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Republic goes live, all eyes on barometers now met Chief Executive Officer of Republic TV, Vikas Khanchandani, at Republic’s office to know and understand more about the channel, touted by many as the biggest launch in the last decade

Arnab Goswami presenting first show on Republic

The man who is known to hog the TV screen by his presence appeared again after five months and 22 days when his last Newshour on Times Now was telecast on November 14, 2016. Calling it Super Saturday, Arnab Goswami went live on May 6 at 10 am announcing the launch of his English News channel Republic TV. Now, all eyes are on BARC India’s barometers ancipating the viewership data they deliver to the channel. met Chief Executive Officer of Republic TV, Vikas Khanchandani, at the Republic Office on the day of the launch to know and understand more about it as it is touted by many as the biggest yet quickest launch in the last decade.

To begin from the end of the visit, just while leaving from Republic’s office, Goswami walked out of the studio, all smiles and excited. He asked his team, “So, how was it? Now, just go on and beat up the competition, we have done it and hit them hard. The politicians will now be afraid of us.” The adrenaline rush was on a high on the floor, as Goswami met each one of his team members and boasted about the performance of the channel.

Vikas Khanchandani

Moving on, to douse our curiosity about the urgency of launching the channel, the haste and hence, some obviously visible technical glitches, Khanchandani answered with a lot of confidence. “It was not a hasty decision. It is a very smart, structured and calculated decision. You can't do this in a short time if it's not hasty, yet thought through. I won’t call it a hasty decision by any means of imagination. Yes, it is unusual to launch a channel in six months, especially News, because there are infrastructure requirements, talent, content archives, technology, and other things. But we did it without making any compromise."

The first story to break on the channel was about Lalu Prasad Yadav, RJD chief, having a friendly conversation with the jailed criminal Mohammad Shahabuddin. Well, while the content got good marks, the graphics on the channel looked a little dull. The technical glitches remained and the audience did talk about all of this.

Also read: The Republic debate, sans Arnab Goswami

Khanchandani was honest in answering this one, “The minor technical glitches in the first few days are part and parcel of new launches and will be handled. We are getting great reviews on the overall look of the channel and the team has worked very hard on it.”

Social media has been abuzz about Republic and Goswami equally, ever since the time he announced his exit from his earlier employer, Times Now, and so from TV screens. Within the first six hours of the launch, the overall mentions of the brand (Republic) and the founder (Goswami) reached 1,30,000 while #MAY6withArnab was the fourth trending topic globally and the most trending in India since 10 am on that day.

Also read: Republic = Debate

Khanchandani is quite confident that social media will stay by their side. “There has been a huge positive Social media buzz for Republic. It existed even when we had no content. The social media amplification will continue to accelerate exponentially as long as we are doing good content which is resulting in great conversations.”

So, with so much confidence, what is the expectation of the management? To this, we believe that the channel is resorting to the kind of numbers that Goswami generated on television during his last stint.
But what Goswami did on Times Now for two hours, will it work for all 24 hours a day? “As an independent news platform it's out duty to build content and conversations around issues that affect people of our country.”

Also read: The ‘Republic’ of advertisers

So, looks like the management is eying the top slot for the channel. Khanchandani continues to be politically right, without making any claims or promises, “There are many aspects to be able to add to consumer delight - differentiated content, format,  presentation, engagement and garnished with great packaging but most importantly you have to tell the truth."

Goswami, a hard core English anchor, has suddenly started speaking in a blended language, a mix of Hindi and English. He had been talking about the importance of Hinglish before he launched Republic, though.

Also read: Republic interrupted by India Today: Who gained what?

Is the race with Hindi news channels too? “The strategy is not coming from whether Hindi or English. The strategy is to be inclusive as a content platform. There are people who are well-versed with English. But a very large mass of Indian interacts with English. We always think about what viewers want. Our objective is to be inclusive so that we are able to communicate with a wider audience.”

The channel did make a lot of noise about the advertisers it had onboard while launching the channel. Khanchandani is quite serious about monetising the channel well. He explained why he is so aggressive on it, “Arnab is, today, the most respected and impactful journalist and anchor in country and he has already established his credentials over years. He has already achieved loyal audience and the people love him and his content has set a new benchmark of monetisation across the news category."

Also read: Republic will become the No. 1 news brand in the country: Arnab Goswami

About the kind of rates that news channels command, despite the excellent reach that they give, Khanchandani looked a little troubled. He said, “After being in and out of news for some time, I have observed that people have stopped respecting the news genre. News genre, today, is sold like a commodity because there are a plethora of options. Whenever anything is commoditised, the value decreases. We will not be sold/ bought like commodity and it's important to bring the sheen back."
It was learnt that the channel has a structured sales format too.

Lastly, about the look of the channel, neither the look, the visuals or the colour (red) is very differentiated. It looks very much like any normal news channel on Indian television. Why so? Khanchandani vouches for differentiation.

Also read: Times Now is ready to take on Arnab Goswami’s Republic: MK Anand

“In some cases, you have to follow the structured format. It is a differentiated format from many elements but you can't be too out of the box either. This is what consumers want, a certain style and format and you have to deliver on those wants. There are different formats that work for. Our visual hammer R (dot) will get associated with the brand quickly. Red is a really strong colour and captures emotions well along with ability to highlight a sense of urgency."

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