With the elections round the corner, news channels are bound to see an increase in their mass viewership. Talking about the effect the coming elections on channel shares of news channels, Girish Menon, GM, South, Mindshare, says, “The overall channel shares would go up due to the hype surrounding the elections. However viewership as such may be scattered since all the channels will be offering election oriented content.”
This is true of the news channels in the South as well, which comprise of Sun, Udaya, ETV2, Asianet, Indiavision etc. However other than such seasonal highs subject to the critical nature of news elements in current affairs, do News channels carve a niche of their own? Replies, Suchitra Chandrashekaran, Senior Media planner, Media Edge, “Yes they do, they have a dedicated band of consumers who tune in and the news channels satiate their need for a higher level of involvement with current affairs.”
A quick look at the channel shares of the different news channels in the South. In total Andhra Pradesh market ETV2 has an average channel share of 2.29, in total Tamilnadu market Sun News has an average channel share of 1.48, in total Kerela market, Asianet News has an average channel share of 3.44 while India vision has an average channel share of 2.08. In total Karnataka market, Udaya news has an average channel share 0.67 (source: the past nine weeks tam data, for C&S 4+ yrs, from 28/12/03 to 28/2/04, all channels)
Kerala, of all Southern states emerges as the most news savvy. Menon reflects, “Like the West Bengal market in the North, in South Kerela is a market that is very politically aware. This has been the case right from the days of Doordarshan news. This aspect enables us to look at an additional vehicle to target the consumer.”
Says, K P Mohanan, Managing Editor, Asianet News, “We have been providing news services to our general entertainment channel Asianet, for the past nine years and recently in 2003 we started our exclusive 24 hours news channel. Our carefully upgraded infrastructure over the years and our nine year bond with the viewers have helped us garner a good channel share apart from the fact that our viewers are highly involved with the political scenario. One other aspect is the high rate of literacy which is apparent through the massive print readership seen here.”
Asianet news has a mix of programs that has focus on News, entertainment, Science, IT, human-interest programs, women’s issues, international events etc. The weekend program “On Record” is an interview slot with opinion leaders, famous writers, film personalities etc. “Platform” is a weekday discussion show by experts on a current topic. “Akthalam” is a program on women’s issues. “Muruchu Mattathay” (uncensored), “Jane Vidhi”, “Anveshanam”, “Loga Jalagam” (window to the world) are some of the other shows on Asianet news. Says, Mohanan, “Every month a campaign is conducted against a social evil.”
The popularity of the half hour news slots in terms of TRPS in the general entertainment channels is quite high. Girish Menon attributes this to the “spill over" viewership with people watching their favourite soap that is due before or after the news bulletin. So what about advertising in news channels and news slots in general entertainment channels? Replies Menon, “Our primary target audience would be the male viewership, who tune into news. With the news slots in general entertainment channels brands that target men primarily are advertised. With news channels we have a more wider time band to advertise these brands.”
K Satyanarayana, Media Director, R K Swamy BBDO, says, “The TRPS for the news slots in general entertainment channels are quite high just like any other good entertainment program on the channel. Hence, it makes sense to advertise in the general entertainment channel news slot itself due to the high audience delivery”
Language news channel are more popular than English news channels. There exists a scattered viewership for English channels where as the language channels have a more focused audience. This is because television is viewed as a medium that has a sense of immediacy unlike print and it caters to a wider audience from A to E segments. Menon feels that since the local language is a medium all segments are comfortable with, they enjoy higher priority over the English news channels.
Speaking about the USP of Sun News, A S Panneer Selvan, Managing Editor, Sun News, Sun Network, says, “ We have a strong network in place, which enables us to gather news at the grass root levels and establish a fine synthesis between micro details and the macro picture.” The bouquet of programs offered by Sun News cover areas like healthcare, sports, markets, children, culture and music. The shows aired include the English program, `In conversation’, which is an interview slot that features Indian Writers in English and other famous cultural personalities. Yet another show `Neruku Neir’ interviews political personalities.
Speaking on the growth of language news channels, Suchitra says, “Each channel will become more and more specific and a gradual process of refining content will take place as time goes by”. Mohanan on the other hand feels, “ Nowadays starting a channel is much more easier than before. With more channels coming into the picture it will be a question of survival of the fittest.”
National news channels like NDTV offer feature based shows where as such shows are yet to be experimented with in language news channels. This is perceived as a growth area. Says, Menon, “Kerela for example is a strong market for commodities like pepper, tea, coffee etc. A feature on the commodities market could make an interesting watch.”
It is clear that though the news slots in general entertainment channels are like the icing on the cake, News channels by themselves can target a niche segment by offering a more wide range of programming mix that offers perspectives and food for thought apart from facts.