One Big Idea by Keertan Adyanthaya: Using technology to revolutionize television

30 Jan,2013

By Keertan Adyanthaya, Managing Director, Fox International Channels India


Technology, ever-evolving, has brought about a radical change in our lives. Every activity, inane or important, is governed by technology, giving us limitless choices. Perpetually time-starved, we prefer to pick up our tablets or smart-phones to access information instead of reading the newspapers or quickly record our favorite shows to watch at a time convenient to us. What’s more, with increased internet penetration consumers have access to their choice of content at the click of a button.


The world around us has undergone a massive revolution. The TV hardware that consumers use is quite advanced with micro-computers that can adjust the picture quality, level the sound and allow you to access the web straight from your TV set. The distribution mechanism has changed – from analogue to digital – and now gives you a wealth of information about the exact programme that you are watching. New-age set-top boxes allow you to pause, rewind and forward live television. They allow you to set up recording for entire series of shows that you like. At the same time, the television universe has also exploded with 700+ channels vying for the attention of the viewers. Broadcast companies are making efforts to cater to changing audience interests and desires by providing close to bespoke channel offerings – regional TV in more and more languages, golf channels, wildlife channels, action movie channels, education channels, etc etc.


However, one area where there has not been much technological advancement is the area of audience measurement. We still depend on the 9,000 people-meter homes to tell us what people are watching. This data is still delivered to its end-users on a weekly basis. Both the sample size and the frequency of reporting are woefully inadequate.


Why can’t we install a tracking chip in every set-top box which can report viewership data? There are an estimated six million boxes that will be deployed in the next 12 months; even if we get the tracking chips into 1% of these boxes, its 60,000 boxes that will give us the data. That’s six times the current sample size.


A key aspect that can help fill the gap between content and viewer interest is a robust measurement mechanism. By using the technology in the STB, we could bring back the data from each television set to the tracking agency; it could prove to be an effective and accurate means of measurement. This would be a more robust measurement mechanism than the 9,000 people-meter boxes that we depend on today. What finally goes on air is largely dependent on the research data that comes from measurement agencies, and a technology like this might just be the next big thing that revolutionizes the process of designing content according to consumer interest. In addition, it will also help advertisers to have sharp focus and decide their media spends as per what their core TG is watching. Technology can help us to improve measurement in the broadcast industry, but are we willing to embrace it?


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