Transforming Television Content

The Broadcasting industry needs a new vision, a new path and some new tools to stay relevant. In the age of attention deficit, fueled by a billion choices, we need to reinvent TV. (When I say TV, I mean TV content, irrespective of whether it is delivered through Cable, DTH or Fiber). We can’t do that by pandering to the whims of a remote wielding consumer or a restless finger that can swipe out anything in less than a second. We need to go back to the roots of being human.

Interaction, Engagement, Participation : Not long ago, these were the fundamental elements of our social life. But today people chat, share and comment, talking AT each other and all AT the same time, resembling a classroom without a teacher, with so much noise and very little connection, discussion or learning.

Undivided attention and a commitment to spend loyal time with creators and their creation: These were fundamental to how we engaged with arts and entertainment. Today, most people keep surfing, just like window shopping.

The Broadcast industry, is one of the oldest media industries, next to Newspapers. And we have a responsibility to do something about this decay.

It is a myth to believe that a billion crowd sourced videos on the internet or a billion hash tagged opinions on twitter is making the society better. Or that people shifting attention from one content to another, within a few minutes is a result of a healthy evolution in choices.

Content that is curated and produced, content that can hold people on their seats for long periods, content that can emotionally connect and engage, almost always have greater social impact and benefits. TV is one of the few mediums, that can provide emotional fulfillment, for spending long yet meaningful time. It is an important social function. At a price that is so very affordable. So instead of aping other forms of media, TV has to hold its fort and differentiate itself.

But TV today is quite far from fulfilling its true potential. Most of the TV content today, (except a few exceptions like Airtel Super Singer on Star Vijay) looks more like a facebook notification feed, each channel holding my attention for a short while. Or like a series of short video clips, whose sole purpose is to keep my fingers off the remote. Or like an attention seeking child. Or a boyfriend always trying to impress the girl, rarely allowing the relationship to go deeper. No wonder TV has become a popular distraction tool, something that you go to, when you have nothing else to do.

Topping it all is a measurement system that is not only outdated, but also misleading. Measuring which channel is ON and on how many TVs it is ON, is not going to tell us how engaging and fulfilling our content is. Measuring success with Advertisement revenues works in the short term, but is a double edged sword in the long run. Brands are already seeing a diminishing rate of return on this medium and more and more money is going away to digital. If we continue to use these traditional measures, the TV industry is sure to lose its way and become extinct.

Everyone knows that it is time to transform the medium or perish. We need content that can inspire people to interact, participate and engage with the content and its creators. Not on Social media discussions later, but right then, while they are before the screen watching the program.That should be the true measure of our transformation, the true metric that will guide us through this transformation.

If we are not successful in this metric, it just means that our content is not engaging enough, has not emotionally connected and does not hold them in their seats. It just means that their eyes may be on the screen, but their hearts and minds are drifting elsewhere.

We should tell content owners and creators, business heads and CXOs, that this is how they will be measured in the future. How many interactions?. How many responses? How many votes?

Today we have tools like TTAPP messenger that works even on a 2G connection. So the question of “how do we measure” is no longer relevant.

Sure there will be a few who have the rare combination of vision and wisdom to lead this from the front. And there will be others who will follow later.

I am reminded of a dialogue towards the end of the movie in “Moneyball” (About Baseball in USA)

“This is a new method for selecting the players and playing the game. People who are not rejigging themselves to this new paradigm, will soon become extinct like dinosaurs”

Disclosure: The Author is the founder and director of truetrp.com, whose product TTAPP Messenger, is used for audience polling, interaction and engagement.

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