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For The Sake Of News: News has to be a serious business

In the 3rd week, Zee News initiative focuses on the impact of frivolous and non-news content on the brand equity of Hindi news channels.

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | May 27, 2011

It took almost a decade to lose the focus and momentum for Hindi News Channels. A decade ago hardcore news content and maximum credibility were ruling the news channels and TRPs were almost a secondary focus for the news channels. It is true that there were not many channels then. But with the launch of more channels starting 2004, we saw the things changing rapidly. The newly launched channels had the target to acquire the top spot in just no time so they played with the content. And once it worked, it became their style. Unfortunately it went in a wrong direction and the news content was diluted at large.

All this happened in name of choice of audience. Channels blamed audience that they show what the viewers want to watch. The number game was no where beneficial for Hindi news genre which lost its market share drastically. However; viewers continued preferring the good news content on big news day or good news program. One such example is Zee News which remained on top spot among core TG across 8 metros during the primetime on almost regular basis. The channel claims that it has 97.4% news content and 2.6% non-news content so it gets a big thumbs-up from the mature audiences.

Now it was the turn for Zee News to launch a pan India B2B initiative with the objective of providing corporate world a peep into the realm of Hindi news genre. The campaign has an objective to bring back the news content on the Hindi News Channels in the prime time. Its campaign titled ‘For The Sake Of News’ asks the industry leaders to share their views for the sake of news. When Zee News kicked-off the campaign, it was sure that it will turn into a huge initiative in a short span of time.

In its third week, the discussion revolved around the issues related to the dilemma of the news channels, advertisers’ choice, impact on brand equity and the ultimate way out to come out of such situation.

Why did all the channels walk the same way? Santosh Padhi, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Taproot India commonly known as Paddy, says, “If I'm good at what I am, than I will never be like you/him because people/viewers like me, because they want to see me, the day I'm trying to be like him or her, it’s very clear that viewer are not liking you, so one needs to strengthen his strength than weaken yourself to be like him/her."

“Competition, both internal and external has clearly affected the genre. More and more people are resorting to alternate forms of news like news portals, sms, mobile apps which within easy reach nowadays. These factors have led to the decreasing genre share from around 4.5% (2006) to 3.4% (2010),” added Amol Mohandas, Associate Vice President, Allied Media Network Pvt. Ltd., a Percept company.

Holding the news channels responsible for this scenario, Naresh Gupta, National Planning Director, India, Cheil Worldwide SW Asia comments, “The news channels themselves are responsible. It’s the news channels that decided to dilute their ability to deliver news in an engaging manner, and invest in programming. They looked at easy way out, and do programming that costs next to nothing and try and get advertising revenue. Unfortunately it is hurting them and brands that are being advertised on them. They are sitting on a tinderbox that will explode.”

Wondering if the channels have evaluated the risk of losing brand equity, Gupta says, “The news channels have to decide which business they are in. If the viewer wants to watch soaps and gossip about soaps, they have a variety of channels and facebook and you tube and net forums. The last place an average viewer wants to catch soaps are news channels. I know the channels will quote that these programmes are successful, but have the channels ever evaluated the impact of such programmes on its brand equity? Does this not dilute its ability to deliver authenticity and believability? There is a serious crisis of trust that most news channels are facing, and they seem to fuel the flippant side of brand, rather than the authentic side.”

Agreeing to Gupta’s views, Vinish Joshi, Managing Partner, MediaCom India explains the advertisers’ prospective. Joshi opines, “There is very little difference in the performance of the top two or three Hindi news channels. Planning parameters followed are TVR, Reach, Clutter Index & CPRP. On the qualitative side credible and differentiated content is important.”

“With the hyper fragmentation and too many ‘me-too’ Hindi news channels what is differentiating the good from the others is content and we as media consultants value the audience loyalty of a channel very much. Even the advertisers look for loyal viewers so that their communication has higher probability of connecting with the audience,” added Joshi.

When asked, where the advertiser wants to invest money, Rajiv Dubey, Head-Media Investments at Dabur India said, "I don’t see any big difference among the existing Hindi news channels. I accept that we look at the numbers while spending but at the same time we spend carefully and strategically. We spend huge on big news day and good news program on the channel with good reach and number. Now, the challenge is for the news channels whether they want to be in the race of TRPs at the cost of the revenue from just a few news slots."

Where everyone suggested the channels to return to their core proposition, Amol Mohandas explained that they have a lot of potential, “broadcasters do have a chance to get back to quality news and content as they have a high Power Ratio* (2.09) as compared to Hindi GECs and Hindi Movies (0.79 of and 0.38 respectively) however external competition remains a big threat in today’s social world. (* Power Ratio = Ad Revenue % / Viewership %)

Rahul Kulshreshtha, CEO, Wide Angle Technologies, is quite hopeful that like a lot other things in this country, I'm sure there will be a correction in the news channels and we will start seeing a lot more of news on these channels.

Have your say, share your comments below or email us atInfo@BestMediaInfo.com to join the initiative.

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