Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Feb 21, 2005
Marketing - Trends
Interactive TV: Moolah for channels, cell cos
New Delhi , Feb. 20
WATCHING television is no more for the couch potatoes. Going by the response that television channels are receiving for value added services like voting, online quizzes, and ring tone downloads, interactive television seems to have taken off in India in a big way.
For instance, Indian Idol on Sony Entertainment Television received over 2.4 crore votes through short messaging and phone calls.
India's Best Cine Star Ki Khoj on Zee garnered over 7.5 lakh votes in its final episode alone and popular television title tracks on the Star Plus have been downloaded 25 lakh times.
Mr Viren Popli, Senior Vice-President, Star India, said: "The consumer is looking for additional involvement. Earlier postcards were used, which have now become passť. Even shows like India's Child Genius had over two lakh people participating week-on-week."
In order to cash in on this trend, Star wants to make its popular game show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) interactive by allowing viewers to play along.
Mr Tushar Shah, Executive Vice-President (Marketing and Communications), Sony, said: "Indian Idol has taken viewer interactivity to the extreme. With the show reaching its absolute climax soon, this number is expected to grow further."
While the viewers are lapping up the opportunity, the interactive platform provides additional revenues to not just TV channels but cellular companies who provide the interface to the audience.
According to industry estimates, the tie-ups with TV channels and other content providers account for more than 10 per cent of the revenues that cellular operators get from value-added services. "The opportunity here is huge. Though the revenues currently generated from interactivity are still small, they are expected to become sizeable in the next few years," said Mr Mohit Bhatnagar, Vice-President (New Product Development and Strategic Alliances), Airtel.
"It's the instantaneous gratification that the platform offers to viewers that makes it a killer application. Its very powerful tool both for broadcasters and mobile companies," said Mr Sukanta Dey, Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer of Idea Cellular.
For offering this service, the broadcasters normally enter into a revenue share arrangement directly with the telecom companies.
The tie-up is also done through short code platform providers like Indiatimes and Rediff, which allows viewers to send in their votes or requests or answers to the TV channels by sending an SMS to four-digit numbers.
Such services are tagged as premium services for which viewers pay up to Rs 3 per SMS compared to Rs 1.50 for normal messaging.
"The revenue shared between the broadcasters, platform providers and the mobile operators varies from case to case. If the content is exclusive like that of Indian Idol, then the broadcasters get to keep almost 80 per cent of the revenue," said a marketing executive of a national mobile operator.
While the initial response to interactivity has been impressive, analysts said that the future will depend on the content.
"Broadcasters and content providers will have to catch the interest of the viewers to get them to participate. Indian Idol is just one example. We need many such programmes to make interactive TV a real revenue churner," said Mr Dey.
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