Prasar Bharati’s DD News channel has bagged advertising worth Rs 5 crore in the first month of the new financial year beginning April. The news channel’s target for the year is Rs 27 crore.
Sanjiv Dutta, Doordarshan’s additional director general (ADG), news & current affairs, is confident of meeting the target as the channel exceeded its revenue projections for the financial year ending March 31. Between November 2003, when the channel was launched, and March 2004, DD News generated Rs 10 crore revenue against the projected Rs 2 crore.
Dutta’s confidence, perhaps, stems from the advertisers’ response to the channel. “Today, all the premium brands are on the channel,” he says. “We are uniquely positioned as a terrestrial cum satellite channel.
Advertisers are keen to book spots because of our reach,” adds Vijaylakshmi Chhabra, Prasar Bharati’s director (marketing). While DD News is seen in all the cable and satellite homes, it is also present in almost 50 million terrestrial TV homes.
Chhabra likes to believe that advertisers are flocking to DD News as it is as slick as any other private news channel. A senior executive at media buying agency OMS Indis, does not agree.
“Quality and packaging is still an issue at DD News. “It has lost some of the initial charm it had when it was number two. It had a promising start but the fight for the top slot did not turn out to be interesting enough,” she says.
In the last six months, DD News has lost its number two position and slipped to number four in the news channel race.
Surprisingly, Dutta is unfazed by the critics. He says that the channel share rankings can be misleading. “DD News is a monopoly in terrestrial homes but the channel share study covers only the cable and satellite (C&S) households,” he says.
Even individual channels cull different parameters from the survey to claim top positions. “They quote viewership numbers among different age groups and cities to claim leadership,” he adds.
But what about ad revenue? Despite its enormous reach, the gap between private channels’ and DD News’ revenue is huge. Media industry estimates suggest that, individually, the private news channels made between Rs 30 and Rs 60 crore in advertising last year.
Again, Dutta says that DD News cannot match the private channels on th e revenue front as it operates on a fixed rate card system for advertising.
“For instance, I cannot sell surplus inventory at a discounted rate at the last minute, unlike the private channels who enjoy that flexibility,” he says.
Anita Nayyar, Starcom India’s managing director (North), however, believes that advertisers opt for Aaj Tak or NDTV India to reach news sudiences in C&S homes. “DD News is still not on the satellite channel horizon. I think it is a mindset issue where it is still associated with terrestrial reach.”
Dutta does not think that advertisers are shunning the channel. “My inventory is full and the market has absorbed the 20 per cent ad rate hike in April,” he adds. DD News officials may be happy for now, but it remains to be seen whether its April showers turn into a deluge in the months to come.