Mirror Now, the youngest channel in the Times Network, has set for itself a target to grab the number 2 slot in the English news genre within a year and make itself second to its sister channel Times Now.
The channel has been steadily growing in terms of viewership and advertisers. The channel that replaced a real estate-centric Magicbricks Now in March this year, has grown by more than twice in terms of viewership since the relaunch.
The second English news channel from the Times Network, Magicbricks Now had started changing content around December 2016 with the launch of the Urban Debate on evening prime time. At that time, the channel was struggling at the fagging end of the genre with a mere 54.39 Impressions (000s). Right before the rebranding, the four-week average viewership of Magicbricks Now hovered around 82.38 Impressions (000s) in Week 7-12 of 2017, according to BARC India data for ‘All India (U+R) : NCCS AB : Males 22+ Individuals’.
After its launch in Week 13, the average viewership of Mirror Now in Week 13-18 stood at 86.9 Impressions (000s), which increased to 183.01 Impressions (000s) in Week 33-38, 2017. In the recent eight weeks, Wk 39-45, the channel clocked an average viewership of 186 Impressions (000s).
Week 43 saw a sharp spike in Mirror Now’s viewership when it clocked 208 Impressions (000s) and also ranked fifth in the genre. However, in the most recent week, Week 46, the channel garnered 148 Impressions (000s).
The channel’s improvement in performance has been noted by everyone in the industry. The citizen-centric content of the channel is possibly an important driver of growth. Explaining how the idea of Mirror Now with the civic issues came about, MK Anand, MD and CEO Times Network, said, “Purpose drives a brand. Mirror Now fundamentally came from the impetus of launching more channels and to capture more shelf space in the industry. There are three types of consumers – viewers, employees and investors who buy into your idea. Everyone needs a purpose of a brand. While Times Now is about India, Mirror Now is more about the Indians. English news genre has more cult following, even if we have a mass situation because ad sales happen on that lines. It meant that you can see the same thing from different angles and work out without eating into each other’s pie.”
On a corporate level, the thought process started off from how can infrastructure, equipment, people and resources be utilised. Anand further explained how from about 15-20 solid national stories that the network had on a daily basis, only three to five could be played up on Times Now.
While viewership is a factor of reach and time spent, Anand feels that time spent is a stronger parameter. “Reach-based GRP planning has been replaced by time spent-based GRP planning. Times Now has been able to hold time spent more than anyone else and that is the strength of the channel. People get their news from many sources, we want to go deeper into it and hence three to five stories are what we focus on. We then observed that the stories that we left out were also very strong on one fine day. But it was so perishable that the relevance to that story went off with the day. We wanted to be able to use and explore these.”
The content on the channel is often conceived to be more city-specific than national issues, despite the fact that it is a national channel. However, both Anand and Faye D’Souza, Editor, Mirror Now, are clear that the topics and issues selected by Mirror Now are national issues that affect each part of the country.
Whatever has been the content strategy, it has worked very well for the channel and brand Mirror Now. Sundeep Nagpal, Founder and Director, Stratagem Media, sketches the possible reasons for the performance of the channel. “Their quality of journalism which is not too sensational, and yet not soft; the relevance of the issues covered; the manner in which they cover it, as they are seen to take a stand and are not just informative and the packaging of content in terms of visual appeal as well as scheduling over day-parts would have worked for them,” he said.
Anand mentioned how the questions that should be asked were not being asked, in the dim of nationalism, terrorism and everything else.
“Civic issues are much easier to find because you are tracking the citizens. We prioritise on the basis of how many people does a certain problem effect. We have spoken about topics such as price of eggs, Aadhaar and mental health. These are topics that no other channel was looking at and these are national stories. We have a network of reporters from Srinagar to Trivandrum to Guwahati,” explained D’Souza.
Anand feels that this confusion of civic, Mumbai-centric and all of this came about possibly because of the similar name. “There is confusion because of the strong recall of Mumbai Mirror with the word mirror. This association makes us look like Mumbai-only channel. As a group, we believe in expanding the existing brands and hence Mirror Now came about. It should take about six months to a year for us to come out of this, once we are a stronger brand than Mumbai Mirror.”
According to Nagpal, local news can be more important than national news for any audience, unless there’s something as dramatic as demonetisation or a national calamity. “So, if they pick the larger of the local issues, they could carve out a slot in the viewers’ minds with content that cuts across markets,” he added.
Claiming to have a reach of about five lakh viewers, Mirror Now has a team of close to 70 people, starting from 21-member team in March this year.
The growth in viewership numbers has been very well recognised and acknowledged by the advertising fraternity. As per BARC data on advertisement insertions, Magicbricks Now had mere 512 ad insertions from six advertisers in Week 12. However, this number grew gradually for Mirror Now and increased four times by Week 38 of 2017 when the channel had 1990 ad insertions from 36 advertisers. Keeping in line, Week 45 had about 1699 ad insertions from 35 advertisers.
Speaking about the expectations from the channel, Anand is sure that the channel will break even in about another quarter. “We are very choosy in our pricing. We don’t go for the volume game at all. This channel was planned to beat NDTV, right at the inception stage. We have not hiked the price but now we will, as we have overtaken NDTV.”
Nagpal feels that keeping up with the performance is possible but growth in this genre will always be limited. “Popularity of such a channel has an in-built natural limitation – and it may not grow beyond a point. Even so, it could out-perform the smaller channels in the national news genre,” Nagpal said. He added, “However, as a genre, this will remain secondary to National News. And hence it is unlikely to find favour with advertisers in terms of rates or volume.”
Is Mirror Now making more sense from the revenue point of view than Magicbricks? Anand answered, “Yes. Mirror Now has the potential to cross Times now too, if it gets into its full capacity. Magicbricks Now would not have been able to go beyond one fifth of what Times Now is. The impact that the channel is making is worth a Rs 200-250 crore brand.”
The channel saw a silent launch in the month of March this year. There wasn’t much advertising done by the network. Why wasn't Mirror Now marketed aggressively at the time of launch?
“In this genre, marketing is more ad sales focused, than reach focused. The real reach comes from distribution and through on-platform indicators, promos and landing pages and others. We did that in the most orthodox manner. We didn't do it in a single shot, but built it over time. We didn’t want to market the product which was not ready. We released `the first ad in May as an announcement that we are there. We were flipping the channel right now, while defending our main channel. We didn't want to market and call attention without distribution and without the product being 100 per cent ready,” said Anand.
The network will soon do a full-fledged marketing campaign in a while.
The channel had started changing the content about three months before the name change. Urban Debate idea had come from the fact that real estate news (that magicbricks used to telecast) was very insular from the interiors point of view. “If you want to have a good life, it’s not enough to buy a good house and get good interiors. What lies beyond those walls was equally important. This was the main driver of launching Urban Debate.”
D’Souza said, “Everybody in the genre is looking at each other and doing stuff. We wanted to do something else, while remaining relevant to the genre. Some legacy channels have started picking topics that we do, but otherwise nobody with look at.”