The latter half of 2005 and 2006 so far, saw much noise from the new English news channels. Whether it was announcing of international associations, marketing activities or other initiatives, new kids on the block – CNN-IBN and Times Now – ensured a fair share of voice. NDTV 24x7, the irrefutable leader in the segment, finally has competition, interestingly led by ex-NDTV hands Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami.
Has the second generation of English news indeed arrived with these new channels? Maybe, maybe not – but it definitely implies a milestone in the genre, which comes with the promise of expansion.
TAM Media Research shows that with the coming of CNN-IBN, the English news genre has steadily grown in viewership, especially for the male TG. The growth is far higher when seen in the six metros vis-à-vis the all India market. In all, the new channel has brought its own audience. Even though week-on-week there have been fluctuations, but on the larger picture, all channels are going strong.
Players in the segment see this as a vindication of the fact that the English news genre has much untapped potential. “Hitherto, the segment was monopolised,” said Haresh Chawla, CEO, TV-18 Group, which broadcasts the channels CNN-IBN and CNBC TV-18. “Research has shown that the viewership, especially in the adult category, has expanded dramatically with CNN-IBN entering the fold,” he added.
“There are 250 million homes, 110 TV homes and 61 million C&S homes – the only thing that can happen from here is growth,” asserted Sunil Lulla, CEO, Times Global Broadcast. “The key is to have a distinctive proposition. When one is able to manage that, there would be competition in the market and not clutter, leading to growth on all fronts.”
Raj Nayak, CEO, NDTV Media, too, is firm on the view that new players will lead to an increase in ad monies and viewership.
Nonetheless, when asked on fragmentation, Lulla replied, “Yes, there will be fragmentation. The genre will get more segmented and challenging, but today which business doesn’t face this? The positive aspect about the genre continues to be the fact that unlike the Hindi news genre, there is no clutter here.”
Charles G Stocks, VP, Media Strategy and Development, Reuters Media, added, “The advertiser is spending more money today and we have seen that spends have gone up across categories. Growth is definite in the news genre in India and the rate of growth is only set to increase further, going forward.”
Bringing an international comparison here, Stocks said, “India is at the stage of growth that some more mature markets were in a few years back. The development in the media sector has seen more targeted mediums finding shape. It isn’t so much about large numbers coming to a channel, but more quality or specific numbers coming to a channel. Surely the advertiser is interested in something like that.”
Comparing the genre to English print, Chawla said, “Where the English print news market is over Rs 2,000 crore, English news channels is only a Rs 200 crore market. Just looking at that you know the kind of potential the market holds.”
The most interesting aspect of this change in the genre, however, is the impact it has had on the existing player – NDTV 24x7 in particular, which has been the single dominant force in the English general news category. In terms of numbers, CNN-IBN is a likely threat to NDTV already, and with Times Now in the fray now, the threat can double.
However, at present this doesn’t disturb Nayak at all. “I have always welcomed competition in every business. It is good for the genre and for the viewer. The advertising base will grow and so will the viewership with new players,” he said.
As to former NDTV hands being at the forefront of the channel, Nayak said, “Every employee in every organisation is an asset, Both Rajdeep and Arnab are extremely good journalists and are good friends. And so are G Krishnan of Aaj Tak or Sunil Lulla of Times Now and Uday Shankar of STAR News for that matter. Good professionals don’t mix business and friendship.”
Nayak believed that there was enough place for multiple-players, and Chawla seconded that, adding, “I think the top three players will control 80 per cent of the market going forward.”
Fair enough, but what the industry would be looking out for is who is on what rank among the top players. The new entrants are gunning for leadership and NDTV is going to do everything to maintain its dominance. The battle, as they say, has begun.