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POV: Will online viewing hurt television?

By Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | August 13, 2013
While there is no study that demonstrates what the causal impact of online viewing is on TV viewership, afaqs! talks to industry experts to learn more about the same.

The increase in internet penetration has a curious side effect that has largely escaped serious study - the effect on television content consumption. While Hindi general entertainment channels air episodes on television first, the content is soon available on the web. Interestingly, online videos of these shows (both fiction and non-fiction/reality) garner considerable viewership, with the number crossing the one lakh mark within a few days for some shows.

Unlike print, which initially felt threatened by digital content, some experts believe that online availability of content actually complements the reach of television as an audio visual medium.

For channels, content on the digital platform aims to tap new markets created by growth in mobile devices and increased connectivity, and also enables the consumer the freedom to consume content at a convenient time.

While there is no study that demonstrates the causal impact of online viewing on TV viewership, afaqs! talks to industry experts to learn more about the same...

Nikhil Madhok

Shekhar Sharma

Vivek Srivastava

Namrata Balwani

Nikhil Madhok, senior vice-president, marketing, Star Plus India

It is difficult to ascertain whether these viewers are watching the shows only online or watching it again after the original airing on TV. A large number of online viewers are intense loyalists of the show who like to watch the episodes multiple times. If we look closely at the comments, discussion forums and fan bases of these shows, it's clear that they watch the show on TV and then get online to comment and discuss with other fans. So the digital viewing is really helping in building engagement and loyalty rather than substituting viewership. Also, since the profile of the audience online is younger, the shows that get discussed most are the ones most popular with the youth.

Shekhar Sharma, national director, search, platforms & performance, business head, Blazar, GroupM Interaction India

With the rise of multi-tasking, impact of online viewing shall see greater positive impact, as it tends to put the viewer or user in direct control. So, while the publisher or a channel broadcasts a programme, the viewer uses the online medium to also "Advo-cast' the show and use the online medium of advocacy. Thus online has a direct bearing on the success of a show. A Nielsen (US) study revealed that 70 per cent of viewers of television do so while surfing the internet for context-specific information.

For example, while viewing a TV reality show, a viewer may increasingly use the online/mobile medium to 'advo-cast' through blogs, Facebook or Twitter by sharing the content. This results in people on the viewers' network to view the programme online and also results in greater traction of TV viewing. Such programmes see steep growth in popularity and viewership. As internet penetration rises in India, the digital video audience shall grow faster.

In the Hindi GEC space, for the past year or so, the online content has centred around entertainment and reality shows, as the online viewing is dominated by the young audience in the age bracket of 15-44 years.

Vivek Srivastava, digital head, Colors

Television reached out to 750mn viewers across India, internet is still only reaching out to 135mn consumers, that too with bandwidth constraints. So at this stage there is no significant impact on TV viewership, especially in the GEC segment. Internet is largely used as a catch-up medium. However, as these numbers grow over the next three-five years, we will have to decide how much of our content will be in the free viewing zone. We are already seeing a few signs of movement towards subscription by way of 'Movies on Demand'. We expect TV content to soon follow suit.

People comment, share and discuss their favourite shows online - all leading to more buzz around properties and therefore more consumption on television. For GECs, TV still happens to be the mainstay of consumption. Also, it's not so much about fiction or non-fiction but the ability of the content to drive conversations. Talking about monetisation of content, the digital revenues currently are small, especially when compared to TV advertising. However, it's showing robust growth percentages. As the penetration of internet and devices grow, we expect significant revenue potential.

Namrata Balwani, COO, Media2win

Online viewing of shows is a growing trend which one needs to take cognizance of. There is a tendency amongst most 'urban connected' users to delay their appointment TV consumption. The consumer who has internet broadband connectivity or a DTH recorder at home decides to watch any show as per his convenience. This will become a constant behaviour amongst many in the near future, with the growth of smartphones and easy access to WiFi and 3G.

Also, there has been a growth in video advertising and that will only become a larger portion of the advertising pie in the future. Brands are increasingly seeing value in digital video advertising. According to industry estimates, video advertising on the internet has grown at 40 per cent in the past year.

TV channels can see online content as a revenue generator. Once all channels start putting up their content legitimately online, even air online at the same time as TV, it will draw a significant portion of this connected urban audience and open up a new revenue stream. The channels have to start looking at rates for TV and online as a package as well as independently. They also have to start promoting the online shows to drive audiences.

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