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Our competitors are in a state of denial: Arnab Goswami

Times Now completes 10 impactful years of action-oriented news leadership and success. In conversation with BestMediaInfo, Arnab Goswami and MK Anand outline the high points of the journey so far, what has made Times Now the No. 1 English news channel, and the what the future beholds

Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | February 4, 2016

10 years of Times Now

A journey that started 10 years ago, in 2006, is today the most energetic and evolving news channel in the English News category. Along the way, Times Now has firmly established itself as the No. 1 English news channel by a long shot. Times Now has seamlessly provided the urbane viewers a complete picture of news that is relevant, presented in a vivid and insightful manner, enabling them to widen their horizons and stay ahead.

A flagship channel of the Times Global Broadcasting Co. Ltd., which is a part of Bennett, Coleman & Company Ltd., the country’s largest media group, Times Now has not only grown but evolved massively over the last ten years. It repositioned itself in December 2014 using the definitive 'Action Begins Here' tagline to project itself as a fearless crusader willing to come to the table with burning issues such as farmer suicides, women and children's safety, corruption, VIP racism, etc.

It has injected strong momentum to the English News genre. It commands 43% market share in the English News category.  It today commands a whopping 58% overall market share during Primetime in English News category. During the last General Elections in 2014, Times Now launched various new shows and formats leading to continuous spikes in its viewership. Its special programming and packaging covering all aspects of significance garnered viewership higher than that of all its competitors put together! Also, during the General Elections, it was the first choice of viewers with 45% share in the English News category.

The channel commanded an enormous share of 56% during the recently concluded Bihar Assembly elections in the English News category. It also became the first Indian channel ever to be beamed live at Times Square, New York, on counting day.

Arnab Goswami Arnab Goswami

Behind this magnificent success is a man, a crusader, whose face has become synonymous with the channel and the brand. BestMediaInfo caught up with Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief, Times Now, who shared insights on how the channel has grown over the last decade. In fact, in June last year, Goswami was made President – News and Editor-in-Chief of both Times Now and ET Now. To get more insights, we also spoke to MK Anand, CEO and Managing Director, Times Network, who highlighted more on the growth of Times Now and other channels from the bouquet.

MK Anand MK Anand

Goswami has crafted his own brand of journalism along the way. He is fiery, aggressive, a constant challenger of the Establishment. More importantly, he is seen as a Crusader for the people, the downtrodden, a fearless man who is ready to take on the powerful and the corrupt. It is true that Goswami has faced brickbats, mostly from his peers in journalism. The critics criticised perhaps because they saw Goswami as a threat to the established, armchair journalism practised by most in the media. At the end of the day, by going by his instincts, Goswami has proved them wrong because today he is the numero uno face of news television. He is a ‘People’s Editor’; he is the voice of the people and he stands for the people. Excerpts:

How will you define Times Now’s decade-long existence?

Anand: Times Now has been one of the stellar launches in the last 15 years of the news broadcasting industry. Ever since our launch we have been selecting and focusing on content/agendas that create an impact on viewers. Times Now has been one of the flagship channels of our network. It has changed the way content is presented and consumed in the English News broadcasting industry.

Mr Goswami, you have been the pillar and face of the channel from Day 1. How would you define your journey with the channel?

Goswami: Since it has been a long journey I would define it in phases. The first phase was quitting NDTV till the time we got Reuters to invest and we launched the channel. It was an exciting phase as I was doing things I had never attempted before. I was away from television for one and a half years and was not a well-known person back then. It was a learning phase as I was trying to understand what goes into building a channel. But that was exciting too.

The second phase was from the date of launch to one year, when we literally crash-landed as we got everything wrong. We realised the pain of knowing that your baby has not been born strong enough.

The third phase was again painful wherein we said we will change everything including take away programming and cutting of businesses because we had to restructure the entire team that we built up. It was not easy. But from there to making it to No. 1 in 2007 to 2008/2009 was an encouraging phase.

The last phase was in 2010, that is, from the Commonwealth Games (CWG) scam to now when we sort of entered the minds of the people. Each of these phases has had its own stories and experiences. This phase is also coming to a close. The next phase is going to be even more interesting because it will be about digital, new media, marrying digital and television and more.

So what’s the difference between Times Now then and now?

Goswami: It’s totally different! There is no comparison at all. Back then we were raw but today we have clarity of purpose. We are absolutely sure about the content and stories we do every day. We have a team that is very well complemented and personally I have more time to focus on ‘The Newshour’. The look and feel of the channel itself is different.

Anand: Times Now is a truly iconic news channel respected for its committed, action-oriented, professional and impactful journalism. Times Now, Newshour and Arnab Goswami are household names. It's hard to imagine that, just a decade ago, we did not have this mega brand. Times Now, like other young global mega media brands, is a reflection of what has changed in society in the 21st century and what still endures as true and good.

As you said, Times Now changed the game in the English News category. How would you like to describe the evolution of the industry?

Goswami: I think the English news industry has gone into a state of denial – it refuses to believe that there are different journalists, different teams and different leaders who are working out of different cities and will present news differently, compared to the way they were working earlier. It is a big realisation for many of these people, but they must make the realisation or else they won’t change. So we have two sets of responses, one that says never mind, we will still go and do things we did in the early days. Here the danger of doing that is one becomes completely irrelevant.

The second one is where you say that we will do what Times Now is doing as Times Now ‘square’ or Times Now to the ‘power of three or more’. They are, according to me, the most visible copycats. That is the certain road to failure. I personally feel that it is better to be in the phase of denial than to be a copycat of the number one channel.

How much does Times Now contribute to the network’s revenue pie?

Goswami: Though I can’t share numbers, it contributes a very significant, steadily growing and profitable chunk.

What has been the growth graph like?

Goswami: The graph has been growing. We have had ‘hockey stick moments’ which include the 26/11 coverage. The growth has been constant; it has never fallen, never reached a plateau. Big stories and coverage have led to a spike which includes scam coverage, political interviews, the Nirbhaya agitation and more. Interestingly, whenever we take on politicians our viewership goes up! Not only this, we have also grown during mega events like elections.

Anand: Over the last 10 years, Times Now has led the nation’s discourse by stimulating collective national thought. As a result it has become a strong agent of change. It is this drive that makes Times Now India’s most impactful news channel and has taken us to 80-odd countries around the globe.

What can you predict about the news industry in the coming future?

Goswami: Because of the boom in English news, more and more players will enter the space. With new players coming in, the audiences will also grow. I see a lot of excitement. When digital penetrates from 2017 onwards, we will go into 4G and 5G. So the content providers will have to find ways of creating new formats to reach the digital audience. In other words, 2016 will be a watch out phase; 2017 will be an entry phase wherein new formats enhancing the reach will be seen; and by 2018, there will be a mad competition for the television plus digital news pie. I think 2018 to 2020 will witness another boom phase.


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