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Broadcasters and the big data bonanza
August 16, 2016 News


For the media and entertainment industry, which relies heavily on audience analysis, the more the data available, the merrier. Take programmatic advertising, for instance. Thanks to big data, it has changed the face of online advertising. Today the process of media buying is automated and targeted at a specific audience and demographics.
Unlike earlier, when the buying happened manually through human interaction and took time, media buyers today use RTB (real-time bidding) for online display, social media advertising, mobile and video campaigns.

The broadcast industry is no exception.

Of course, audience measurement bodies like TAM and BARC India are there to help broadcasters understand what India watches. And though in the television context, big data is nothing but the trail one leaves while switching channels, this valuable information helps broadcasters identify audience preferences, thereby allowing for relevant content. It is no wonder then that broadcasters are developing ways to leverage big data to understand and connect with audiences.

Recently, Star India invested close to $10 million in data science and analytics start-up Sagacito Technologies, which will let the network use its tools and services for five years. “It’s not that data didn’t exist earlier, but the convergence of new and cheaper technology is helping companies enhance their business,” says Arunabh Das Sharma, CEO and MD, Sagacito Technologies.

A recent study from Nasscom reveals that India is currently among the top 10 data analytics markets in the world and is expected to be among the top three in the next three years. From a global perspective, a new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC) sees the big data technology and services market growing at a CAGR of 23.1% over the 2014-2019 forecast period with annual spending reaching $48.6 billion in 2019. This trend has already spilled over into the Indian media and advertising industry.

What’s the big deal?

For years, the audience measurement body has been the primary source of data for broadcasters. So what has changed for broadcasters who are now opting for more data from other sources?

“The larger environment today throws up many more data points than only television and for a larger understanding of the multimedia consumption environment, it is always helpful to see a lot of data,” agrees Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India. Thanks to social media platforms and time spent on multiple devices, a viewer leaves millions of impressions for data analytics companies to gather exact information.

For a broadcaster, access to big data, as well as tools to derive insights from various data sources, ensures a more nuanced understanding of viewers’ media tastes and consumption preferences. These insights also lead to better decision-making across marketing, content and engagement initiatives. For example, niche channels that lack access to data from primary sources can attempt to crowdsource data across millions of people through the platforms that provide such data. Alternatively, analysing large data sets from millions of people across thousands of districts, cities and localities, provides geo-insights that can influence marketing decisions.

There are numerous media-tech/data-analytics companies in the country now providing big data. For instance, take Zapr — a Bengaluru-based media consumption repository and audience targeting platform — which helps identify relevant audience segments based on media consumption habits and engages with them across the mobile ecosystem, thereby enabling brands and content creators to bridge the gap between their TV and mobile strategies.

A number of broadcasters like NDTV and Colors partner with Zapr to solve some intractable problems and uncover rich insights about media consumption across India. For example, a leading GEC recently worked with it to understand the performance of the promos of its new TV show. Using the data platform, Zapr was able to identify the conversion of audiences from the promo to the actual show and build a correlation model to measure effectiveness.

Says Zapr’s co-founder Sandipan Mondal, “The Indian media and advertising industry has experienced acute data shortage for decades and Indian broadcasters have been incredibly proactive about adopting new platforms and exploring ways to derive value through actionable insights.” One broadcaster recently asked Zapr to create dashboards to highlight viewership trends of its channels and other players in the genre. Through these rich dashboards, the broadcaster’s analytics team could compare the performance of their channels and shows across granular geographic areas in India.

Given that big data involves sourcing information from various consumer touchpoints, it provides a more rounded understanding of consumer lifestyle and behaviour. “We are witnessing a gradual but surefooted march of content consumption platforms shifting from regular cable and set-top boxes to smart TVs and mobile devices. This is both a threat and an opportunity for our industry,” says Sangeetha Aiyer, vice president and head, marketing, A+E NetworksITV18.

“Big data doesn’t just help in decoding consumption patterns but also helps us find newer customers,” says Aiyer.

Game changer

It is safe to say that the ratings answer only a subset of questions that plague the industry and leave a lot of questions unanswered. However, with evolving technologies it is now possible to gather data at an incredible scale, across millions of people while making granular geographical cuts, and data-analytics firms are de-linking ratings from data. Through advanced technologies, broadcasters now enjoy access to a wealth of data options.

Reliance Broadcast Network Limited (RBNL), which caters to a range of audience through a variety of platforms like radio, TV, digital etc, believes that with multiplication of platforms, it is imperative for content to be customised and personalised to a specific target group. This helps the network with more nuanced understanding than a generic overall picture.

“This entire matrix of consumer definition can be catered to with content/promotions/advertising which is specifically designed for them instead of generic catering which is done currently,” asserts Tarun Katial, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network.

And with most networks launching their own OTT platforms, this data comes in handy. In the West, popular video streaming platform Netflix produced House of Cards by scrutinising subscriber preferences. Or take YouTube, where every ‘like’ and ‘share’ is, and can be, a valuable data point.

“Many broadcasters have digital versions; hence the combination of TV and digital footprints is making agencies look at video planning through a magnified lens. Because not everyone is consuming content on television now,” says Dentsu Aegis Network chairman and CEO South Asia, Ashish Bhasin, who admits that agencies which do not invest in this will be left behind.

Agrees Dasgupta, “Broadcasting will soon not be about a particular size of screens and pipes; it will reach consumers at multiple touchpoints through several streams.” BARC started the groundwork for digital measurement in 2015 and is currently in the process of finalising vendors for its digital measurement service.

And though big data sources complement audience measurement systems, they do come with a few challenges. The biggest of which, in a hugely diverse market like India, would be multiplicity of platforms and content providers.
Points out Aiyer, “There are many agencies which claim competence but there are very few which provide customised and reliable output with consistency. There is a need for agencies which focus solely on the television sector and provide analysis in industry terminology with insights which are actionable.”

The network in the past had used big data to determine show timings and have used user generated feedback to optimise channel programming.

However, too much data can deflect the focus of the marketing, programming and sales teams. The need is to institute a standardised output which provides actionable insights. “The market is begging for it, but it is not developed enough yet,” says Bhasin of Dentsu Aegis Network who adds that the challenge is the quality and ability to analyse the data.

Future of broadcasting

One must remember that it is still television which has the deepest penetration. At 674.5 million, the TV universe is over 50% of our population, and the medium reaches approximately 475 million people per day, which is much higher than internet subscribers.

The future of broadcasting has already begun through a convergence of previously siloed mediums — linear TV, digital and mobile.

A successful fused measurement system would have to bring together media consumption across all platforms, which would require integration of data sets such as panels, big data sources and digital census data.

With telco data infrastructure improving rapidly, and greater adoption of 3G and 4G in India, consumers will enjoy accessing their favourite content wherever they are, whenever they want, for free or a nominal cost. Over the next five years, players operating in discreet silos will inevitably come together and explore opportunities of mutual synergy.

Going forward, we will see the introduction of customised content strategies and additional bifurcation amoungst the target consumer within a platform, so that broadcasters can cater to their base in a more nuanced manner. One can already see traditional broadcasters partnering with tech companies and evolving into tech-savvy digital companies, as they embrace the future.

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