Bennett Coleman and Company Ltd’s (BCCL) Times Global Broadcasting Company Ltd (TGBCL) is all geared to launch its business news channel, that has been named ET Now. The channel name and logo were unveiled by the Prime Minister at the Economic Times Award for Corporate Excellence; and this gives only an inkling of the plans that TGBCL has for ET Now.
The preparations appear to be in place. BCCL has constructed a convergence model for the channel, where Rahul Joshi would lead the editorial of the ET brand in print, television and online. Correspondingly, Neeti Chopra is the Marketing Head for the brand across the three platforms. An ‘enabling structure’ has been put in place to execute this setup. The editorial team for ET Now is in place, and is busy with mock recordings and preparing for news bulletins from its Mumbai office. It is understood that ET Now has even explored international tie-ups for its content.
Lowe Lintas India has been hired as the advertising partner, while Lodestar Universal is looking after the media duties. If the industry word is anything to go by, an elaborate marketing plan is also in the offing.
The media industry is excited about ET Now and the expectation from the brand is high. ET’s brand power is one of the key reasons for this, and most media experts have stated that ET Now would compete directly with genre leader CNBC-TV18. “They have lost the plot already, if they look at anyone else in the space,” explained Sandip Tarkas, President, Consumer Strategy, Future Group.
The English business news broadcasting space also has NDTV Profit and UTVi.
Brand ET matters, but on-screen translation matters more
Irrespective of which industry leader exchange4media spoke to, the first statement was that The Economic Times brand brings strength to the table. Harish Shriyan, Managing Partner, OMD India, said, “ET is the single largest read daily in the country, but it is important to see whether that strength and expertise can be taken to television as well.” The sentiment is echoed by Pradeep Shrivastava, VP - Marketing, Idea Cellular, who observed,
“ET is one of the most respected business news brands in the country. When content from them comes to television, a combination of being credible can be expected, in addition to being recent. However, it still is too early to comment on whether Times would be able to achieve this or not.”
Brand ET has everyone excited, but the media observers are still cautious on what the final product would be.
Tarkas added, “Also, the Times Group does not have a successful television record. The only exception is Times Now, which, at best, is a modest success.”
Shriyan, however, pointed out that the case was different now than what it was at the time of the launch of Times Now. Even though Times Now had the backing of The Times of India, the channel was new to the television domain. He said, “In the case of ET Now, the Times Group has some television expertise in place and I am sure that they are careful on how they tackle aspects like distribution and so on.”
Fragmentation or growth of the biz news pie
Ajit Varghese, MD, Maxus India, is firm that ET Now might not necessarily be able to attract new eyeballs. He said, “Just because the channel has the ET brand name, it doesn’t mean that it would be able to pull new audiences. I expect the channel to eat into the current pie. Even in that, CNBC-TV18 has a heritage, and I suspect it is the lower rated channels that would get hit first.”
Shriyan, on the other hand, is of the opinion that ET Now would target the premium audiences and that this share could come from any channel.
The more optimistic view on this came from Shrivastava. He noted, “Increasingly, news channels have succeeded in building great viewership and growing the category, so you never know if the same can be seen in the business news category as well.”
Tarkas explained that the great opportunity for ET Now was to be able to be seen as more than just a stock markets’ channel. He explained, “Cracking the stock market is very important for the business news space in India, but at the same time, there is space for a more holistic channel. The thing with CNBC-TV18 is that it is seen as a stock market channel right now; if ET Now can break that mould, it would end up getting viewers that were never on television.”
Convergence model challenged
For now, media experts are awaiting the launch of ET Now, and have in a sense placed the channel in a more positive bracket than some of the competition in the space.
However, the one aspect of the channel that everyone is eyeing warily is the convergence model. Most media observers believe that while the convergence model is a good marketing ploy, it has its risks on the editorial front. Tarkas said, “Television is a different game from print – the style and presentation needed has to be different. I would like to see how a mind that can think print can also think television with a similar kind of success rate. If it can be done, it would be magic, but if not, then it is trouble.” If not, then it is a spectacular failure according to these experts.
Varghese added, “The convergence model can be the channel’s greatest strength or its biggest handicap. Look at the example of Times Now. It was only after the channel broke away from the serious style of reportage into being more confronting, more challenging, and being able to present its own views than just relay straight news that it was able to make a place for itself. The treatment of the space has to be completely different, and the question is whether the same skill set can adapt itself to these two different requirements.”
These experts believe that Times Now is successful inspite of The Times of India and not because of TOI.
The stage is clearly set for one of the hottest battles in the English business news space. TGBCL officials have said that the channel would launch before March 2009 and media experts believe that that would be an apt timing from the news angle that the new fiscal poses for a business news channel. At the same time, to capture the niche that exists, the product has to be perfected; the launch date is a mere tactical call in the larger picture.
The larger picture also means that CNBC-TV18 is probably all geared up. After all, ET has been to the print space what CNBC has been to the television space – the first choice of the audience. It is just a matter of a few weeks now when the games would begin for these business news players… and the industry is watching.
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