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How Astro Gempak created digital content for the digital-first world

The online space is currently saturated with content, information and entertainment. Obtaining the attention of consumers often feels like an uphill battle. Old school traditional tactics are no longer relevant, and nimble, versatile players often have an advantage over traditional media houses.

In recent years, broadcast stations have had to relook at their operations in a bid to keep up with competitive entertainment providers in the digital space.

Most recently, Astro won Gold for Excellence in Digital Marketing and Silver for Excellence in Brand Awareness in the 2016 Marketing Excellence Awards in Malaysia. We sat down with Raja Jastina Arshad, head of branding for Astro Gempak, Astro’s Malay Digital Entertainment platform, to discuss some challenges in the space and how her team has been in the process of overcoming them.

This post was done in conjunction with Astro.

The problem

There was heavy reliance on seasonal TV shows as well as celebrity news to drive Astro Gempak’s traffic.  On top of this, there were also other contending digital platforms with similar content. As such, views and page visits were inconsistent and they needed to strengthen their position with their main target audience, Malay Millennials (Malaynials).  In short, it needed to find a way to differentiate the channel.

The Malaynial audience, aged between 18-34 years old, is technologically-savvy, globally conscientious and expects easily available on-demand content wherever, whenever and in whatever format they want. These factors, coupled with a strong emphasis on social-networking and an ever changing digital ecosystem, encouraged Astro Gempak to develop a quick and innovative solution.

The solution

Astro Gempak knew something had to be done to future-proof its position. Instead of ignoring the challenges, Astro Gempak had taken the initiative to evolve and cater to their target audience with strategies fit for current habits.

It created The House, a digital-first 10-episode reality program, supported by a digital and TV campaign. This initiative set out to stabilise the number of unique visitors on Astro Gempak, and to act as definitive proof that digital content does not cannibalize TV ratings.  The House premiered on Astro Gempak first in Oct 2015 and was later televised on Astro Ria and Astro Ria HD five days after the episodes were posted online. After a 10-episode run, the series ended in Dec 2015.

The objective

With clear intent and direction, the team at Astro Gempak focused on three key objectives:

First, it wanted to stabilise the number of unique visitors and site visits on Astro Gempak and in turn, provide an attractive platform for sponsors and advertisers. Secondly, it wanted to increase social media conversations and engagement amongst the key demographic. Last but not least, it wanted to create content that prioritised digital platforms, with TV utilised only as a supporting medium.

The execution

In order to retain viewership and stickiness amongst consumers, The House introduced an interconnected digital ecosystem with key features that continued to draw viewers in week after week .

For example:

  • Though the main episodes were uploaded weekly, Astro Gempak also offered complimentary spin-off content to sustain engagement throughout the campaign, such as immersive personal diary-like videos, bite-sized content designed for mobile viewing, and gossip and news article write-ups coinciding with each episode and character. The marketing for this additional content capitalised on the reach of the Astro’s and the talents’ own social media accounts.
  • Capitalising on the Malaynnial’s fear of missing out mentality (FOMO), each episode of The House only aired on standard TV five days after being uploaded onto Astro Gempak, driving the market to the digital platform in order to be the first to know.
  • To further enhance the campaign, Astro Gempak implemented an active marketing strategy, focusing on two-way communication with their audience. Astro Gempak would continuously listen to the audience through social media and reply with relatable language and formats such as memes.

Astro Gempak also focused on enhancing their audience’s experience through offerings such as weekly live chat sessions with the characters in the show. Viewers were able to get up close and personal with their idols, reiterating the notion that the Maembong sisters are relatable and approachable, despite their fame.

Contests where items seen on the episodes could be won through clues peppered throughout episodes and in complementary content, ensuring viewers would watch all content produced.

The results

Premiering The House on Astro Gempak garnered an impressive nine million views, proving that it satiated the varying appetites of Malaynnials. The House successfully penetrated 80% of its target audience by the end of its tenth episode- a 20% increase in the 18- 35 year old Malaysian demographics.

The House brought in a total of 1.4 million pageviews on Astro Gempak during the show’s duration, with 375,000 unique visitors. This translated to a 44% increase in unique visitors for Astro Gempak and consequently presented itself as a viable, lucrative platform for advertisers and sponsors.  In addition, it was discovered that 61.3% of users preferred to access content from their mobile devices, with about 30% preferring to consume The House via their desktop.

Similarly, Astro Ria and Astro Ria HD witnessed a 150% increase in average viewership for that particular timeslot when The House aired on TV. It achieved an accumulated reach of 6.1 million on TV, with 38% PVR playback and average ratings (DTAM) of 1 million.

“Concerns that digital-first programs cannibalise Pay-TV were quickly quelled. The House, in essence, was a successful experiment that showcased possible synergies between the digital world and traditional media,” said Jastina in a statement.

In a similar fashion, after The House’s launch, Astro Gempak has since doubled their revenue and the number of clients and partnerships. The House’s integrated 360 marketing strategy that specifically focused on online content has successfully illustrated the many opportunities for Astro Gempak when it comes to creating impactful and immersive content.

To sustain and grow the success built by the first season, Astro Gempak has since aired Season 2 of The House starring Datuk Seri Vida and family, and will be launching Season 3 on the 18th of January 2017. These back-to-back seasons will ensure constant traffic on Astro Gempak through new content, more engagement, and greater experiences on the platform during the extended campaign period.

According to Astro, early results from Season 2 are looking promising as positive feedback has been received from Astro Gempak’s audience. The first episode of season 2 has already garnered over 1.4 million views on Astro Gempak’s platforms. Astro Gempak will be continuing their strategy through the introduction of more video formats that will target the Malay Millennials on the digital platform throughout the year.

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