There’s a new phenomenon taking Indian TV by storm at the moment. Satyamev Jayate, which has amassed a staggering 400 million viewers a week in just 13 episodes, would rightly make the headlines for that incredible achievement alone.
But there’s another reason why we’re interested in India’s hot topic show of the moment – it’s one of the first television shows to successfully analyze big data, not just to plan future episodes, but also to effect political and social change.
To understand how it’s using big data so successfully, we first need to know why Satyamev Jayate has become such an epic hit with Indian viewers.
Satyamev Jayate focuses on sensitive social issues in what remains one of the world’s most conservative societies, tackling such problems as caste discrimination, female feticide, child abuse and sex. But it does more than just discuss these sensitive topics – it also involves its audience to a previously unheard of degree, openly encouraging viewers to chime in with their opinions via its website, Facebook and Twitter pages, or through SMS.
And boy has India responded. To date, more than 8 million people have chipped in with a total of 14 million responses to the arguments presented on the show.
Clearly, Satyamev Jayate has struck a chord with viewers, and in order to keep up with the fantastic level of response the show’s creators have partnered with Persistent Systems to develop an automated analysis system that can help them understand the feedback they’ve been receiving. Here’s a brief insight into how it works:
Two days before each show airs, Satyamev Jayate’s production team informs Persistent Systems of the issues to be discussed on the show, so that they can create a taxonomy to sort through the kinds of messages they expect to receive.
Once the show goes on air, Twitter, Facebook et al are closely monitored to see which topics are resonating, giving the team an idea of what kind of responses they’re going to receive over the next 90 minutes.
As the responses begin to pour in, these are automatically tagged and scored based on factors such as sentiment and level of interest. What this means is that longer, more interesting messages will be given a higher quality score, while shorter messages that simply indicate agreement or disagreement will be ranked lower. After sorting through all of the responses, the cream of the crop is forwarded to analysts, who decide which ones should be featured on the show’s website and its follow up radio show, which is aired each Friday.
One of the most successful features of Satyamev Jayate has been its weekly vote, wherein viewers are asked to agree or disagree with the show’s most pertinent finding of the day. The impact of this has been nothing short of spectacular, in one case even leading to a change in the law when an incredible 99.8% of viewers voted to fast-track prosecution of doctors who perform illegal abortions on female fetuses. Within just a few days of the vote’s results going public, Indian lawmakers pushed through changes in the country’s court system to make that possible.
On other occasions, the votes have simply given us some interesting insights into the mood among Indians with respect to sensitive issues. For instance, one vote revealed that almost a third of viewers (32%) were in favor of families being able to prevent two consenting adults from marrying, while another showed that 14% of respondents felt it was okay for a man to beat a woman, as they considered this to be a sign of masculinity.