Sunday, October 18, 2009

Indian TV's Long Tail of Content Consumption

Indian TV's Long Tail of Content Consumption

Since I'd read Chris Anderson's Long Tail, I have been curious on constantly studying the phenomenon in the way Television gets consumed in India. Does the Long Tail exist in the Indian TV business? How does it get impacted every year due to new channels or new modes of distribution?

Latest Indicators : Tail is growing longer!
Shown below is a graph that plots 8 "Tails" for 8 years. The curves look fascinating! The graph shows Ratings for the TOP 100 Programs of those periods. What's absolutely clear is that while the ‘Head’ of the curve is flattening out, the ‘Tail’ is getting extended. The most obscure, the most niche and the most specialist program is likely to find its niche audience today while the benchmarks of a "Hit Program" are falling. As a result, the Tail could be lifting itself up at those niche levels (say, Rank 400-500 or 1000-1100 - not captured in this graph). It should be argued here that since the TV universe itself has grown considerably in these 8 years, the reduced percentage of viewers for the Top 4-5 programs could still mean that more people are watching the top shows in absolute terms.

Reasons for Hastened Tail Elongation
The reasons for the tail to grow longer are very clear. Anderson argues in his book that the reason why content consumption creates the long tail effect is due to increase in distribution capacities that let more amount of content to be made available. This applies beautifully to the Indian TV scene. Since 2004-05 as Digital TV has been enabled, distribution pipes for the TV industry have grown wider, letting more TV channels pass through. While Analog Cable of the 90s would be on an average allow 70 channels, Digital TV (DTH, Digital Cable, IPTV ) can allow technically 100s of channels to be distributed.

Not surprisingly a host of channels have made an entry into the market. More than 200 since Year 2000! These channels have to offer a differentiated content product to carve a place for themselves acting as a double whammy on the Long Tail - that of increased distribution and specialist content. This makes the tail elongation faster - much to the dismay of General Entertainment Channels (GECs) such as Zee TV and STAR Plus. Viewers, of course, stand to benefit due to newer content types and genres being available on TV.

Implications of Long Tails
  1. Lower TV ratings for even 'Mass' Channels
  2. Lesser predictability to new launches
  3. Higher failure rates. Rather spectacular crashes for big, mega program launches
  4. Targeted marketing is a need for channel/ program marketing
  5. Higher Marketing budgets for programs that cut across different segments
  6. Need for fatter pipeline of content innovations - especially since the failure rate is going up

(Graph details : Common week considered for each of the years - 2002 to 2009) from TAM TV Ratings - info courtesy :

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    The Information is quite informative and interesting.
    I had read a related(but Slightly off topic) article sometime before which I would like to share.
    It is about the set-top box and peoplemeter as a way to measure TV viewing

    Following is the excerpt from CMS India(

    The link for the whole document is:

    The set-top box cannot be used as a way to measure viewing
    behaviour reliably. Because what it does is it that it works as a
    set meter rather than as a peoplemeter. A peoplemeter is supposed
    to do two things; first, it is supposed to pick up who is watching at
    a particular point of time and second, it is supposed to pick up what
    is being watched at a given moment of time.

    A set meter like a settop box can tell you what is being watched as a channel if you have
    a reverse key from a set top box, but it will never tell you who is
    watching it per se. So that’s one point about the set-top box. The
    second is that consumers tend not to switch off set-top boxes from
    the main plug. What they do instead is use the remote of the settop
    box to switch off the set-top box. When that happens the last
    channel watched on the set-top box continues to be picked up as
    being on at that moment of time, and continues to be played on a
    minute to minute basis until the next time the TV is turned on or
    the set-top box is put off completely. This means inflated viewing
    during a time when there was no viewing at all.

    So these are two issues that arise from set-top measurements. There are trials
    across various countries on the use of set-top boxes, but finally what
    is working is the peoplemeter in conjunction with the set-top box—
    this is the way that movement forward has actually happened. With
    this, the set-top box can help you in mass sampling, and people
    meter data can be modelled acording to that of the set-top box to
    give you even more refined viewership information.
    The only other problem is that the set-top box is a purchase
    made by the consumer in place of the cable operator. So it can skew
    data towards a specific socio-economic group or MHI group, or in
    terms of geographical area which can result in inaccuracy in terms
    Television Viewership Measurement: Dilemma & Challenges 19
    of the overall measurement of the city. But apart from these lacuna,
    using set-top box data is not a problem.

    The peoplemeter, on the other hand is one of the most advanced
    technologies. Across the world television is measured largely
    through the peoplemeter. It picks up the switching on and off of
    the TV, the point of time that the channel was on, the channel
    change and simultaneously gives information on the person who
    watched it. simultaneously with information about the person who
    watched it—which household member has actually watched, and
    when he commenced and ended the viewing. The household is
    given a remote that works on the basis of the peoplemeter buttons
    on it, this allows you to monitor the information completely.
    The meter is able to pick up the information from the channel
    that’s pressed on the remote and passes it on to the meter which
    records that this is the channel that has been watched. The remote
    actually helps the audience in the home who is watching record the
    same information, by pressing his or her button assigned on the
    meter. Each button represents each individual in the home. When
    the individual presses the button, it enables the meter to know who
    is watching at a given moment of time. Therefore we know from
    the peoplemeter who is watching at a given moment of time, second
    by second.

    Dhiraj Kumar
    What's on India