Cultivating a community of engaged audiences

Technologies are emerging to bridge the gap between broadcasters and their audiences, who are increasingly sharing their lifestyles and media experiences with other users of social media platforms. How are broadcasters and content producers approaching each of these individual platforms differently? Josephine Tan finds some answers …

Remember the time when American Idol first started? Millions of fans were fixated on their TV screens, with their phones and computers by their side. In order to get their favourite contestant into the next round, they were vigorously voting through telephone lines, Internet and SMS texts. That was in 2002, when the phenomenal reality singing competition ushered in second-screen audience participation with the introduction of text-based and mobile voting, creating a point of interaction between the broadcaster and the audience.

To create market awareness for animated series Ejen Ali, Primeworks Studios and Wau Animation have developed two game apps — Ejen Ali: MATA Training Ground and Ejen Ali: Emergency — enabling the producers to evaluate the interaction level among its targeted viewers aged between nine and 12.

While broadcasting may have led the interactive content wave for more than a decade, many of these interactions are being migrated to social media platforms such as Twitter, the World Economic Forum pointed out in its white paper, Digital Transformation of Industries: Media, Entertainment and Information.

The ubiquity of social media and smartphones, according to the 2016 report, empowers content creators with “greater power” to create new storylines, and with improved connectivity, data collection and analytics, content creators are able to take advantage of this to harness their audiences’ ideas when creating shows. The report also revealed that enabling audiences to interact with content creators has the potential to build more loyalty and engagement with the content — particularly if second-screen support for an interactive, community-based experience can be designed.

There is a need for media operators to establish a connection with their viewers in order to retain them on their platform, as viewers can be loyal to a platform if they feel included, or if they know that the operator is responding from the other end, says Marini Ramlan, general manager, innovation and distribution, Primeworks Studios, the content subsidiary of Media Prima.

Interactive TV requires the viewer’s participation to influence the outcome of the main content, Marini tells APB. “As for social TV, it means that the viewer is commenting and discussing the content on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, content creators like us will create special content surrounding the main programme designed to engage with its communities.”

For instance, Primeworks Studios and Wau Animation have created two game apps for the Malaysian animated series Ejen Ali. Available for download on Android and iOS devices, the two games — Ejen Ali: MATA Training Academy and Ejen Ali: Emergency — are designed for users to play independently without the need to correspond with the actual animated series aired on TV.

Marini explains: “Ejen Ali is the first animation series to be produced as the intellectual property (IP) of Media Prima. We developed the games to build our IP and create market awareness. The games also enable us to evaluate the interaction level among our targeted viewers aged between nine and 12.”

In the early stages of the series roll-out, she reveals that an experiment was conducted to test the interactivity of cross-media. She elaborates: “The format was simple — during telecast, we ran TV bugs that displayed special codes, which can be used to unlock levels in the Ejen Ali game. However, the results were not too encouraging as we found that we needed a high frequency of on-screen graphic logos and promotions to encourage engagement. We also learnt that people who are playing our games are older compared to the children watching the series on our free-to-air (FTA) platforms.”

To better understand its audiences, Primeworks Studios has shifted its concentration onto building the Ejen Ali community on social media platforms, and has been producing different types of content to suit each platform. “We have created Instagram Art for our global fans, YouTube tutorials for the communities, and episode reviews for our older fans on Facebook,” Marini says. “These kinds of special content helps keep Ejen Ali appealing for both ourselves as IP owners, as well as the audiences, and we will continue to engage with them through these platforms as we feel that they are more likely to stay with us if we continue keeping them engaged.”

Dr Ahmad Zaki Mohd Salleh, group general manager, engineering, Media Prima, agrees with Marini’s point on the importance in establishing a connection with the viewers, and elaborates: “Viewers are becoming more discerning when it comes to media consumption. Lifestyle and affluence are changing viewers’ demands; thus, understanding them is imperative in order to be able to cater for these individuals’ requirements.”

To expand its digital content and digital media platforms, Media Prima has recently announced the acquisition of Rev Asia Holdings, a Malaysia-headquartered digital media group, by the group’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Media Prima Digital. The RM105-million (US$24.46-million) acquisition will see the group’s digital platform audience reaching up to 10.4 million, according to Media Prima, thus establishing Media Prima as the third-largest digital media company in Malaysia after Goggle and Facebook with 15.7 million and 14.1 million respectively.

Mohamad Ariff Ibrahim, group CFO of Media Prima, comments that the acquisition “is timely” as the group has embarked aggressively on digital-based initiatives to reduce dependency on their traditional revenue base. He continues: “The strategic acquisition of Rev Asia Holdings demonstrates our commitment to capitalising on the growing demands for digital content among consumers by expanding our reach and further enhancing the group’s competencies in digital content marketing, digital content curation and digital native marketing ads.

“The acquisition is expected to result in the growth of revenue contributions from Media Prima’s digital platform exponentially while expanding our reach and platforms further. With this acquisition, Media Prima will also be one of the fully integrated media companies, and one of the largest digital publishers in this region.”

Since 2016, Media Prima has launched several key initiatives to capitalise on the growing demand of digital services and online commerce among Malaysian consumers. Through the group’s media platforms, these initiatives include the launch of CJ Wow Shop, a home-shopping network which integrates TV and online, and Super Deals, a platform that combines e-commerce and radio.

Furthermore, Media Prima has also enhanced tonton, its over-the-top (OTT) subscriber-based video streaming service.

Dr Zaki concludes: “It’s no secret that all media companies have to move into the digital landscape. With the declining print circulation and Adex revenue for linear TV, moving to digital is no longer a choice but a necessity. With the extended reach, Media Prima shall integrate most of its current OTT services, online portals and other new services yet to be offered.”

For Vietnam Digital Television (VTC), the company has been focus­ing on engaging its audiences via social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. “Although VTC is a national broadcaster, we still have some of our content available on our social media platforms in order to cater to younger audiences. Through these channels, we want to attract our viewers back to watching the programmes on their TV sets as it provides them with a better viewing experience,” Phan Tien Dung, CTO at VTC, explains.

Due to the explosion of media and information brought forth by the Internet of Things (IoT), each viewer has now developed their own genre of interest, and their preferred platform in obtaining the information they require. Phan elaborates: “Instead of watching and listening from only one broadcaster traditionally, viewers today are able to verify the sources of information from the Internet. For instance, some viewers are watching the TV programme while finding more information relating to that programme. Hence, we have to provide them with as much necessary information as possible in order to retain them on our channels.”

As for HOOQ, an OTT streaming service founded in 2015, it launched its Facebook page in November 2016, and has accumulated more than 1.4 million of followers to date. Audience engagement is a “large part” of any video service and there is no one silver bullet but a myriad of tools that help deliver on a successful engagement matrix, declares Allison Chew, head of brand and communications at HOOQ.

Separating the focus into two areas — personal engagement and social engagement — she explains that the key in personal engagement is keeping a “constant dialogue”. This, according to Chew, can be carried out in the forms of customer relationship management (CRM), push notifications, in-app recommendations and social media, when introducing new or curated titles to the viewers while providing them another reason to engage with the service.

She concludes: “On social engagement, it is a wider reach with both subscribers and potential subscribers. It is key to encourage engagement, and in order to do so, it needs to be topical, relevant, and provide a potential viewpoint from the audience where they are nudged into engaging with the topic, and finally form interest in your products.”


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