UTV Stars and bindass big on digital

MUMBAI: If one could say that digital and youngsters go hand-in-hand, then it won’t be wrong considering the amount of time youngsters spend online.

A look around would be proof enough - almost everyone is busy with their mobiles, tablets or laptops. Therefore, for a youth channel to have an online presence is as important as breathing!

Disney-UTVnetwork which has two channels – bindass and UTV Stars - under its banner caters largely to youngsters. And the channels are making/taking full efforts to take these brands where the youth are.

“A strong online presence across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and web destinations is a significant step in that direction… Our strategy is to provide our web users with constant updates on our programming and also create a platform for the youth to get together and enjoy content on Bollywood and youth oriented themes,” says Disney UTV’s COO – Digital Sameer Ganapathy.

The number game

Both channels – binadss and UTVStars - have a strong presence on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter wherein they try to give their audience something different from the rest. For example, when the IPL was on, unlike others who just give the score or the wickets which were available on all portals the channel gave its target audience behind-the-scenes insights on cricketer’s wives and how they were egging on and cheeringfor their spouses as they battled for India on the cricket pitch.

Disney UTVs COO - Digital Sameer

Ganapathy feels constant updates

on the digital platforms will create

traction among the youth

Apart from that, the network gives importance to humorous content in its posts across genres such as technology, automobiles, Bollywood, travel, sports etc.

On Facebook, bindass has over three million fans which lets them boast of being the most engaged youth entertainment (channels) on the social networking site in the country. As for, other networking sites, on twitter it has more than 6,600 followers and on YouTube (for which bindass creates original content) it has more than 64 million views with close to 90,000 subscribers.

UTVStars which was launched around two years ago (Aug 2011) has 900,000 fans on Facebook, 20,000+ followers on twitter and 88 million views on YouTube with 96,000 subscribers who have access to all the shows and behind the scene videos.

The channel's digital team knows that all three platforms differ, but each is important in its own way as the objective it serves varies. Facebook and Twitter let them interact and engage with their fans. YouTube channels serve two purposes - the first as a destination for viewers to catch up on TV shows that might have been missed out on TV, and the second as to lure new audiences on the back of original content.

Connecting with content

UTV group CEO and founder chairman Ronnie Screwvala is normally known to quip: “I’m original, so I want original." And the entire group has made that it's mandate: hence, the initiative to create fresh original content online too. “80 per cent of the audience on YouTube is male. 

Hence, we created a new destination for young men looking for the edge in the mating game - AXE Chickipedia, an entertaining webisodic original content series around a young guy and the funny situations he faces in the mating game! We took engagement and participation to a whole new level by giving viewers a chance to share their own mating game experiences, and the funniest ones became a Chickipedia episode. Eventually, 40 per cent of our 26 episodes were made from stories shared by our viewers themselves.” brags Sameer.

Chickipedia has 2.1 million video views, with 60 per cent audience retention.

Chickipedia's success encouraged the team to come up with a new show MENtals. Launched earlier this year, it focuses on situations reqular girls in romantic relationships face - albeit with a humorous undertone.

Music is one of the main categories which the channels focuses on.

“Music is an important aspect of the lives of youth and particularly at bindass we have always maintained a compelling and healthy mix of shows and music. Following that philosophy, another unique proposition that we recently launched is bindass Jukebox”, says Sameer.

The application combines the experience of Facebook with that of television viewing making it interactive. Through bindass Jukebox users are able to rank music by voting for their favorite songs listed and interact with other users as well.

It gives users a chance to select their favourite song, dedicate the song to their friends and loved ones and most importantly watch their dedication message along with their profile image live on the channel. The playlist is created on the basis of users' Facebook votes and is then played out on television within three hours from the time voting starts. This works well as it provides almost instant gratification to young folks, as it allows them to get peer recognition, especially when their profiles are seen on TV.

Similarly, UTV Stars has Tia’s Request show. Users vote for their fav songs on the UTV stars Facebook page and this gets aired on the TV channel along with their dedications.

Money matters

When asked to explain the sources of revenue on the online platform, Sameer says, “With YouTube, monetisation occurs through run of network inventory that YouTube runs, sponsorships through show integrations as well as now with subscriptions. We are exploring subscriptions for our premium content while building audiences and viewership through ad-support both via run of network inventory monetisation as well as sponsorship integration.”

As for Facebook and Twitter, they are yet to come up with a native monetisation model for publishers. “However, through using our engaged audience base on these platforms, we are creating transmedia properties like bindass Jukebox on Facebook as well as platforms such as sponsored tweets to monetise audiences there. We plan to increase such media properties that can be monetised,” he adds.

One thing is clear that since youth entertainment is a dynamic genre and hence, it is important to go beyond TV and create a strong presence where young people tend to spend their time whether it is Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. And gauging from their ongoing initiatives, Bindass and UTV Stars, seem to be taking the right steps.

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