India News believes that the future lies with regional channels. In line with this belief, it has extensive expansion plans. By December 2012, the channel plans to take its network coverage to 65 per cent of the country. The channel will expand to southern states in 2013.
In an exclusive conversation with exchange4media, Kartikeya Sharma, MD, India News and President, Association of Regional TV Broadcasters of India (ARTBI) shared, “We will have entertainment and news coverage in languages such as Bangla, Oriya, Marathi and Gujarati. We will also foray into North-Eastern states by the end of the year.”
Sharma further said, “We will be repositioning our national channels in six to eight months and will cater to a new target audience. Regional channels are more profitable and the economy of scale is helpful for a group entity to be viable in the long run.”
Regional channels can compete not just with other regional channels in that region, but with national channels as well. Today, audience expectations from regional channels are high and they want them to be of the same calibre as national channels. Hence, it is important to have similar packaging, presentation, look and feel, he shared.
His optimism is further buoyed by the recent announcement made by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), waiving off 0.02 per cent on all India channel share for empanelment, while 40 per cent of the ad budget has been exclusively earmarked for regional channels. According to Sharma, the new policy means three things:
• Everyone will be empanelled
• The government has announced it will take bottom-up approach
• This will give a fresh lease of life to regional channels that have been struggling to survive
When asked to share his thoughts on digitisation, Sharma remarked that it is the best thing to happen to the industry if one looked at the long-term perspective. According to him, the problem is that the industry is disorganised and certain cities such as Mumbai and Delhi are less prepared. Considering these ground realities, the digitisation process will take longer than what the government has envisaged.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) diktat of limiting ad time to 12 minutes per hour of programming would affect broadcasters’ bottom and top line. “It would make inventory limited for everyone, though it will not affect India News much as we are already selling 12 minutes of ad time,” Sharma divulged.
The future of entertainment and non-entertainment segments is with regional channels and India News would be aggressive on this front, he reiterated. In four years, the group had launched India News Bihar, India News Jharkhand, India News Rajasthan, India News UP, India News Uttarakhand and India News Haryana. India News MP and Chhattisgarh, which will be launched by May 30, 2012, will complete the group’s expansion in the Hindi heartland.