The year 2009 has been an important one for English business news channels. From the Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd, The Economic Times launched its television avatar in ET Now this year. UTV sealed a relation with Bloomberg TV and was rechristened Bloomberg UTV in the year. And while these developments churned competitive dynamics in the lower rung, and increased competition for genre leader CNBC-TV18, TAM Media Research data shows that through the year, and in both C&S ABC 25+ and CS Male AB 25+ target groups, CNBC-TV18 has held on to its leadership position.
However, much like the Sensex and Nifty, the Indian English business news channels have also seen ups and downs throughout the year. Where CNBC-TV18 has held on to the top spot and NDTV Profit has been a strong No. 2 player, the entry of ET Now and the revitalising of Bloomberg UTV has created a strong fight between the three channels.
For some in the industry, the numbers from ET Now have been as per expectations, since it is switching between the No. 3 and No. 4 positions. However, for others, the numbers have not been as per expectations, since the channel has not appeared to have made any dent on CNBC-TV18. However, most are still waiting to see how this newcomer shapes up and its impact on the genre.
CNBC-TV18: Ebb & Flow in viewership graph, yet the leader
The viewership graph of CNBC-TV18 has declined from an overall channel share of 0.43 per cent in January 2009 to 0.32 per cent in October 09, yet the channels’ position remains unchallenged.
Praveen Sharma, COO, Madison Media, observed that any leader would shed some share on arrival of new players, and so, CNBC-TV18 would always be under pressure to hold its share in the next few months. He noted, “The polarisation in shares is likely to rationalise, but I won’t be surprised if CNBC-TV18, being as clear a leader as it is, is able to maintain its leadership position for a while.”
On the highs and lows that CNBC-TV18 has seen, Surbhi C Murthy, Head - Delhi, Allied Media, observed, “The changes in pattern are normal viewership changes which happen week on week. There is no concrete conclusion that can be drawn from this, apart from the fact that the competition is gearing up with new shows and properties, and that it also mirrors the movements in the stock market.”
Anindya Ray, GM, Lodestar Universal, commented on whether the English business news domain, like many other genres, would see a situation where there was no clear leader. Ray observed, “The question should be ‘why’ would it change? Change can happen in two ways – credible programming breaking new pathways and credible environment. Currently, CNBC-TV18 enjoys being a credible business news channel, one that has literally grown with India coming out of the shackles of the License Raj. Hence, it is known to be the yardstick of all business moves in India.”
He added, “A true blue news channel cannot have lengthy spells of high ratings. Only a channel with high percentage of non-news content can do that. That is not the hallmark of being a rigorous news channel. With good alternatives coming up – Bloomberg UTV and ET Now – the entire category would be more robust in terms of its offering.”
Entangled Players, Close Competition
This year, NDTV Profit has dominated the second position in English business news space viewership. However, the viewership movements in the last few weeks throw some interesting results for the second rung position. All three players are locked in fierce competition at this position. Who emerges to be a consistent player in the No. 2 slot would be interesting to look out for from here.
Speaking on how media planners and buyers view these channels when there are no numbers to support a buying decision, Madison Media’s Sharma said, “Pricing of small niche channels is always based on a combination of numbers, content quality, ad clutter on the channel and so on.”
Ray commented that the decision was based more in terms of connectivity and what out-of-the-box thinking the channels can bring in to drive newness in communication. He said, “That makes the buying decision easier.”
Allied Media’s Murthy is of the opinion that the buying happened on the basis of the affinity of the audience segments to the channel or specific programmes, which ensured contextuality, along with the audience skew. Murthy further noted that the television viewership patterns were too volatile, however, business news as a genre did not show much change as it had more niche and loyal audiences.
What one can say for sure is that the business news genre is witnessing more competition than it had done in the past, and 2010 is expected to be a milestone year for the genre since the changes that have taken place this year, whether in the form of ET Now launch or Bloomberg’s partnership with UTV, would show their impact on the genre next year.