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Bangla news market set to expand with the entry of big broadcasters

With several networks announcing their entry into the West Bengal market ahead of the state Assembly elections, we find out if the market is big enough to accommodate so many players or if these are just politically inclined launches

Three broadcast networks recently announced their entry into the West Bengal market. Republic TV recently said they are ready for a Bengali news service, TV9 announced the expansion of its linear and digital news business in the state and Aaj Tak Bangla also entered the market in October with a web edition. As the state is in a crucial phase with Assembly polls not far away, experts suggest this is a perfect opportunity for new players to enter a news-hungry market. 

According to Uday Mohan, Managing Partner, North & West India, Havas Media Group, the size of business done on the news genre has grown steadily. He said it is a lucrative market for new players to enter as there is continuous growth in business in the genre.

“Historically, West Bengal has been a heavy news consumption market, mainly because its general population has been very news-driven and attuned to news due to the heavy influence of politics and intellectualism of its people. From a media POV, it is very conducive to advertise on news as viewership is high and comes at a relatively much lower cost,” he added. 

Mansi Datta, Chief Client Officer, and Head, North & East, Wavemaker India, said, “Bangla news commands approximately 5.7% share of the genre in the West Bengal market (all age groups, urban WB). In the Covid period, when all-India news consumption increased twice, the Bengali news genre increased by 2.75x times. This certainly is an indication of the appetite for this genre. The increase was 50% + for both reach as well as time spent levels.” 

While the viewership of linear channels has increased, big networks such as ABP, Zee and Network 18 have a strong digital presence in the market and are bundling digital + linear to the advertisers together. Apart from this, no other player has made a significant impact on the digital front, says Mohan. 

Asked about newer competition in the space, Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network, said, “It definitely isn’t an easy market to crack. ABP Ananda, our Bangla news channel, was leading the entire TV universe of West Bengal for continuously 14 weeks in a row during the corona period. (Source Barc, TG- 2+, Mkt- WB, Wk 12-25’20, Weekly Reach). Such numbers can only be attained when one has a loyal viewership base. The ABP Group has been in the industry since the beginning of the 20th century. We have built a strong base of loyal viewers and readers for us. This can only happen if you respect your viewers and build strong trust with them.”  

While viewership is on the rise, the presence of the region’s local channels cannot be ignored, says Mohan. “Since viewership of the entire news genre has been high in this market, there are a lot of long-tail channels that have been able to do successful business in the market such as R Plus or Bangla Time, as they turn out to be much more efficient for big FMCG advertisers like HUL, RB. An ABP Ananda or a Zee 24 Ghanta would never be able to provide what these channels give to certain advertisers. So, yes, there is a lot of scope for channels to sustain and be successful in this market,” he said. 

On the basis of news genre data prior to October 2, after which ratings were suspended, the leader is ABP Ananda, followed by Zee 24 Ghanta, Kolkata TV, and then the long tail of channels such as Calcutta News, R Plus, News18 Bangla and others, Mohan said. 

“The Legislative Assembly elections are about to happen in April- May 2021, which will be of the highest interest in the market as the BJP is aiming to make a dent in the ruling TMC’s seat share. This will definitely increase the overall interest levels of the audiences and viewership can be expected to be much higher than before. Certain channels have already started programming plans five months in advance. This gives advertisers ample opportunities to reach out to the audiences, which makes it conducive for new players to enter the market,” Mohan said.

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