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Home > Business > Special

Your favourite TV serial now on the Net!

Prakriti Prasad | March 22, 2006

Convergence of television and portals appears to be the latest mantra for entertainment even as television channels are looking at extending their appointment with viewers beyond the half-to-one-hour slot that's usually allotted to programmes.

"Entertainment is a big bet today. And we're pioneering this concept of bringing not just reality TV, but other interesting shows and matches on the PCs for Net users across India," gushes Surya Mantha, senior vice-president, Sify.

Sify Max has partnered with popular TV reality shows and other TV-related programmes including Indian Idol, Saregamapa, Sanya and Zee Cine Awards.

If Mantha is to be believed, television viewers in India, like in the west, need no longer rush home to catch their favourite television show or a cricket match on the telly, for portals will bring all of this to them to be relished at their own convenient time.

But how much of this is already a reality? Quite a bit, says Kaushal Modi, vice-president, content syndication and wireless telephony, Sony Entertainment Television.

"We've tied up with a host of portals like SifyMax, Indiatimes and Tata VSNL and are doing lot of interesting stuff in terms of hosting not just the half-hour clips of our popular shows but organising interactions with viewers, games and gossips. All this has obviously helped us in extending our appointment with viewers beyond the fixed time slots," he adds enthusiastically.

While channels and portals admit they are still figuring out the entire model, they unanimously agree that the space is evolving in a big way.

Tarun Mehra, head marketing, Zee TV, says: "We had tied up with SifyMax during Challenge 2005, Indiatimes for Hum Paanch and Kam Ya Zyaada. There are a couple of other deals planned for the future." Mehra believes any show that targets the youth should be promoted on the Net.

"It's an exciting time for all of us, entertainers and viewers alike," concurs Niret Alva, CEO Miditech. As a content provider to television channels of every genre, Alva would know.

"Thanks to changing technologies and modern gadgets, viewers can now decide when and where to watch their favourite programmes - whether on TV, PC or their mobile phones," says Alva.

While the key objective remains the same - to entertain audiences, the delivery systems are changing enabling television content makers bigger space to innovate.

Star India, on its part too claims to be actively using multiple platforms to provide a surround effect to its viewers. Noticing the visible changes in the consuming habits of viewers in the last one year Star claims to have rapidly scaled up its television offering on the portal.

"This focus has resulted in over five times increase in traffic to this website in the last nine months," says Ajay Vidyasagar, executive vice-president, marketing, Star India.

The website has, in fact, recently launched its new video streaming property - Indya Tube. Star plans to focus on video streaming in the coming months.

Evidently, it's a win-win situation for all three - viewers, broadcasters and the portals. While the advantages from a Net user's perspective include anytime access to their favourite TV show, access from a non-TV environment, platform to meet other fans and favourite contestants and opportunity to participate in show-related votings, producers' get to build more interest and participation in the show, get access to wider audience through the medium of the Internet, a robust and cost-effective promotional-cum-marketing tool and a platform that can serve as a library for archiving show-related content.

The response to this trend of convergence of television and Internet, maintain broadcasters and webcasters, has been overwhelming. "They are among the most popular content categories on our site," says Sify's Mantha, "The numbers say it all. A chat with a contestant on Fame Gurukul drew over 5,000 to 7,000 users and more than 10,000 questions."

Traffic goes up to six million page views on a single day for Saregamapa, and message boards active throughout the day attract over 50,000 users, he adds.

The response from the advertising community too has been encouraging, say webcasters. "More and more sponsors are open to trying out newer platforms to reach out to consumers," says Modi.

Does this mean watching television may soon be on its way out? Not so soon, feels Krishna Prasad, vice-president programming, MSN India: "After all what's the level of Internet penetration in our country- minuscule? Moreover, it entails high infrastructure cost in terms of digitising content and ensuring higher bandwidth."

Understandably, what broadcasters are currently looking at is an attitudinal shift rather than audiences watching, say, a 400-episode of Jassi on the Net. That probably explains why MSN India, which does not provide television content per se as of now, doesn't rule out jumping the bandwagon anytime soon.

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