The English general news domain had seen a sudden burst in 2006 when new players made the space challenging and what had seemed at that time, cluttered. However, a look at the channels now clearly indicates that the players in the genre have been able to make a place for themselves. Every player is stressing on the focus on content and distribution, and at the same time reiterating that perception plays a key role for English news channels. While the channels are of the opinion that this genre enjoys brand loyalty, the ratings don’t substantiate that.
Different markets, different leaders
TAM Media Research’s data shows that riding high on the ratings at present in the metro markets and the one million plus markets is Times Now that has claimed the numero uno position for almost five weeks at a stretch. Sunil Lulla, CEO, Times Global Broadcasting, said, “Times Now has clearly established its leadership as the No. 1 English news channel of 2007. It has grown its viewership share larger and faster than the other news service. In 2007, Times Now has not only been able to attain the highest viewership, but also retain it. We believe the audiences are hooked to Times Now because it has focussed on giving its viewers news which is relevant, unbiased and delivered in distinctive style. We’ve consciously tried to do our own thing and we are totally balanced, letting viewers decide on the most contentious issues.”
The last eight weeks have seen NDTV 24x7 drop shares week-on-week in the metro markets. CNN-IBN, too, hasn’t had the best run in this period, and is in the third slot in the metro markets, followed by Headlines Today. It should be noted that CNN-IBN is a pay channel in the markets of Mumbai and Delhi. CNN-IBN’s Marketing Head, Dilip Venkatraman, explained, “We believe in our product. We are the only English news channel which is pay in the major CAS markets. Inspite of this, we have the leadership numbers across TGs.”
Commenting on Headlines Today, G Krishnan, CEO, TV Today, explained that the channel was distinctly targeted at the Metro urbanite. He informed, “We have launched a host of new shows across entertainment, lifestyle, health and astrology. We are in the process of further strengthening our content offering before we create some noise in the market place.”
The story is different in the all-India market, where data shows that there is no clear leader. Times Now sees more share than its competition in the last two weeks in this market, and the Times Now graph appears to maintain its shares, unlike that of CNN-IBN, which has moved in waves – the last four weeks seeing the channel drop shares. NDTV 24x7 has lost share in the last eight weeks in the all-India market as well. Data indicates that there is no clear single leader for English news channels in this market, and the competition here is really between NDTV 24x7, CNN-IBN and Times Now.
Between the two international channels in India, BBC World seems to have a better share than CNN in the metro markets.
(TAM Media Research’s ratings have been calculated for the C&S 15 + from the week 36 to week 46)
With no clear leader, is there any brand loyalty for English news channels?
An apparent trend from the numbers is that viewers are fluctuating enough between these channels, not allowing a single obvious leader in the space. With such fluctuation, is there any brand loyalty in the English news genre? The players believe that there is.
Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-Chief, CNN-IBN, said, “We believe that viewers are loyal, the case in point being, whenever there has been a big story, be it the Punjab Elections, UP Elections, Hyderabad blasts, Pakistan Emergency, etc., the viewers have come to us, reflecting the trust people have with us and the credibility we enjoy. The basis of our inspiration are the six Is, which are Innovation, Insight, Immediacy, Interactivity, Inclusiveness and Impact.”
Arnab Goswami, Editor-in-Chief, Times Now, said, “Everytime viewers want news, they tune in to Times Now. What differentiates us is the way we look at news, and the way we present it. We’re going to take TV news to the next level.”
G Krishnan opines that in a cluttered market with no clear leader, the only success formula is differentiation. He said, “We have started the process of differentiation in terms of content and this is visible in our story selection and treatment. We will consolidate our position as a differentiated English news product catering to the younger metro urbanite.”
The players also explain that content – from the choice of stories and issues, to its treatment to the sheer packaging – makes a difference to whether the viewer stays or strays. Goswami elaborated, “There has been a consistent effort from the programming team to offer viewers content that is relevant to them in a fast, sleek and well-packaged format. Our efforts in tightening up the primetime and making it a one-stop shop for news on politics, games and entertainment, has given positive results. We have managed to feel the pulse of our viewers and responded to their news requirements effectively.”
“Essentially, the same kind of content works for all news audiences – sports and entertainment. However, the packaging of an English channel needs to be sensitively handled to cater to the urban audiences,” added Krishnan.
2007: the year of growth for the English general news genre
While content is important, for an English news channel, perception is another area that the players concentrate on, in addition to distribution. The focus on all these areas has allowed individual players to grow the genre itself. Lulla said, “Quite obviously, the category has seen significant growth and a degree of increased competitiveness. We believe the audiences are hooked to Times Now and it has clearly emerged as the news channel of choice, because it is focussed on producing news that is relevant to viewers, and presented in a style that is contemporary.”
In the year itself, the genre has seen a noteworthy growth in its reach and time spent. From the quarter April-June 2007, the monthly reach has grown from 62,555,000 to 66,761,000 in the July-September 2007 quarter. The monthly time spent too has grown from over 30 minutes to almost 38 minutes.
Giving more of an advice here, Krishnan said, “The English news space is a dichotomy between perception and actual viewership. While some channels heavily promote anchors and driver programmes, the fact is that these properties don’t necessarily bring in commensurate viewership.”
The genre is seeing growth and there does appear to be space for expected newcomers like News X. As for the players, each of them is sure that they are doing the right things. Times Now has numbers on its side right now, and according to Lulla, the leadership in numbers had been mirrored in the leadership in distribution as well.
Venkatraman maintained that CNN-IBN was a leader across TGs, including the Elite Panel. He said, “English news is based on credibility, perception and thought leadership. On these parameters, coupled with our commitment to viewer centric programming, we are clearly the leaders. The fact that CNN-IBN has won several awards, including four Ramnath Goenka Awards, the most by a news channel, is also a reflection of our popularity, credibility and leadership.”
Sardesai said, “At the end of the day we are journalists who survive on credibility and thought leadership. To us, news is a commitment and a passion, and our content will continue to reflect that. We intend to keep building on the six Is.”
The war is going to go on, but this one is a healthy combat for the genre, allowing competent choices for the advertisers. With no clear leader in the English news space, there definitely appears to be an opportunity for every challenger in this space, and the champions are evidently looking at ways of bettering themselves.