Benjamin Grubbs, executive director, Interactive Media, Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific, shares his thoughts about the opportunities and challenges faced by the company in the digital space. Excerpts from the interview:
What brings you to India this time around?
I am here several times around the year, but this trip will specifically focus on piloting and pioneering some mobile content for this. Moreover, we have been developing some Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) elsewhere in the region and we are eager to get some distribution deals in place for India as well. Some of these games have micro transactions and we are hoping to make good of that space. The challenge for us though is that it is not a one-stop solution even across Asia.
Turner has traditionally been known for its television content. Do you see a lot of integration across traditional and new media at Turner?
Actually, at Turner, it works together. We are developing original content for the television platform, and the digital group is working a lot more closely with the television production team to develop properties across several platforms. For example, there is a movie – Level Up - that was launched in the US on Thanksgiving where kids become a part of a MMORPG. We saw the script a year ago, and we developed a game around it in Argentina and the game was launched in late November, a few days before the movie was aired. We saw a surge in the number of gamers around the movie date and new content is being added to the game now. In February, we are coming out with a television series in the US under the same franchise. So the game is central to the story of the movie, then the game continued as a bridge for the upcoming series. We are bringing that to Asia as well later in 2012.
Other than this, we have seen a lot of content that were shared on YouTube for testing which have grown to become full-fledged television series. That is one aspect, and then there are instances of content produced for digital going on to other platforms as well. Toonix is one great example of that. Though it started off as a character for the website in Argentina, it has now evolved to have several on-air as well as offline properties across several markets. As a result, I would say that the digital medium allows you an opportunity to seed the idea and gather a rapid response from that which can then be used to decide whether we need to take it across other platforms.
With respect to India, though the numbers might be high, digital penetration is not as widespread as other markets. Where do you see the opportunities for Turner here?
In India, television revenues will continue to be higher than digital. There is far greater penetration for television at home than internet at home. Where we see opportunities for change is through smartphones and low-end tablets. Last year, when I looked at the digital statistics for Cartoon Network and Pogo in India, the number of people accessing content through these devices was phenomenal. Interestingly, when I checked statistics on the day iPhone 4 was launched in India, there was a huge surge from people accessing our digital content through the device. So, there are parents who bought the new device and the kids, at some point of time during the day, browsed to our website. So, the challenge for us is to keep up with platforms and have content ready to be accessible across these platforms.
Do you think your advertisers are using the various platforms and interactivity available from Turner effectively?
No (chuckles). I think there is a lot more that we offer than what gets reported in the public opinion. Are they asking for it? Do they know what are they asking? Do they even know what they should be asking for? So, it starts from the basics of ‘Are you inquisitive?’ In this market itself, we had around 12 million visitors on our website. So, that is effectively around half of the kids population who are online in India. So, it is for marketers to work with us in mining the data and sit with us to develop opportunities for this platform.