Digital takes home a larger pie of TV channels' ad spends

From mobile apps to social media campaigns, broadcasters are upping their ad spends on digital and investing heavily in the medium for higher viewership and engagement

e4m by Collin Furtado
Updated: Dec 4, 2014 7:58 AM
Digital takes home a larger pie of TV channels' ad spends

With many TV broadcast channels choosing to launch digital campaigns alongside traditional promotional ad campaigns for properties, it seems that the digital medium has caught the fancy of broadcasters. Many TV channels today in India not only have their own Facebook pages and Twitter handles, they are actively keeping viewers updated on the latest show trends, apart from making content available to viewers online. In a previous article on exchange4media we had seen how broadcasters keen to the potential of digital in order enhance viewership in single-TV households in India (Broadcasters eye digital platforms to enhance viewership in single-TV households). We take stock of the role digital plays in broadcasters’ marketing agenda.

Are broadcasters stepping up digital marketing spends?

Digital marketing spends of TV broadcasters have been increasing recently according to Chetan Asher, CEO, Tonic Media, a digital agency has a few TV channels under its portfolio. “There are two aspects to growth of investments on digital, one is it is very property driven. Unfortunately there is no trend on how much does a specific property needs to put at that moment. The spends are co-related to a property. But if you have to take an estimate of it then it should be about a 20-25% increase (in digital ad spends),” he said. He further added that currently a large part of TV channels focus is on social media within the digital platform and the next big platform would be YouTube.

Commenting on this Nina Elavia Jaipuria, VP & Business Head – Kids Cluster, Viacom18 said, “There has very clearly been an increased focus on digital Y-o-Y. Digital is most definitely a part of our plans when we are looking at building a show through engagements around its characters. Hence, the spends on digital purely depends on the objective that we set for ourselves for the year. We have however increasingly used our own digital platforms like, and our social communities which have been built over the years. To add to that, we also had other kids relevant brands use our digital platforms as part of their marketing plans.”

“Almost a fourth of our marketing efforts are targeted towards digital including mobile and web. The Pepsi MTV Indies launch used digital as the primary medium of marketing,” says Sumeli Chatterjee, Head – Marketing, Media & Insights, MTV India & MTV Indies. 

According to the Chief Revenue Officer of a TV network, “TV broadcasters have to spend because until and unless you don’t spend you will not create a user base. In the next two years it will be a game changer”. He further said, “All the broadcasters are building this vertical but digital does not get monetized quickly like television. You need to create a user base, so first need to create exclusive content or simulcast content. It takes time to monetize. But I don’t think anyone is monetizing in a big way right now in the digital space but the focus to create content on digital which every broadcaster is doing.”

With regards to creating content specifically for the digital medium Asher said, “The broadcasters would love to create content specifically for digital but unfortunately for most of the content there might be a rights issue and they might not be able to tamper with it. Unfortunately that stops them from creating a new format. But producing a completely new piece of content for only digital, that is not happening right now.”

How are broadcasters engaging audiences on digital platforms?

History TV18 that has been at the forefront of adopting the digital medium has used the app they created for their channel to market their shows. The History TV18 app has 492,000 downloads currently and 5.2 million page views. According to the channel’s numbers there are 200+ average chats every 180 minutes.

“History TV18 has always been at the forefront of the digital space we are constantly looking to increase engagement levels and impact, and innovation is the key to maximizing impact. Our app is testament to our consistent efforts when it comes to taking viewer involvement to a whole new level by allowing users to discuss their favourite shows during a show telecast with other fans,” said Sangeetha Aiyer, VP & Head Marketing, A+E Networks TV18.

Even Hindi GEC channels are using the digital media as an effective tool for marketing. For instance, on the Facebook page of Star Plus, marketing activities and contests for Everest has 12,400 likes and 150 comments, while on YouTube the same show’s promo videos had got as high as 518,003 views. Star Plus on their YouTube channel currently has 1,945,024 subscribers, while on Zee TV has 2,064,943 subscribers. 

Nikhil Madhok, SVP Marketing & Programming Strategy, Star Plus says reaching out to audiences that are primarily digital natives and using marketing in an effective way to pull them onto television is one of the things that they use the digital medium for. “The second way in which we use digital is for engagement as a second screen. For a lot of our shows people watch the content and then they have a large number of conversations online whether it is on Facebook, Twitter or other social media. They want to engage with fan communities, discuss a particular scene, clothes that the hero was wearing or the episode. So digital that way our social media marketing strategy offers people a great opportunity to engage more deeply,” he said.

Pradeep Hejmadi, Business Head, ZEE TV spoke about the increase in the amount of time spent by people on digital platforms increasing and they don’t have an option of not being there. “We have three and half lakh views per videos in a week which is not small. The average time spent there is almost the same as it is on the television screen, so engagement is happening through mobile devices online. And it has been on the growth path because it is ease of access as you might miss an episode because of your lifestyle as an outcome of which consumption does happen. More and more harnessing is possible, so for instance if you look at the Diwali initiative recently where we integrated social media with live updates and live messages that audiences could send. During Diwali you could tweet a message to your relatives or your friends and it would run on the screen. We find that there are different things that people are doing with different platforms we need to be there. We don’t have an option of saying this is not a place where we would invest,” he said.

Sports channels on the hand though may have started their own platforms there are more in terms of streaming and there is less engagement in terms of marketing. They are more video heavy than marketing initiatives to keep viewers engaged. The Facebook page of the sports channels also do not have much marketing initiatives as could be seen on GECs. The YouTube subscribers for Star Sports channel was 213,973 while that of Sony SIX was 66,716 subscribers.

“I have been putting a lot of emphasis on digital because the youth connection with digital is definitely an interesting watch but it is not something I use across the board. It depends on the product. For instance I see a connect with the urban youth which is digitally well connected but it does not necessarily mean everything that I show will have a same level of digital connect. When we were doing the World Kabaddi League for instance that was not a strategy we adopted. So depends on what the product is and how you customise it to use it to your advantage,” says Prasana Krishnan, Business Head, Sony SIX.  

Marketing on digital platforms has evolved more as TV channels have also developed games for certain programs to build viewer interaction. For instance Nickelodeon developed the game ‘Keymon O Fish’ for the the show Keymon Ache. The game has also won the Best Mobile Application (games) at the MOBBYS 2014. Apart from that TeenNick India digital campaign #BestTimeEver got 18,000 messages during the party on WhatsApp as TeenNick became a part of 700+ Teen WhatsApp Groups. On Facebook it got 76,000 likes during the campaign and 4000+ mentions of the hashtag #BestTimeEver with the tweets reaching over 50,000 tweeples. The campaign also went on to win the best Social Media Campaign of the Year at the MOBBYS 2014.

Some broadcasters feel that the digital medium offers less wastage and there is a lot more specific targeting that can be achieved through this medium which is not the same with traditional mediums. Commenting on this Sangeetha Aiyer, VP & Head Marketing, A+E Networks TV18 said, “Digital allows you to segment your target audience closely the exactly the people who will be interested in your content. It would be tough to compare traditional and digital ROI but on digital you have a much more sticky audience. Your wastage is less in that sense. For instance a particular amount spent on traditional media the ROI on that, say there is wastage of 20%, wastage of spends on digital will be 1% or 2%.”

Marketing on digital is going much beyond just using social media and YouTube, TV broadcasters and broadcasters are understanding and experimenting with the medium in order to establish a relationship with the audience.       

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