Times Now Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami is the undisputed face of Times Network. At the recent Make in India Summit, organised by ET Now, Goswami’s pictures adorned publicity material erected at the venue. However, critics are not impressed as they accuse Times Now of being centred on the personality of a single journalist.
But Ashit Kukian, President, Revenue, Times Network has a different perspective. He says, “That is a good thing. Isn’t it?” He also says that the Indian cricket team was once synonymous with Sachin Tendulkar. “Of course Sachin Tendulkar is gone but the Indian team is still there. Today, it is Virat Kohli! So what’s wrong,” he adds.
Recently, NDTV’s CEO Vikram Chandra took veiled digs at Times Now during an award show held in New Delhi. He alleged that the network is able to get high ratings by providing army generals with a shouting platform. But Kukian believes that the audience is the ultimate judge since they provide the best feedback
As per his assessment, other networks are finding it hard to compete with Times Network as the viewership ratings are in their favour. He mentions that there is “no need to listen to anybody else” other than the audience.
However, Times Now is not alone in positioning itself at the top. Mukesh Ambani-owned CNN News 18 has repeatedly run advertisements claiming higher viewership than Times Now. Channels are said to be cherry picking ratings data to suit their agenda.
“As leaders, we have never felt the need to twist data,” Kukian asserts. Moreover, he argues that the desperation shown by other channels to project themselves as number one by misrepresenting data should be seen as a compliment to Times Network. Very often, television ratings prepared by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) come under the scanner for not depicting the overall viewership reality in the country.
While Kukian admits that there is scope for improvement, he insists that the BARC ratings are the best we can get. “Right now, we should be happy with what it is,” he reasons. The network claims to generate revenues through a combination of both news and entertainment channels. Their opinion is that the numbers have started to show all around growth. “In the last three and a half years, our dependency on a particular channel has come down,” says Kukian.
Following the Uri attacks, Times Now spearheaded the campaign to ban Pakistani artists from being associated with the Indian entertainment industry. But many were surprised when Times Group’s owner Vineet Jain contradicted Goswami’s viewpoint on the issue by standing up for Pakistani artists on Twitter.
For Kukian, the multiplicity of viewpoints is “the single biggest thing that we should be proud of” since Times Network assures editorial freedom to professionals and does not believe in imposing certain thoughts. “I heard somebody say that there are differences of viewpoint within a family that is closely knit. What’s then so different in having differences in the professional world,” he reasons.
Not just television but Times Group maintains dominance in the print and online news space as well. According to Kukian, communication is platform-neutral. Hence, Times Group has a multi-platform approach. “Anybody who talks mediums is suffering from format myopia because today’s generation and age is consuming content across platforms whether it is digital, television or print. It is more of a choice of convenience on the part of the audience at that particular point in time as to what they want to consume,” he adds.
In the digital space, Times Group has succeeded in tying up with foreign brands like The Huffington Post and Vice News. Speaking of the relationship, Kukian stresses that leaders like to be associated with leaders. He feels that “it is no surprise that anything that is big worldwide” looks at the Times Group when it comes to India.
Stating that the larger ambition of the company is to drive the nation’s agenda, he mentions that is precisely the reason why Times Now goes after non-performing bureaucrats and government agencies. Also, it supports the Make in India initiative since it views the effort as the single largest vision of the entire country and not just that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Referring to the network, Kukian says, “You need somebody who can give power to your voice.”