Satyamev Jayate: What worked and what didn’t as Season 1 ends
With barely an episode left in Satyamev Jayate’s first season, the jury is out on what is the impact created by the show. Is it a success or did it fail to make the impact it set out to make three months ago. Here is the first independent analysis of the show based on available digital data
Satyamev Jayate is undoubtedly a pathbreaking effort to use the television medium to bring about heightened awareness regarding various social ills. The production team of SMJ has announced plans to reach out to audience and include feedback before they get back to bring season 2. Like the show, the aim of the article is to try and cut through a maze of clutter around the show to present some hard facts and analysis.
The measurement challenge
Novelty factor: Some ways in which show is peculiarly structured play a role. One, it is scheduled for Sunday morning that was all but forgotten since the Ramayana and Mahabharata in the 80s. Two, its social theme is not mainstream masala of any known kind. Three, the star value of Aamir is at play, possibly at its peak. Four, even if knowing of its social message and good intent, not all episodes are considered worthy of family viewing. For example, parents of teenagers would’t want them to watch “Intolerance to love” episode on inter-caste marriages. Likewise, many viewers would like to continue in denial than learn pervert ways of society and are known to switch off certain episodes despite being regular followers of the show. Five, the theme of each show is closely guarded till telecast. This is good as well as bad for the show and its organizers. One may be interested in a particular theme and especially on Sunday morning, adjust schedule to watch the show but over time, people with access can always decide to catch up later on web, delayed telecasts.
Television viewership ratings (TRP): How do you measure the impact of a show like SMJ? It is a TV show- agreed, but does it fall squarely in category of entertainment to have TRPs as the barometer? And then the simulcast over DD and starplus would mean tracking and combining two different TRPs. And then there are telecasts in regional languages. To make things complex, you would not just have to measure TRP of one show, but multiple telecasts would combine for same channel during the week.
Other media: Multimedia onslaught of the program meant there was also web to contend with, to measure the impact. With multiple official and unofficial sites/uploaders beaming every episode, and then there are uploaded part-videos of programs separately, and then to measure average view-time, it is difficult to add it all up meaningfully to infer meaningfully on impact in viewership terms leave alone social dimension of issues raised.
Radio talk-shows and awareness programs, twitter followership, number of (meaningful) tweets, likes on facebook, response to SMS campaigns, donation amounts, newsprint acreage consumed in reviews and web blogs and so on, each is independently and in combinations being used by media analysts to conclude varyingly. And if that is not mind-boggling there is also advertisers’ ROI, charities benefitted and political impact etc.
The social impact: While all above are challenging but they are still measurable, albeit with difficulty. True impact created would be in terms of awareness and turning awareness into desirable social change in behavior. Could there be factors ranging from star appeal to sheer voyeurism at play that drive up numbers unknowingly without the larger aim of social impact? Possibly, one should measure dowry deaths reduced, female foeticides prevented, organic vegetables consumed, and so on. For sure, one would end up claiming what one pleases to, as challenge of measuring the intangibles would be most difficult.
Gestation period: Then there is an issue of how long to wait to see impact of awareness translate into action, with both being spaced in time. Planning to increase generic medicines to its successful implementation and then measuring the impact over reasonable period- just the thought of it and we realize how difficult it would be to agree on the impact in a reasonable time.
Let the numbers speak…
Realizing the range, depth and scope of the challenge of measurement, we try to adopt multi-media multi-pronged metrics, then merging these to simplify inferences.
First mover advantage: The show’s novelty worked tremendously to its advantage. The magic created by first episode was never matched again (see graph 1 on donations collected ). Seemingly, given precipitous drop in collections, can be explained by two factors- the magic of surprise in the first episode, with no clue to the anticipating viewers about the theme, media options and content of the show; who then all sat glued to the TV, reflecting in high TRPs. Secondly, the message and the relatively untapped, lachrymal-glands-driven donor sentiment, reaped in the maximum. Sustenance of donor interest beyond airing week for the first episode donations, could be attributed to high TRP aided by intense news-media coverage. Since Reliance foundation matched only week 1 of amount collected in donations, some interesting inferences result. Why collections dipped sharply for episode 3(dowry system) after week of telecast?
In contrast, subsequent episodes witnessed drop in popularity on all media parameters- TRPs, video-views on web, SMS, donations etc. The nature of show by way of moralizing and making at least some people uncomfortable, the fatigue factor catching up after few episodes aided by an intense 90 minutes show, and sensitivity of some issues not conducive to family viewing contributed to the dip. The dip spread across parameters and a multimedia one-view would help see the holistic picture.
A notable exception was highest TRP recorded for episode 4 on healthcare. One possible reason for the high TRP could be universal nature of healthcare, where, unlike disabled problem, female foeticide, dowry etc, everyone is affected. TV viewership though seems to have made cross-channel dent for the episode in web videos.
While the amount of donations was highest for Snehalaya, we would expect SMS amount received to correlate similarly too and be highest in number. However, NGO Childline (Episode 2: Child Sexual abuse) received more than 1.5 times the SMSes received by episode 1. Possibly, large amounts from few donors made a significant difference to the amount. Also, the convenience and method of SMS may have caught on by episode 2 to then dip.
Women-based themes hold sway
Youtube video total views have reduced steadily. The ones that still buck the trend slightly are themes like dowry, domestic violence and inter-caste marriages, apart from female infanticide and child sexual abuse. Audience possibly does not connect that well with issues like organic farming, alcoholism and untouchability than with gender-related issues.
Fastest fingers first: Online Search for episode videos
There is a clear pattern in accessing videos online. Searches point to most used SMJ terms as “Satyamev jayate episode” and “Satyamev Jayate video” as most used, by a factor of 10, compared to other terms. So, over time now, viewers use search engines to reach to videos and when combined with TRP drop, reducing viewership seems for real.
The episode on untouchability was hotly debated on social media. Website comments, twitter feed analysis and media articles and some key omissions in the show point to some reasons. The episode got highest numbers of comments on youtube.
A summary snapshot indicates that the heat generated on the viewership parameters slowly dissipated and the audience turned cold. It is unfair to judge the show though on purely these. Public empathy with the causes, if not the show, should be higher given self-interest of society in issues raised, the show being mere catalyst.
Tenacity to persist with a cause, be it anti-corruption movement or be it social cause of SMJ, seems to be a quality unknown to the lay citizen. A limited attention span or a show that has a message but could not hold on to the recipient, there is a need to evolve. Or does the common refrain that, “ how can wholesome nutritious food be tasty too” hold true also of TV shows. Can a good theme that does not provide as much on entertainment scale but has good social cause, last?
There is also the all important subtle change in mindsets, that numbers do not tell, that is more important than TRPs and advertisers’ money or viewership. Getting the social issues on mainstream agenda and right upto the parliament and many state governments have surely been notable achievements. That the audience matured and the cause resonated more than the star as the show progressed, though, is evident from tweet wordmap from last episode telecast on aging parents.
(Wordmap of top 50 words with hashtags #SMJ or #AgingParents –tweets tweeted on day of Episode 11. Font size indicates frequency of usage.)
Before season 2, there is some home-work to do for team SMJ. The citizens too have their hands full-from the foetus to the elderly and so many more issues in between to make a difference……we only have scraped the tip of the iceberg. Or not even that much. We only just know more about the problems that always existed.
(Note: All data taken from authentic public sources quoted. Data on donations provided courtesy Star TV. Due to transient nature of social media data based on ongoing usage, numbers may have changed since date of data collection during the week.)
About the author
Sandeep Khurana is Founder and Principal Consultant, QuantLeap Consulting services, based at Hyderabad. An ex-Army officer, he is well-read and experienced in govt and corporate sectors. Sandeep holds a management degree from Indian School of Business. He has interest in social media, analytics and Operations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or his twitter id @IQnEQ.
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