What does Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV entry mean for the English news genre? The one answer we got after analysing seven weeks’ of viewership data is that the channel helped the genre expand by a whopping 66 per cent as it continues to lead the pack. If we compare the four-week average data for pre-Republic TV (Week 15-18) and post-Republic TV (Week 22-25), it is evident that other players in the market have not significantly lost their viewership numbers, and that Republic TV brought its own set of viewers and established itself as a leader.
The average viewership data of Week 15-18 vs Week 22-25 states that Republic TV reached 967 million Impressions, rising from zero, while the erstwhile leader in the genre, Times Now, rose from 640 million Impressions to 754 million Impressions. India Today TV has marginally dropped from 334 to 320 as per the four week averages of the pre and post Republic era. CNN-News18 rose from 240 million Impressions to 301 million Impressions. NDTV 24x7 dropped from 316 million Impressions to 280 million Impressions.
For the record, Republic TV was launched on May 6, which was Week 19 as per BARC data. In the middle of Week 20, major channels from the genre (Times Now, India Today Television, CNN News18 and NDTV 24x7) walked out of BARC measurement system. Week 21, too, remained data-dark for these channels. In such a scenario, it was only legitimate that the four week average be taken after the turbulence subsided, which was Week 22.
While Republic has been able to sustain its performance for a good seven weeks, there are still some questions to be answered and viewership patterns to be analysed. Amid the airing of dual LCNs and landing pages blame game, are these numbers coming from legitimate viewers? Is the content on Republic TV really stronger than the other channels? Or is the brand ‘Arnab Goswami’ pulling crowds singularly on his shoulders? And lastly, will the channel be able to sustain the viewership?
Sundeep Nagpal, Founder-Director, Stratagem Media, is quite sure of the legitimacy of viewers. Nagpal said, “It doesn’t really matter, for now. Whoever is watching is a viewer and they are watching for some good reason.”
The expansion of the genre has been proved by the viewership and numbers, and Goswami is a crowd-puller for sure, be it on a two-hour Newshour or a 24-hour Republic TV. But for how long can this viewership be sustained?
Lalit Agrawal, Senior Vice-President, OMD and Head of FUSE, said, “There was a lot of anticipation built and it was visible in the initial data. Sampling was genuine and it happens with every big launch and it is only after a few weeks that we realise the performance. We will have to wait for a couple of more weeks to know where Republic stabilises.”
Nagpal has a similar feeling when he suggests that we wait for the brightness of the flash to go down before we open the eyes and see. “This is not flash in the pan, but just that it’s too bright right now, and the brightness or intensity of this flash cannot be expected to remain as much over the long term,” he said.
News channels have very little differentiation when it comes to content. The news is the same, sooner or later everyone gets it. But still, looking at the leadership of the new kid on the block, is the content unique?
Nagpal said that the strength of the content is anyone’s guess, “but it’s certainly different and perhaps the issues seem larger, and long-standing.”
Taking a closer look at the genre since May 6, Agrawal points to a really interesting trend which is ‘sting’. He explained, “It’s because of him that there was this ‘sting-fury’ across the genre. People were preparing their content for Republic’s launch. There was too much noise around his launch and hence, we, all the more, should wait and watch where all this stabilises. Almost all the channels planned their stings and content around May 6 and it can’t be a co-incidence.”
The genre has grown by 66 per cent pre and post Republic TV, and we have compared the pre Republic time to the latest four weeks (excluding their debut week). Has Republic really brought in non-news viewers?
Agrawal chose to call these ‘light news watchers’ instead of ‘non-news viewers’.
Nagpal analysed, “The collective reach of news has certainly increased in the latest four-week period as compared to earlier, but the same thing seems to have happened even for Times Now. These need not be non-news watchers, they may just be people who were not there in the previous four weeks.”
No business is performing if it is not monetising well. A news channel is a broadcast business. Are the advertisers buying the viewership, amid the controversy of dual feed and legitimacy of viewers?
Agrawal said, “Just like the viewers, initially, advertisers too were involved in the euphoria, but now the evaluation process has started, which is quite normal. People really go ahead and invest in the upcoming launches on the back of anticipation.”
Nagpal chose to wait before he gives a verdict on that. “It is a bit too early to figure this out anyways. For now, the channel seems to be getting some advertiser support.”
Another media expert who chose to remain anonymous said, “Arnab’s personality has a high polarising effect. People either hate him or love him too much. Advertisers too are people who have an opinion about Arnab and hence, Republic. One of my clients, I don’t wish to name, was adamant on buying the channel right from day one and he did it. I think analysis will start now and marketers will choose sides based on the viewership and sustenance, but the frenzy around the man is not going down soon.”
So, then, it looks like Goswami is pulling the Republic cart singularly on his shoulders. Nagpal instantly responds, “Most certainly.”
Agrawal too agrees, “He is a brand and clearly, he has become a reason for Republic’s performance. He’s in a category where you can’t ignore him. His style of aggression has become a template across the channels. Currently yes, Arnab is pulling it, but we will have to wait and watch.”
The supporters of Republic have been pointing out how Times Now’s time spent has decreased, while reach has doubled before and after the launch of Republic, blaming it on landing page and dual LCNs of Times Now.
A media planner explained it to BestMediaInfo with a neutral mind, “Coverage is what should be looked at, and not time spent. People have not deserted Times Now, the reach numbers are huge and they have always been huge. Time spent can swing too much, especially in the news genre. Everyone has almost same piece of information. How you handle it is what decides the stickiness.”