Shailesh Kapoor: The Dichotomy Of Socially Networked Television

19 Apr,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor


Twitter, Facebook and YouTube bugs are here in full measure. Most marketing-driven companies have now accepted social networking as an integral part of their media strategy. Even more importantly, they are now customizing their creative strategy to the online and social networking space. And it’s not just urban or premium brands that have taken the leap. Social networking has found favour with brands addressing the lowest common denominator as well.


In the television space, none less than Star Plus has been aggressively promoting Twitter contests through front-page ads in newspapers. Facebook-led initiatives are a regular part of many programme launch plans. MTV, the first channel to recognize the potential on social networking for television marketing, is sitting on an envious base of more than 4 million Facebook fans and 0.74 million Twitter followers. In a country where the internet and smartphones are still counted in the list of “big ideas for the future”, these numbers are staggering to say the least.


Interestingly, this social networking wave highlights the dichotomous way in which we look at our television audience universe. The top-rated daily serials have fairly miniscule social networking buzz, though the GECs faithfully continue to push them by posting pictures, polls and behind-the-scenes information.


In contrast, a reality show gets Twitter and Facebook buzzing. But even here, a difference between “mass” shows like KBC, DID and MasterChef (India) and relatively “niche” shows like Bigg Boss and Roadies is apparent. The latter set catches the attention of the online community, while the former set is often looked down upon, for not being cool enough.


Of course, ratings tell a different story. In the real world, the social networking community represents only a small percentage (less than 20%) of the audience base. Most of these 20% are light television viewers, given their work schedules and their propensity to spend more time online instead, and hence, the actual contribution of this segment to television viewership is less than 10%. In the larger scheme of things, it matters only for two genres – English channels and youth channels.


Why are mass channels pushing the envelope on social networking, then? Evidently because they see the potential. The 10% may be 15% in a year and 25% in two years, maybe even more. But there is a larger reason too. Advertisers are more likely to back initiatives that have an active social networking integration built into them. For a sponsor of a movie, reality show or awards show, the opportunity to reach its target audience in non-conventional ways in the online space is often irresistible today. Because for him, the relevant audience covered is probably 60-80%, not just 10%.


Which brings me to my pet peeve. In our mass approach to measurement of viewership, backed by the over-simplified “C&S 4+” reporting of data for the mass channels, we have evidently not looked at segmenting the audience based on their ability and propensity to purchase. The SEC classification used is almost archaic anyway. The current measurement system approaches the universe-creation from a channel perspective (“who watches”) than from a brand perspective (“who consumes”).


Hope BARC has a radical shift to offer, with their new design for audience measurement in India. Till then, divergence, and not convergence, is what the online medium will bring to the television business in India.


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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