The most important use of Twitter was seen in 2008 when US President Barack Obama got onto the platform to engage with 18-25 year-olds to win the presidential election. Today, every personality and network across various genres uses Twitter to reach out to audiences and make major announcements, and TV broadcasters in India aren’t far behind. They have also identified the potential here and are forming a loop by engaging viewers both online and offline. In order to retain a viewer’s attention during commercial breaks, they take the conversations online with polls and spoiler alerts.
TV channels have been using Twitter’s full suite of products including Twitter Native Video, Twitter Amplify, Twitter Challenger app, Vine, Periscope, SnappyTV and TV analytics to boost viewer engagement and enrich the Twitter+TV experience. While earlier, viewers engaged through the hashtag, nowadays, tools like Twitter Mirror and Periscope give viewers a behind-the-scenes peek into happenings, from the comfort of their couches. Furthermore, Twitter is providing a second-screen experience through visual live tweeting.
“TV channels are hungry to do more. We are graduating to a slightly more evolved market and are seeing the approach change from a marketing based one to a more content oriented one,” says Viral Jani, head — TV partnerships, Twitter India.
But the crucial question that clients are asking is that out of the million followers that the channel has on its Twitter page, how many are actually coming to watch the show? “The biggest challenge that we face is while the followers are engaging with the content on the page, how much tune-in is it generating?” questions Suveer Bajaj, co-founder, FoxyMoron. BrandWagon analyses the opportunity and problem areas, genre-wise, for this phenomenon called Twitter TV.
The GEC game
The Hindi general entertainment genre is seeing constant promotional tweets being accompanied by innovations like sneak peeks, personalised conversations and more.
For example, Star Plus used hashtag based voting for its reality dance show Dance Plus to pick the contestants in the quarter final stage. A similar tactic was used by Zee TV for its Zee Rishtey Awards which decided winners using data tools. Moreover, when Star Plus launched the sitcom Sumit Sambhal Lega, the channel hosted a seven day stand-up comedy series only on Periscope.
In fact, the recently concluded ninth season of Bigg Boss on Colors, emerged as the most popular TV show on Twitter in 2015. Using exclusive native video content, the show upped the engagement quotient for fans powered by SnappyTV — which enables broadcasters to easily cut the feed of live television into short videos and upload seamlessly on Twitter.
A senior executive of a leading Hindi GEC comments, “While there is no direct conversion of viewership to tweeting, the overall social chatter and digital video consumption on a particular show does see a spike when the artists and the brand are jointly invested in it.”
Talking facts, Bigg Boss generated over 5.7 million tweets during the season by the users, over 168 million impressions generated organically and it outdid the previous season by 70% in terms of tweet volume.
Jani adds that videos are emerging as a big plus, and are seeing a 400% growth in native video views in India. This has enabled broadcasters to live tweet videos, GIFs and pictures.
Being a good sport
Now, take the sports genre. It has seen some interesting innovations using Twitter tools. The recently held WWE event in India used the Twitter Mirror tool; the first season of the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) introduced Twitter Kabaddi fan clubs and trump cards; and at the recent IPL auctions, SnappyTV was used to showcase the bidding process of the most sought after players.
Aneesh Madani, head of sports partnerships at Twitter India states that when sports broadcasters first started using the platform, it was mainly for sharing match schedules and updates, and as the platform grew, they now have the ability to tweet GIFs, six-second Vines and use Periscope.
“For broadcasters, the benefit is that any person tweeting can only watch it on TV. Through Match PointT20 on Star Sports or Extraa Innings during IPL, it creates an opportunity for fans to be live on TV and thus arouses their curiosity,” Madani continues. “Sports is a lot about appointment viewing but the build up to that is what creates the real interest.”
Some examples are ICC using Twitter during the Cricket World Cup, giving fans the opportunity to connect with #AskCaptain. Star Sports had #OwnTheJersey for the India-Australia series prior to the World Cup, wherein questions on TV could be answered on Twitter as you watched the game. The winner would own the new Indian jersey designed for the World Cup.
The ICC Cricket World Cup last year saw 1.4 billion tweets during the matches, showcasing the power of how things happen in real time. Similarly, with the IPL, there were 375 million impressions during the match windows.
In India, cricket clearly draws the most attention and most conversation. Other sports like kabaddi too are growing. Between the 2014 and 2015 season of PKL, Twitter saw around 250% growth in the opening weekend conversations.
The top sporting events on the platform in 2015 were the ICC Cricket World Cup followed by the World T20, IPL, PKL and the Indian Super League (ISL) along with International Premier Tennis League (IPTL).
Breaking news on Twitter?
Although Twitter is the platform where news breaks first nowadays, news broadcasters are making bulletins more engaging by using various tools to showcase unseen aspects.
Just a few weeks back, NDTV held the ‘Indian of the Year’ awards where Ranveer Singh and Farooq Abdullah did an
impromptu dance. NDTV immediately cut the clip through SnappyTV, put it up on the platform, and it went viral.
“Twitter is more important to news as it directly loops into the conversations in the country. In fact, most of the videos on the platform come from our news partners,” says Raheel Khursheed, head, news, politics and government at Twitter India. “We are still a breaking news platform but our partners see us as allies and not competitors.”
CNN-IBN anchor Bhupendra Chaubey conducts his interview on two screens, using Periscope and the news camera live on-air.
A new trend emerging in this genre is Twitter Town Halls, with Aaj Tak being the first news channel to turn it into a full-fledged show on TV. It works, because the show serves as premium content to the channel allowing it to reach larger audiences. It features celebrities and opinion leaders responding to the queries of Twitter followers.
“Our news channels have a complementing relationship with Twitter with each powering the other, leading to increased interactivity,” says Kalli Purie, group editorial director (broadcast and new media) at India Today Group. Latest research by Nielsen shows that Twitter TV activity can tell just how engaged the general viewing population is with the programming it watches. “In fact, it now serves as a bellwether for general audience engagement,” she adds. Going ahead, Twitter will focus on live video and more regional content through partnerships with regional news channels.
It would be safe to say that Twitter is a complementary tool for broadcasters to engage with their audience, drive conversation about programming and increase tune-in. “But when it comes to advertising on Twitter, a number of broadcasters are opting for influencer marketing due to the active presence of celebrities who are offering a particular number of followers, helping form opinions and driving conversations,” mentions Bajaj.
And yes, some challenges do persist, one of which is bandwidth. With 4G networks operating at 3G and 2G speed, the user experience suffers. Another is the reality that there is no credible platform measuring the engagement on Twitter and how it co-relates to the viewership pattern on TV.
Dolly Jha, executive director at Nielsen India believes that in India, Twitter is too small an entity vis-à-vis the population with access to internet. “So it might take some time before we see a synergy between Twitter and television content.” There is a need for measurement as well, but it depends on when advertisers think it is the right time to pay for that kind of measurement.
Jani states that they do see some heightened engagement on Twitter coinciding with a viewership peak on BARC, “but that doesn’t necessarily have to match because it’s like comparing apples to oranges.”
As a result, the focus is on making the experience better for users and last year Twitter launched as an app and a website in six different Indian languages, besides introducing language based hashtags. Jani says they are seeing an exponential growth in language based tweeting as well.
Experts state that beyond direct engagement, in the near future advertisers can look to Twitter TV metrics as a part of the media planning and buying process to identify shows with engaged audiences. Going forward, it will be imperative for both the mediums to ride on each other’s strengths to power their respective business interests.