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Help TV channels jump online to woo its audience
The fight for viewer eyeballs is going beyond the television set

For India's youth channels, the fight for viewer eyeballs is going beyond the television set. Stacey D'Sylva, a 19-year old management student at Wilson College, Mumbai spends almost five to six hours each week on a music channel website. "The site has interesting blogs on music and movies which are fun to read. Also, if I miss a show on TV, I catch them on the site. This way, at least I get to keep up with the shows that I am following," said Stacey. When I have some spare time, I take part in the contests and go through the music play lists on the website."

Like Stacey, the tech-savvy young audiences' engagement with music channels is gradually moving from the traditional television set to the digital medium. A media analyst at a leading brokerage firm opined: "Youngsters today are not only more active online, but in many instances surfing the net while watching television."

With media consumption habits of young urban Indians evolving, pop-culture driven channels are bolstering their online operations, by adding value-added content and creating online communities.

Fostering online communities

Youth entertainment channel, UTV Bindaas, for instance, recently revamped the Bindaas Buddies microsite, an online community where students from different campuses share tips, reviews and gossip about college. "The community started a year back and has grown to a user base of 1,400 colleges," said UTV Bindaas, Vice-President (Interactive Broadcasting), Vahishta Mistry.

Building a young community online is also a priority area for MTV. The brand has created a by-invitation-only online community called Ispeak, which allows youngsters to engage in discussion about various topics ranging from relationships, college and jobs. "We recruited active people from our Facebook pages to be part of this community," said Swamy. "The insights that we gathered from the 200-odd people on the Ispeak community have helped us create a site called MTVplay is an excellent destination for advertisers, brand managers and journalists who are interested in learning about youth behaviour."

According to Catalyst Labs, Chief Catalyst Preetham Venkky, "The online platform allows higher quality of engagement compared to other channels of communication. Virtual communities are also an excellent platform for discussions around a particular show or a youth-related topic."

Building hype around shows

Besides building online communities, youth channels are also embracing the digital platform to promote their primetime gems. As Mistry of UTV Bindaas explained, "For our show Emotional Atyaachar, huge amounts of uncut footage not aired on television were uploaded on our website." To drive consumer engagement, UTV Bindaas launched an augmented reality app for their show The Chair.

Channel V, for their new show Kidnap, did the entire promotion online. At MTV too, the television property Roadies was extended into the digital platform. The company launched a purely digital initiative called Roadies Battleground.

Youth channels use the digital platform to not only create excitement around shows but also build a buzz around their on-ground activities. "Nokia India fest is one of the largest on-ground initiatives for Channel V this year. While the fest is being advertised through youth hangout zones like cafes, the entire registration process [for participation] will take place online," said Kamath. MTV too, has been leveraging the digital medium to create hype for its on-ground initiative Samsung Gang Next.

Going beyond digital media

Besides the web, youth channels are also exploring the mobile space to connect with audiences.

UTV Bindaas, for example is present on Blackberry Messenger (BBM), which is extremely popular among youth. "We regularly interact with our fans on BBM," said Mistry. Going forward, mobile apps too are on the agenda. "Once handsets and networks reach their tipping point, there will be a dramatic change in the way youth use mobile devices."

UTV Bindaas is also looking to build a database of videos, which can be streamed on mobile phones. "We have a content archive of repurposed clips that we believe will be a big hit on the smaller screen," said Mistry. For this, the company has tied up with mobile partners - both for the creation of mobile-friendly clips of hit shows as well as unique video content for mobile devices.

Kamath at Channel V claimed his site is WAP enabled, but in the future the company will explore the area of apps and branded mobile phones to engage with users at the next level.

MTV's initiatives, too, extend on the mobile platform. The youth channel has a voice portal where users have to dial into a short code to listen to content such as VJ Nikhil talking about party tips or requesting Cyrus Broacha to give you a wake up call. However, Swamy said: "We still have a lot of catching up to do on the mobile platform. Our learnings on the digital arena will allow us to develop newer initiatives on the mobile space."
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