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FEATURES/Biggest Questions of 2013 | Jan 7, 2013 | 8655 views

Will Digitisation Improve Media Company Economics?

The resulting consumer behaviour changes will soon spiral up the industry chain and the players who absorb them early into their marketing mix will get the maximum windfalls
Will Digitisation Improve Media Company Economics?
Image: Adnan Abidi / Reuters
Successful digitisation is helping audiences to migrate smoothly as well as creating a new aroma around broadcast businesses

T

he digitisation change in the Indian TV landscape brings to fore Darwin’s theory of natural evolution by natural selection. Natural selection is a gradual, non-random process by which biological traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. In the television world, the adaptation to use new technology devices among lesser technology-exposed members of the family to watch TV is exhibiting a similar behavioural trait. In November, as the set top box (STB) got attached to the TV set, I could see my 71-year-old mother initially struggling to operate with two remote controls and a battery of buttons to view her favourite TV content. Her seven-and-a-half-year-old nephew became her guide to rest her anxiety. But, with time, she has become adept at using the devices smoothly. No longer do the device additions and technology changes restrict her from consuming her daily dose of afternoon soaps. Certainly, successful digitisation in TV delivery platforms is slowly paving way in not only ensuring audiences migrate smoothly in technology device adoptions but also in creating a new aroma around broadcast businesses.

This is probably the first time that radical change is also being observed so quickly at the lowermost end of the TV distribution chain in India, even while the industry as a whole is still in the process of digesting this new environment. Ready or not, these consumer behaviour changes will soon spiral up the industry chain and the players who absorb them early into their marketing mix will get the maximum windfalls.

As we end the first month in the digital TV world, we’re seeing impressive penetration numbers in the three metros through both TAM [Television Audience Measurement] panels as well as the universe baseline conducted by Nielsen and IMRB—91 percent in Mumbai, 90 percent in Delhi and 76 percent in Kolkata. An early peek into this data is already revealing behaviour changes in five key areas.

First, viewer engagement time with TV has gone up by approximately 10 percent. Is this merely early excitement coupled with a festive month, or genuine interest around additional content with better audio and video reception? We’ll have to wait and watch.

Second, easier consumer access and choice of channel genres instead of the cable operator deciding is bringing additional viewers. These new viewers were probably erstwhile passive viewers grumpy due to lack of content of their choice. As a result, a certain set of genres are seeing a swing in their share of audiences, while a few others face erosion in theirs.

Third, viewers surfing across genres are being replaced by them surfing within genres. Audiences are confidently landing directly on their genres of choice and surfing through the content within it. This will provide a fillip to further increase the range of offerings to viewers within some of the more popular genres.

Fourth, network loyalty, which is at a low key among audiences, will gravitate towards wholesome family offerings as home member constitution spreads across age groups. Price benefit offers around packages coupled with cross promotions across marquee programme properties will push more audiences towards creating a stronger affinity for specific networks.

Last, while bulk of the viewer’s TV consumption will continue to be content, HD set top boxes (STBs) and digital video recorder (DVR) technologies will allow what is presently a small segment of audience to watch content as and when they desire. In that audience, TV content will compete with other platforms on tablets and smartphones that allow access to the same stored content through broadband. There are four clearly visible strategy integration signs for the broadcast and content teams intent on embracing these changes into their marketing strategies.

This article appeared in the Forbes India magazine issue of 11 January, 2013
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