Last week, when the local cable guy came to collect his monthly charges for November, I noticed a change. For the first time I saw him wearing a uniform carrying his organisation's name and logo. Besides that, his name pinned to his chest was quite noticeable, and his sling bag carried a bill book, as against the usual note book with subscriber records. As I made the usual payment of Rs 250, for the first time, I was even handed a copy of the bill, with the total amount and tax break up in a printed form!
While TAM has been measuring the growth of digital TV homes (DTH as well as cable digital) since 2007 and started reporting the data to users from July, 2008, the current movement from analog to digital distribution, in the four metros to start with, has been the single biggest challenge not only for the broadcast business but also for TAM in 2012.
As we end the first month in the digital TV world, the success of implementation is imprinted in the impressive penetration numbers we see achieved in the TAM panel as well as in the universe baseline conducted across the three metros of Mumbai MC (88 per cent); Delhi (90 per cent) and Kolkata (75 per cent).This ensures a smooth movement of audience behaviour data, too, for understanding viewer engagement insights in the coming months. A peek into this data reveals new trends that will further shape the goal towards digitisation in other analog-led cable markets in 2013 as part of the Phase II and III roll-outs.
Five behavioural changes
Initial data probing indicates behaviour changes in five key areas, the first being the engagement time with TV. Although it's an early period coupled with the festive month, the availability of more content has definitely started impacting overall time spent on TV, which has moved up by about 10 per cent. This growth may well be the initial excitement, with not only additional content available but also access to better quality video and audio receptions.
Secondly, the easier access to genre of channels by choice rather than operator dependence is bringing additional viewers to TV genres. The set of new viewers were probably passive viewers, grumpy about the lack of availability of content of their choice. But broader bandwidth has now completely removed the barriers to access content of choice, leading to a certain set of genres seeing an increase in reach, while a few also see an erosion of their audiences.
Thirdly, intra-genre surfing is moving over to more inter-genre movements. Audiences are landing directly on the genres they wish to view and progressively surfing between the content available within that genre, leading to the overall genre gaining additional time spent. This is bound to further increase width of offerings within some of the more popular genres.
The fourth factor, though currently a low-key affair among audiences, is the network loyalties. As home member constitution spreads across age groups, the home preference to networks will gravitate towards a wholesome family offering. Coupled with this will be the price benefit offers to customers to buy packages and cross-promos across stations in the network for some marquee programme properties, which will push more audiences to create strong affinity to specific networks.
Lastly, while the bulk of TV consumption will continue from the live broadcast of content, the advantages of digital TV is getting seen in some segments of the market place through acquisition of HD boxes and DVR technologies. This now allows a small segment of the audience to watch content as and when desired. Among them, the choice to view content on TV is competing with other platforms such as tablets and smartphones that allow access to the same stored content through wireless broadband.
As continuous smart measurement indicates that viewers are slowly adapting to changes in their TV viewing behaviour impacted by smart technologies, there are opportunities galore for the broadcast sector. What is required is a bit of patience and a bit of mindset change to adapt to a newer world that will see them gain monetarily, too.
With learning from the TAM panel's smooth movement to digitisation in the three metros, TAM will continue to focus its energies in 2013 to bring in more insights-led analysis to constituents of the broadcast industry and introduction of behaviour data from new, uncharted territories (less than Class I towns with population below 1,00,000) across West and North India markets. Besides that, at TAM, we look forward to Phase II and III of digitisation roll-out as well as the release of new universe data indicating All India Digital TV homes in January, 2013. This will also be followed by the expansion of the panel among SEC AB homes in five metros, thereby crossing the magic figure of 10,000 installed meters in 2013.
The author is CEO, TAM Media Research.