India’s cyberspace will soon offer netizens a chance to play finance minister and be heard on two leading channels on national TV on 29 February, the same day the Union Budget is being presented in Parliament.
Uploading creativity: Campus18’s online hunt for the best video talent will give participants, between 18 and 25 years of age, a chance to direct India’s first Internet serial.
The initiative, termed Public Ka Vitt, requires the applicants to log on to a website, post a blog on what would be their dream budget and answer key questions compiled by professionals. Five winners of the online initiative, launched by social networking site Ibibo.com, in collaboration with Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd’s Zee News and Zee Business channels, will then get to present their dream budget on national TV. Former Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha will help pick the winners.
Call it reality TV hitting cyberspace as marketers and advertisers try to marry the popularity of reality TV shows in India to the growing use of the Internet.
Apart from the Ibibo and Zee’s tie-up, several companies, such as Campus18, the digital arm of media conglomerate Network 18 Fincap Pvt. Ltd, the local arm of global software solutions provider Microsoft Corp., Yamaha Motor India Pvt. Ltd, Bharti Airtel Ltd and online news and entertainment company Rediff.com India Ltd’s media sharing platform, iShare, are all planning similar moves.
Campus18, for instance, has announced a nationwide hunt for the best video talent where participants who are between ages 18 and 25 years can upload their three-minute original video on the contest site and thereafter be selected, judged and christened the winner, all on the Web, and by their peers online.
“The winning team will then go on to create and direct India’s first Internet serial, a daily show on subjects which interest the targeted age group,” says Puneet Johar, managing director, Tangerine Digital Entertainment, the media services company for Campus18. According to Johar, the Internet show will go live around April.
Similarly, Microsoft plans to roll out its initiative in the next month. Tentatively called Office Makeover, and aimed at promoting Microsoft Office software, the show requires participants to send in a video clip on Microsoft’s site, stating why their workplace is in need of a makeover. The winner would eventually win a makeover for their workplace, courtesy Microsoft.
In 2007, reality TV shows accounted for 9% of total programming among general entertainment channels and contributed Rs225 crore in advertising, a 168% jump from spends in 2006, according to a report by MindShare Insight, the research arm of media buying agency MindShare.
It is the success of reality shows on TV that has initiated the response from advertisers for the Internet. And if done right, experts believe that the Web could be a more profitable environment than TV to harbour the concept of reality shows. “If content is generated right, the Web will be a better environment for reality shows than TV as the Web is concurrent in nature while TV has its limitations in terms of regulations,” says Sidharth Rao, chief executive and co-founder, Webchutney Studio Pvt. Ltd, an online search advertising firm. “We are likely to see participation from companies in varied sectors launching reality shows on the Web this year.”
And interest is indeed strong especially from prominent advertisers in TV. “By June, Airtel will be launching a reality show online,” claims a senior executive from a media service agency, who did not want to be identified. “It is currently a work in progress.”
Another prominent advertiser, Yamaha Motor, is also launching a reality show online in the coming month. “Our reality contest is on the lines of ‘art of engineering’, the company’s tag line,” said Sanjay Tripathy, general manager, research and development product planning, Yamaha Motor, who didn’t disclose further information on the initiative.
“We are shifting our marketing focus to the online space because our target consumer can be reached here,” Tripathy said.
Rediff’s iShare, has also been approached by two major advertisers to develop a reality show for them. “A major mobile operator and an international tourism board recently approached us to develop a reality show for them on iShare. We are currently working on it,” said a spokesperson, declining to elaborate.
For advertisers, producing a reality show online is also nearly one-tenth the cost. According to Webchutney’s Rao, the total production costs for an online reality show is close to Rs35 lakh, while a reality show such as the popular Kaun Banega Crorepati, can cost above Rs30 crore, according to industry estimates.
The findings of a 2007 study by IBM, dubbed Internet Rivals Declining TV as Primary Media Source, notes that the Internet is now on a par with TV in terms of time spent on the two media. According to the survey, consumers are demonstrating their desire for both wired and wireless access to content: an average of 81% surveyed globally indicated they’ve watched or want to watch PC video, and an average of 42% indicated they’ve watched or want to watch mobile video.
However, industry professionals believe that online reality initiatives are still very niche in the Indian market and for it to have the mass-market effect as it has in the West, technology needs to be upgraded.
“Bandwidth and lag times need to be dealt with in India before the concept moves from a niche marketing tool to a mass market success,” says Alok Kejriwal, founder and chairman C2W Group, a wireless marketing solutions company.