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Indiantelevision.com's Media, Advertising, Marketing Special Report

New emerging technologies are going to change the way we consume media. It is a dynamic and constantly morphing scenario that confronts media researchers and marketers. Indiantelevision.com introduces the first of a series of studies by Group M's Maxus, which will cover a wide range of issues.

Indiantelevision.com would welcome such similar studies that add to a better understanding of our media landscape.

In this, the first such paper, Maxus dwells on Television and Generation Next.

"Incredibly Young India"! This might well be an appropriate coinage given the current demographics of the Indian population. Over the next decade, marketers are looking at the most lucrative and influential youth market in Indian history.

But crucial to profiting from this increasingly critical section of our society will also be a proper understanding of this fickle and extremely hard to please generation.



The fact that India is getting 'younger' is also reflected in our advertising - in 2005, advertising directed at the youth comprised 20 per cent of total ad spends, up from 16 per cent a few years ago. (Maxus estimates)

However, worryingly, youth engagement with TV is on the wane - time spent on TV is progressively declining.



Time Spent on TV viewing per day Index to 2002

 

(Source: TAM, 15-24 years, SEC A)

A look at similar numbers for housewives confirms that this is a youth only trend - housewife viewing is at best flat with spikes in some years.

Time Spent on TV viewing per day Index to 2002

 

(TG: Housewives, 25-44, SEC A)

So while more money is chasing the youth on TV year after year, the worry for marketers is the declining returns on their investment. TV channels aimed at the youth need to also contend with this problem. How do they get Gen Next to watch more TV?



Why is this happening?

The growing propensity to multi task also makes inroads into the TV preserve - not only is the youth much more on the move (college, tuition, evening job, partying…), they are also consuming multiple media simultaneously - SMS a friend, while on a chat site with FM blaring. The SMS shorthand has also shortened attention spans making the youth clamor for constant newness.

But of course, the biggest change agent has been the Wiring of Gen Next' - a phenomenon sweeping urban India - SMS, internet, gaming, iPods…

Apart from the technology, these gadgets fulfill a very basic youth need of providing a network: their virtual, private world offers them the peer group belonging and security, exchange of information and a social cocoon that helps fight loneliness characteristic of nuclear families today.

Most of the entertainment options that appeal to this whole new segment is actually done with others and not alone. Be it going to multiplexes, hanging out in coffee pubs, sweating it out at gaming parlours or chatting online - all are group acts.

Hence the cult rise of IPods, chat rooms, networks, Google, iTunes and PodCasts, on line messengers…

All the gadgets and entertainment options mentioned above are:

Interactive and/or consumer created

Warm and friendly inviting active participation

Platforms where there are very few pre-set norms or content limitations

So, is it doomsday for TV?

Certainly not! TV has some inherent strengths - the challenge for TV is to amplify its strengths and leverage the new digital world to expand its youth catchment.

The starting point of course has to be content. In the convergence era of information, communication and entertainment, the last remains a bastion for a (relatively) large screen, audio-visual medium like TV.

This is the area that TV needs to build on and develop far greater depth in content. The question is how? For one, we really need to stop thinking of the youth as one amorphous mass of wired, accessorised, colloquialised beings.

The content generators have to realize that there are at least four life stages that are spawned in the decade of 15-24 years - leaving school, college years, early work life and in some cases, matrimony - each with their own share of angst and joy. While some content has meaningfully focused on the first two, nothing has been done on the rest

The possibilities are many:

A soap completely scripted by the audience through emails and the winning contestant being sent on a creative writing course to a US university

A news hour exclusively showcasing reports from "Citizen Journalists" (anyone with camera-mobile), who can SMS/email in their content

A muti-contestant Gaming platform on TV completely enabled at the back-end to require just a mobile phone to participate

A few ideas, like the ones above, have in fact been experimented with by various channels. However, these have been a smattering on the larger landscape of music countdown shows! One way to increase impact for these shows would be to package them in a 'youth' time slot. We have an afternoon band for the ladies at home, one early evening for kids, but no time band exists which invites youngsters into 'their' world.

The second big focus area for TV needs to be on becoming a part of the digital youth network. In this regard, content providers need to augment their content through the digital world as well as sample it through the digital world.

Snippets of programming converted into mobile/mail friendly formats like 3GP or MPEG and mailed/SMS'd out

Creation of specific chatrooms on popular portals that help the prospective audience understand (and augment) the programming intent

Previous episodes easily accessible online, but for the fresh episodes they have to tune in

In the end, TV will be an integral part of the digital world - the challenge for TV will be to retain its glory as the defining point of entertainment - just like its content be it cricket or serials dominates the drawing room and kitchen conversations, will it also dominate the canteen, the SMS, the blogs and other ways in which the youth communicate?

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