It may no longer be correct to refer to television as the “small screen”. The medium has evolved and its content is also available on any device that can be connected to the internet. General entertainment channels (GECs), for instance, are among those utilising the digital platform. So, Zee TV, apart from a dedicated YouTube partner to air past episodes of on-air shows, also uses social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter to engage the viewer at a personal level. Colors, which launches apps from time to time, organises live chats with actors who enjoy a huge fan following.
Sony, which was distributing content through YouTube and marketing it on social media until recently has now consolidated it all into their new website, Sony Liv. Also available as an app for mobile phones and tablets, it is the channel’s way of being the “one-stop shop for its digital content”. Ever since it launched in January, it has already crossed 14 lakh downloads. “It is a misconception that internet users in India are mostly young people. With Android phones in the range of Rs 3,000 now available, even drivers and housewives in Tier-II and III cities have access to the internet,” says Amit Thaker of Interactive Avenues, an online digital marketing agency that partners with Zee.
The channel cites the example of the Facebook app launched to increase the recall value of their show, Ramayan. It gave the users an online darshan of a Ram-Sita temple, allowing them to perform virtual aarti and people from all age groups used it.
The biggest advantage of the platform is its scope for interaction — from allowing viewers, especially NRIs, who constitute a significant segment, to watch previous episodes, to inviting online feedback, auditions and votes. Channels even get viewers to share ideas and instances from their personal life to “enhance” their shows, thereby increasing personal connect. “After we received feedback that viewers missed watching Sony’s older shows, such as Aahat and Ek Mahal Ho Sapno Ka (1999), we have made our prominent shows available online,” says Nitesh Kripalani, senior vice-president - New media, Business Development and Digital/Syndication.
Bindass, a youth-based GEC, has taken their digital presence a step further by creating standalone web-based series, such as Chickipedia and Mentals. This has helped them cultivate an all-new audience for the digital platform independent of their channel. “It’s easier to do that using a traditional media brand and then re-engineer it for the audience online,” explains Sameer Pitalwalla, director – Video and Celebrity, Disney UTV.
To optimise brand consolidation that the digital medium allows, GECs are, therefore, channelising part of their marketing budget towards new media. It does not necessarily bring in new viewers, but does help retain the existing ones. Channels also see the scope of monetising this online following. “In about four months, we expect to bring in advertisers on Sony Liv,” says Kriplani. Bindass could bring AXE on board as the sponsor for Chickipedia. “This series with 31 episodes had over 1.5 million views on YouTube,” Pitalwalla adds.
The scope for the medium will only increase with time. “The numbers are exciting. Today, India has 90 crore mobile subscribers, 13 crore internet users and five crore-plus smart phone users. This number is, for course, growing,” points out Srivastava.