The first half of 2005 has seen some definite trends for the Hindi news channels. The news pie in the last four years sure has shot multi-fold, but a closer look in 2005 shows that this year, even as players increased, the news pie hasn’t.
Instead, we see more fragmentation, leading players losing shares, new players finding some foothold, and the total news pie showing a marginal drop in the first six months.
In terms of performance, as per TAM Media Research, for the audience C&S 15+ in the Hindi speaking markets, the games can easily be divided in two sets of players. The top four include Aaj Tak, NDTV India, Zee News and STAR News. The second level battle is between India TV, DD News, Sahara Samay National, and newcomers Channel 7, Awaaz and Zee Business.
Looking at the overall news pie, the viewing share for the all 10 channels put together begin with 2 per cent in January 2005, sliding to 1.9 per cent in February, 1.6 per cent in March, 1.5 per cent in April, 1.4 per cent in May, and finally to 1.3 per cent in June. Though the drop is not that striking, the fact is that the entrance of new channels like Channel 7, Awaaz and Zee Business shows that more players aim for the same viewers – leading to fragmentation.
Commenting on this Sandip Tarkas, CEO, Media Direction, said, “News is a very volatile genre. A lot depends on the ‘newsiness’ of the environment. Ratings shoot up every time there is an event, a natural disaster or elections – anything that people would want to know, following which they move away from the genre.”
Adding another point here, C V L Srinivas, MD, Maxus, said, “Viewership hasn't grown too much in the last one year. In my view, it is largely a distribution problem. We have had too many channel launches, and they are struggling to cope with our antiquated distribution system. Apart from the top two-three channels, the rest face an issue in some market or the other all the time. The viewers they gain in one market get offset by those they lose in a market where they suddenly disappear.”
The Half-Yearly Report Card
Among the top four players, Aaj Tak is still the number one channel, though the year saw a steady declining graph. The New Year gave the channel a high of 3.69 per cent, but in the subsequent week it came down to 2 per cent, the percentage it had in the final weeks of 2004. Until week 11 of 2005, the channel continued to move between 2.25 and 1.73 percentages. Week 12 to 21 saw Aaj Tak swaying downwards – with the highest in this period being 1.59 per cent in week 15 and the lowest being 1.28 per cent in week 21. Post this, the channel has seen some steadiness with 1.67 per cent in week 27.
NDTV India can be called the clear number two player, but only until week 22. The channel has again seen a negative graph, with some patches seeing an increase, like week 7 to week 10, when it increased from 1.3 per cent to the 1.85 per cent during the election period. Post this, until week 19, NDTV India has seen a downtrend. In week 22, it shot up with the other channels, brining it to 1.45 per cent. The following five weeks saw it in lows like 0.94 per cent to 1.13 per cent in week 27.
Week 22 meant a high for Zee News as well and is quite the point from where the channel becomes the number two Hindi News channel from the number four player it was in the beginning of the week. From a negative graph, Zee News saw an increase week 4 onwards. Until week 14, it maintained steady numbers, which meant a tussle with STAR News. From week 14, both channels have been neck to neck until week 21. From that point, Zee News left STAR News behind, moving in the 1-plus channel share range and STAR News seeing decimal numbers, with the exception of week 27, where the channel is still below Zee News, but has scored a 1.5 per cent channel share.
The year sure has been a tough one for STAR News in terms of channel share. Until week 15, the channel has managed to stay above the 1-plus mark. A few exceptions notwithstanding, the channel has moved only in decimals in the following period.
Despite repeated attempts, Aaj Tak, STAR News and NDTV officials weren’t available for comments. As for Zee News, the channel’s performance is as per expectations. Zee News’ Alka Saxena said, “The reasons are the right product mix, team work of all departments and a clear focus on who our audience are. The content, marketing, sales, technical and research teams are all stakeholders in the product. The vision of our Director, Laxmi Goel, and his team building approach has enthused every person involved.”
Giving a peak into the plan of action now, Saxena added, “We have been the thought leaders and will endeavour to remain ahead of the pack with newer formats and approaches of story telling with clear focus on Haqeeqat - the truth in context. With ongoing teambuilding process, advancements in technology and synergies in marketing and content, we are aiming at further increase in shares in key markets. The measures will be newer formats and big ticket events in coming times with aggressive marketing activities.”
Looking at the next level of players now, DD News has emerged as the clear fifth player in the last few weeks. The channel began with a 0.73 per cent channel share in week one and has moved at a 0.5 per cent mark through the year. India TV and Sahara Samay are close followers.
India TV started with a share of 0.53 per cent in week one. However, it saw a decline over the next four weeks to 0.31 per cent. From then on, the sting operations and exposés worked and it witnessed an upward trend garnering a channel share of 0.93 per cent in week 12. It declined to 0.51 per cent in the next week, but gained again in week 15 with a share of 0.65 per cent. From then on it saw a decline bringing it to the present 0.33 per cent in week 27.
About their performance, said Sudhir Chaudhri, Executive Editor, India TV, “In the year gone by, amidst the cacophony of claims and counter-claims, our key audiences have discovered that when it’s about delivering ratings in relevant day parts or creating the right buzz, India TV stands apart."
He further added that besides the quality, it was the effective ways devised by the channel of connecting with the viewers that worked. “It has also been a lot about attracting, then nurturing, and finally retaining talent”, said Chaudhri.
Sahara Samay National registered an average performance. With a channel share of 0.55 per cent, it increased to 0.73 per cent in week 10. With more or less similar share in next three months, its share fell to 0.26 per cent in week 21. In week 26, the share was 0.31 per cent, which shows a 43 per cent decline from week one.
Both Awaaz and Channel 7 are finding their foothold in the market. Awaaz opened to a share of 0.02 per cent in week 5 and in week 10, it had increased to 0.16 per cent, touching 0.21 per cent in week 15. With more or less a steady performance, the channel garnered a share of 0.22 per cent in week 27.
As for Channel 7, the three-month-old channel registered a share of 0.04 per cent in the first week of its inception (i.e. week 14 of this year). It saw a constant increase in its channel share for the next four weeks with 0.22 per cent channel share in week 18 of this year. In week 27, it had a channel share of 0.27 per cent.
Considering it is a pay channel, the channel share for Zee Business has been low. It had a channel share of 0.01 per cent in week one of 2005 and touched 0.06 per cent in week four. Then with a slight decline, it increased to 0.07 per cent in week 17. In week 20, the share was 0.09 per cent, and it came down to 0.06 per cent in week 26.
Newcomers like Channel 7 are happy. “The performance has been as per our expectations,” said Piyush Jain, COO, Channel 7, “This market is not that easy. More so because news as such is a habitual driven thing. Therefore, to break habits of people is not an easy task. In the first three months of launch, we have garnered a share of almost 5 per cent and we are aiming to double the share by year end.”
Speaking on how they treated the game, he added, “We innovated content. Crime was on every channel, so we innovated in crime itself like Crimes of Passion, Juvenile Crime, Intelligence Frauds, and Forensic Science. We have tried to bring the fact to the consumer in not a sensational, but subtle manner. That worked for the channel overall. Other than just covering news, we also analysed the impact it had on people.”
In all, it is evident that Hindi news channels are seeing high ratings fluctuations, which impacts the average substantially. This explains the need for news channels to create aggressive programming, whether by sting operations or fierce debates, to hook the viewer. Similar to the sports genre, the news genre doesn’t enjoy the stability that other genres like entertainment bring and 2005, so far accentuates that fact.