A Bangalore-based company has developed a service that enables viewers to participate in TV polls without spending a paisa. “It is already popular in the West Indies. We are now bringing it into India,” said Amiya Pathak, co-founder of ZipDial.
The company, mentored by Bangalorean Sanjay Swamy, plans to expand in Bangalore and Mumbai in a big way. The services can be used by serials and talk shows which solicit viewers’ interaction through SMS.
Right now, while the polls are a nifty way to understand the pulse of audiences, there is one catch — you, the viewer, end up spending a few rupees on each call. This amount varies between Rs 3 and Rs 6 depending on the operator. This means that if you want to send your comments to four or five shows a day, you are set back by several hundred rupees a month. That is why ZipDial has come up with a system that allows people from anywhere in the world to take part in such polls. If a company wants to set up a poll (for example, if a jeans company wants to ask, “Do you like tight jeans or loose jeans?”) they just have to mail the details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The service costs Rs 1,000 per number per month, which means that a yes/no question that requires two phone numbers will cost Rs 2,000 per month. If you want multiple A, B or C questions, it costs you Rs 3,000. Once a company sets up this poll, the voter can dial a number to vote.
Pathak says his system will encourage users to participate because it will be free for them.
But there is still the issue of money. Right now, the money you pay for sending an SMS is split between the TV channel and the mobile service provider. If ZipDial is used, this revenue will disappear.
And revenue from SMSes is a big thing for channels; for example, a few years ago, for the Essel Awards, Zee got around 8 lakh votes in 15 days. Assuming that the channel made Rs 3 on each SMS, it would have earned a tidy Rs 24 lakh. Are the channels ready to lose this kind of revenue by using ZipDial?
Pathak, who has developed the entire system single-handedly, dismisses this. “In India, TV channels are not interested in the additional money. They want participation, and since our system is free, they get better participation,” he said.
But K S Sridhar, chief producer, ETV, differs. “I like the idea, but without revenue, not all channels will be interested in it. But once the idea picks up, it may become popular.”
Multiple choice is a problem
Apart from this, there is also the problem of logistics, feels Dr M Gautham Machaiah, head of Zee South. “If there are 10 contestants on a show, I have to ask viewers to dial one of 10 numbers, which is more difficult than telling them to SMS one alphabet from A to J to one number,” he said.
But this said, he feels ZipDial is convenient. Shows that need to increase viewership without burdening them with SMS costs could opt for it.