Interactive programming, the new trend

MUMBAI: Ever imagined talking to Aamir Khan while watching his film? Thanks to the broadcasters who have now started taking the digital approach seriously, the dream is turning into a reality for many.

For the country which eats, sleeps and breathes movies, it will be unwise of movie channels to not create a connection between the two. Multi-screening is a reality today and media planners believe that if one needs to survive in today’s digital age then a broadcaster needs to be available on all the platforms.

Taking a cue from changing consumption patterns, the increasing number of middle-income households and the propensity of consumers to spend on leisure and entertainment, channels today are pursuing two important facets - innovation and interaction.

A case in point is &Pictures, from the Zeel stable, which for Aamir Khan’s first unreleased movie, Chale Chalo, invited fans of the movie and the actor together and gave them the opportunity to watch the movie along with Khan himself.

Chale Chalo, a documentary film, based on the making of Khan’s Oscar nominated movie Lagaan, became a talking-point even before it was aired on the channel. The buzz created on the social media and the chance to speak to the actor during live dial-ins achieved an unbelievable ratings. “No one expected a documentary film to garner more viewership than the original film,” says pleased Zeel executive vice president - marketing, national channels Akash Chawla.

“Until a few year ago, only News channels had an option of live dial-ins, but since second screen is becoming an important part of viewing today and is becoming a reality in India as well, we had to go beyond the usual,” he adds.

The concept of bringing high-level of interactivity was later also used by Sony Entertainment Television for the premiere of Dhoom 3. The channel wanted to interact with its younger audience and hence, invited kids for a live call-in to the Dhoom star, Aamir Khan.

In an earlier interview to, Sony Max senior VP and business head Neeraj Vyas had said that the use of digital space has became a kind of a case study for them. “Even post the IPL, we have some very aggressive plans. We were the first ones to have live tweets during the telecast of Jab Tak Hai Jaan. We got close to 2,500 responses. We also had Twitter contests called #TalaashHunt for Talaash. Through the contest we added around 11,545 followers from 11 to 14 July, 2013, the day the movie was telecast,” he had said then.

Recently, Sony Max showcased a special programme Pancham - Mujhey Chaltey Jaana Hai that showcased never-seen-before nuggets about Rahul Dev Burman aka Pancham Da.

The channels know that viewers today want more than just plain-vanilla movie watching experience. &Pictures created a crowd-sourced Online Milo Sajna during its launch a year ago, where viewers wrote a script and the channel shot the best one and showcased it online. It added another feather in its cap with a blogger activity in a train for the movie Chennai Express.

However, the new trend isn’t as simple as one might think of. Depending on projects, teams (research and digital) sit together to ideate and come up with tactical measures to woo viewers. Channels are even earmarking a certain amount ranging from 10 to 20 per cent of the total marketing budget on these projects.

“Anything innovative always catches advertisers fancy,” says Zee’s chief sales officer Ashish Sehgal while adding that the brands too want to interact with viewers and hence, are eager to advertise on such innovations.

As per sources, a normal film would charge as less as Rs 6,000 for every 10 second ad slot; however, the innovations especially for a blockbuster film can charge up to Rs 2 lakh. “Chale Chalo sold 10 second ad spots for a lakh. And the interactions helped the channel earn almost Rs 2 crore from it which would have never happened especially for a documentary,” says a planner.

The innovations are moving regional as well. Zee Marathi premiered Fandry with a difference. The campaign was woven around the concept Jaaniv Zhali, Badal Havaa that aimed at bringing about change in society and making a difference in the lives of children. The channel tied up with 10 NGOs that work in the area of child development and protection and raised funds for these NGOs through the movie and also got the likes of Nana Patekar, Sonali Kulkarni, Urmila Matondkar to promote it.

Media observers believe that though it is a good trend and getting the movie channels what they want, but with time the innovations might overlap and hence, each channel will have to differentiate itself from the other. “A lot will depend on how they keep the mark up and come up with innovations that will attract viewers and not come up with an interactive programming just because it is a fad,” opines a media planner.

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