CDOspeak | Do less, but effective

18 Feb,2014


By Rishi Vora


From the many aggressive moves Star India has made in the past two to three years in the area of content, it is evident that the broadcast major is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring its continuous dominance in the industry.   Digital, which is seen as central to consumers’ lives, is at the core of Star India’s strategy to augment growth, says vice president and digital marketing head of Star India, CVS ‘Venke’ Sharma. A former marine engineering officer with the Indian Navy and an MBA gold medalist, Mr. Sharma, who comes with around 17 years of experience in shaping the digital strategy for brands, was last with Leo Burnett in Indonesia where he built the digital practice in the agency.  Prior to that, he built a marketing services agency Arc for Leo Burnett India and a digital agency Tribal DDB India for Mudra DDB..


 You joined as the digital marketing headfor Star India network a little less than a year ago. What was the brief given to you and how far have you reached in achieving your goals?

We are  making steady progress. The brief remains  to increase the demand for the network’s content using digital marketing.   As you know Star India is a leading broadcast network in India with 40 plus channels. And digital being central to consumers’ lives today, it certainly forms a critical part of the network’s overall strategy.    Over 600 million watch television in India, of that, about 90 million are on Facebook and other social networks.  In Sports, the English cluster and even general entertainment channels Star Plus and V, there are a lot of young audiences who engage with these brands on social media on a daily basis.

Generally in India, the dominant social conversations are about sports, entertainment and politics.  As a network, we cover a wide gamut with definitive content in sports and entertainment. Thus our content inspires conversations on social media. Consumers are interacting while consuming content on TV or on any other device. Our endeavorto shape meaningful conversations that can help create content demand for our channels/shows. So that consumption increases and ultimately morepeople watch our channels.

 Has it changed from what it was earlier?

The fact is that the network is leading across many genres – like Hindi GEC and English, Sports.  We have made progress in reaching out to people via digital media and engaging with them.   We have been far more focused in terms of not doing too much and doing stuff effectively. It’s more about listening, analyzing, and connecting the dots with actionable insights. I wouldn’t say we are already there but with the effort we are putting in, hopefully we should be.


   What are the kinds of mobile initiatives the network comes up with?


All our digital marketing initiatives are mobile centric.  Social media usage itself is largely on mobile. So whatever digital marketing we do is to connect with the audience on the go.  In addition, we do build  appsif there is a genuine consumer context.  For example, we have an app for Mahabharata where consumers can get some exclusive content and keeps them engaged. The app was an important part of the show launch strategy.  We launched an app for Channel V called Vith U. It is an app devised for women’s safety. It has received a phenomenal response.

The Star Sports app as you know  is very popular, so yes we do invest in mobile and we believe that mobile and social is the way to go.  

From a brand’s perspective, do we have enough penetration of 3G to support mobile initiatives? Interestingly, social media platforms are aware of this problem and are coming up with ideas to tackle this. Twitter, is promoting an initiative where you can give a missed call on a certain number and you can converse with or follow a brand without an internet connection via SMS.   What’s happening is that the smartphone penetration is really increasing rapidly and also the operators are pushing usage. There is a reasonable amount of usage happening even from lower end handsets.   In fact, the discovery of internet for many people in India is happening via the mobile phone.  And for these new consumers, the digital initiation happens not through email but social media or search. And that’s a very interesting trend.

 With so many brands across categories trying to reach out to the consumers, is there a method to the madness? What is your view on this from the point of view of promoting Star India’s content via digital media?

The point is that you need not do too much in the digital space. Do less but be effective and disruptive. That’s our mantra. It is not about how loud and how much we can talk but how interesting can we be. That can come from having the social voice being led by the brand  personality.  A brand is an experience and that has to have a voice. This voice will attract consumers to take part in conversations with brands and that’s how the bonding happens. When you’ve established the voice for your brand, you don’t need to do too much. You don’t need to tweet every half hour. Not required at all. On Facebook, if you do too many posts, the actual reach will go down drastically. It’s better you do limited; do the posts which are content rich and which can get meaningful engagement and a wider reach.   If you look at the Facebook page of Channel V, you’ll find we are far more focused. We are not trying to be excessively funny or  irreverent. We are just trying to be what Channel V is as a brand – “Politically Incorrect, Emotionally Correct”.

Can you share initiatives undertaken to promote the sports channels of the network in the digital space?

Take the case of  Wimbledon in India. You got about four to five million fans of tennis on social media, and as you know, tennis is a niche sport. So how do you promote it online so that many people would end up watching it?   We came up with an idea of giving out alerts to tennis fans. The insight was that people follow their favorites and they do not typically know when they are playing.   So we said we will send you an alert when your hero is playing. That was the proposition and we got a terrific response. We gave them a site, a number they can give a missed call on and choose the players for receiving alerts. Thousands of people subscribed and  consumed more tennis on TV. These are the kind of initiatives where digital marketing  increases the buzz and viewership on TV.


From a network standpoint, is there a bigger thrust on digital marketing vis-a-vis traditional advertising?

Of course the network strength is in favor of TV – that is a given. But is there a bigger digital push? Definitely there is a lot of thrust on digital marketing from a network standpoint. Star is a very progressive network and have taken to digital marketing earlier than most other brands. Every media has got its own role to play. The network’s digital thrust is very interesting as it goes into areas where no other media can venture.   Digital media engages with consumers when the TV is on (via mobile) and it of course engages with them deeply when the TV is off.

 For the network’s regional channels, do you think language is a barrier as the most preferred language for digital which includes mobile, social and web is English? Is there an attempt to engage with them in their local languages?

Language is not a barrier. Our regional and GEC channels use the local language to connect with audiences on digital.

Are audiences moving away from TV and consuming content only on Digital?

There are over 90 million social media users (whom we can consider as heavy internet users) and the usage varies from user-to-user. There are people who consume everything on the smart phone and there are also people who are active internet users but when it comes to entertainment-they want to lean back and watch their favorite shows onHD television.   We believe one size doesn’t fit all. We need to be prepared to engage with all of them in the way they are most comfortable with. At Star India, our endeavor is to do all of this with a singular goal which is to create demand for our content and increase overall consumption. There is scope to use digital marketing to increase TV consumption as well as digital consumption.



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