Facebook teams up with Star, Discovery

By Satrajit Sen , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | October 09, 2013
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Facebook is sharing data with TV channels on how their viewers react to their shows on the social networking platform. Will language get in the way of this fascinating experiment?

Facebook has recently disclosed plans to provide data about its users' comments about major television programmes to 10 networks in eight countries, including France, UK, Germany, Brazil and India. Star India is the media network from India that will be given more access to user information on Facebook. Discovery India is also entitled to get the data as a result of its worldwide partnership with Facebook.

Facebook had launched a similar service for US TV networks last month. The initial data was made available to American networks such as ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS and a small number of other names. The reports that were generated revealed how many likes, comments, or shares a television programme inspired on Facebook and how many members participated. The service is as yet in its Beta phase and the social network isn't charging the channels any money.

Facebook says that the idea is to show advertisers the data about online buzz and conversation that TV programmes are generating. This will help the channels while simultaneously emphasizing the power of Facebook as a platform.

Dan Rose

Gayatri Yadav

Karthik Nagarajan

"In the old days, people would gather around the office water cooler to discuss what they had watched on TV the night before. Today the water cooler is online, and on Facebook. We've consistently observed that a lot of what people are talking about on Facebook is related to their favourite TV shows. For example, when Andy Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years, there were 29 million interactions on Facebook about the event," Facebook explained in a statement.

The partnership, Facebook says, will make it easier for content producers to integrate public conversation on Facebook into their shows. "Our partners will be able to highlight public posts of real-time activity on Facebook about topics related to their shows, and measure the engagement around keywords from their programmes. Since Facebook is a platform based on real identity, they can also understand the basic demographics and location of the people that are posting this content, in an anonymised and aggregated format," Dan Rose, vice president of partnerships for Facebook, announced in the MIPCOM conference in Cannes.

Says Gayatri Yadav, EVP Marketing & Communications, Star India, "The first port of call for consumers when they want to talk about content is often social media - people love sharing their thoughts and feelings about the latest shows online. This will help us better understand audience reactions to programming and deliver better real time consumer insight."

Some experts believe that as far as India goes, Facebook can capitalise on the country's TV culture. Commenting on the development, Karthik Nagarajan, national director, social media and insights, GroupM India, says, "One of the most significant social media trends of the last 3-4 years has been what we refer to as the 'second screen phenomenon'. Within these conversations is hidden a treasure trove of actionable information for any TV channel (that cares to listen), as it gives them the exact pulse of the audience even as they are watching a show."

This helps TV channels in multiple ways, the biggest one being their ability to showcase to advertisers, the resonance of the content. "Channels will now have the ability to create content / programming based on audience feedback. In other words, social media conversations now have the opportunity to shape the future of television content and that is unprecedented in the history of TV," adds Nagarajan.

While Facebook has an enviable following in India with 82 million active users per month (June 2013), there are questions about how effectively this tie-up will work locally. Across all languages, General Entertainment Channels (GECs) make up more than half the total television viewership. And these channels are viewed in Hindi and regional languages whereas Facebook is in English. The language mismatch is bound to slow the stream of digital conversation about what viewers are watching.

Facebook in India does have conversation about reality shows on TV but, relative to their immense popularity, little chatter takes place about the serials that form the backbone of GECs. In comparison, specialised channels - sports for example - are likely to witness more dialogue on Facebook.

Coming on the heels of the first ever Nielsen-Twitter TV Ratings, Facebook clearly needed a play to increase the dependence of TV advertisers on its platform. With this move, Facebook will certainly have the undivided attention of advertisers and TV channels.

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