services to enable live streaming of their programming content to their target viewers. What has also contributed to the on growing popularity of mobile TV is the recent upsurge of the mobile, tablet and smartphone trend as well as the upswing of download services provided by Blackberry, Apple or Android. This has led to audience penetration in a large way. Also, with the 3G service coming into fore, streaming of live TV content has become much easier.
Zenga TV in 2009 was the live video streaming provider for IPLT20 and also delivered Live IPL in 2010 on YouTube. Zenga TV also holds the rights to Viacom18 Channels such as Colors and MTV and has done many live events such as Sunburn from Goa and Crunch for MTV.
Commenting on the increasing popularity of mobile TV, Shabir Momin, MD and CTO, Zenga TV stated, “Through Zenga TV, we are binding a relationship, partnership with brands and contents on demand. What is also important to understand is that the popularity of content differs on the digital and the mobile platform as opposed to that on television. Hence, our first priority is our users whom we depend on for opinions and suggestions in terms of content. We also have our content evaluation team who decides on the content that we plan to introduce or experiment with.”
Recently, Reliance Broadcast Network (RBNL) also launched its channels Big RTL Thrill and Big Magic on Ditto TV – which were launched earlier by the digital arm of ZEE, Zee News Media.
According to Vishal Malhotra, Business Head, New Media, ZEE, while people engage with on-demand content internationally, in India people stick to the live TV format. Eventually there will be a marriage of both – the content that is going online as well as on television, with different adaptations taking place.
IndiaCast, a joint venture between TV18 and Viacom18 that distributes TV channels across various platforms, also announced its partnership for live streaming of twenty popular and regional channels.
Sushma Jhaveri, COO, Madison Media Infinity stated, “Today a lot of viewers cannot view TV since they are not at home or at a place where they can watch live TV. It all started with IPL few years ago. It was streamed live on the internet. With 3G now, it’s easier to stream content live on mobiles as well. Also, since the universe of viewers through mobile is still relatively insignificant to affect viewership on TV sets, fragmentation of the audience base wouldn’t take place.”
iStream, which streams content of over 85 channels – English, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam, has entered into an exclusive partnership with Ten Sports for live streaming and video on demand rights for the upcoming India – Palestine Football Match across all online and mobile platforms, globally. Earlier iStream has hosted UEFA Euro 2012, India – Sri Lanka cricket series, US Open 2012, Brazilian National Football League and I-League, among others.
On the international front, there is Hulu TV, which is a subscription service offering ad-supported on-demand streaming video of TV shows, movies, webisodes and other new media, trailers, clips, and behind-the-scenes footage from NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, Nickelodeon, and many other networks and studios.
Monetisation through associations
With a lot of such associations taking place between mobile television platforms and broadcasters, there is an increase in content that is being made available. Given the fact that today’s viewers are also present extensively on the digital platform, helps make these propositions quite useful for both, the broadcasters as well as the service providers. From the broadcasters’ point of view, this would lead to an increase in reach across it target audience profile. But on the other hand, mobile platforms would derive their revenue through ads as well as partnerships with brands.
Talking about the monetisation aspect, Momin stated, “Our revenue is basically advertising driven. With the market picking up, the revenue is also on an upswing. We have also associated with handset manufacturers for licensing; it has worked well for us.”
Agreeing with the same, PM Balakrishna, COO, Allied Media, shared that these associations provide a win-win situation for broadcasters. Apart from the increase in the reach that these services provide, there is also an influx of advertisers which further benefit the broadcasters. Hence, these associations would translate in an increase in both, revenue as well as viewership.
Malhotra added here, “I am a firm believer of the fact that if the content is good, then the audience will pay, which has been seen in case of Netflix, itunes, etc. – which are still doing well compared to the other free services available. There is sizeable chunk of the audience who will pay for good content and from the broadcaster’s point of view, it is the safest model for them. In a country like India, it is not possible to bank on a free model since the cost of delivering content is far higher than the revenue generated.”
The road ahead
With the different programming content available on mobile phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, entertainment boxes and connected TVs, what lies ahead for these mobile television platforms remains the lingering question.
“For live sports and events, yes, one can see lot of viewership happening. Though it’s convenient for the viewer, it’s not easy on the eyes. Hence, this would definately take some time before it becomes big,” stated Jhaveri.
Mobile TV platforms are also undertaking different strategies to bring something new to the table. Apart from the traditional content, Zenga TV is also experimenting with international content. Also, the way they are taking up content is in lieu with varied genres such as cooking, games, fashion, jokes, etc.
Malhotra believes that since audiences today are keen on absorbing maximum content in a shorter time frame, creating specialised content for the web makes a lot of sense since these help in extending the value of the content as well keeps the audience interested, leading to a multiplier effect. Ditto TV would be introducing specific content for both, mobile and the OTT platform by the end of this year.
With more and more people being actively present on the digital platform, strengthening of mobile services such as 3G and the advent of smartphones and tablets, it would be interesting to observe how broadcasters further build on this phenomenon to garner audience attention in a much larger, broader and a cost effective way. Though only time will tell how content dispersion will take place in the near future, it will be safe to say that for broadcasters today, enagagement and tapping audience attention through different media has become the order of the day.