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Indian news channels gearing up for US election fever with gusto

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Indian news channels gearing up for US election fever with gusto

The news genre is never devoid of action. The excitement around the Maharashtra elections hasn’t even come to an end and channels are gearing up to catch the US Presidential elections fever. For the channels, the initiative is an important one. However, media experts express that the deals are more about imagery than numbers.

Does US Presidential election hold any water for the Indian viewer?

“Yes it does,” believes QW Naqwi, News Director, Aaj Tak, “The world is becoming smaller and unipolar. Whatever happens in the US influences the global market. The day-to-day interactions between India and the US have increased and there is a large Indian populace residing in the US. Also, due to international politics and events like the Iraq war, the world is watching these elections closely.”

Rajat Sharma, Managing Director, India TV adds, “People are interested in anything that affects the politics and economy of India. These results are going to matter in India - US political equations and the economic outlook of US towards India. In that light, it is important to know not only the election’s results but also explain the impact in India to the viewer.”

However, Laxmi Goel, CEO, Zee News has a different opinion on the subject. “The effect on India would be of importance to key decision makers of the industry. In that sense, we are catering just to a small segment here and it wouldn’t be wrong to cover it as any other international news. More than the coverage, it is the analysis that is important.”

The reasons might be different but Indian news channels have made it clear that viewers are interested is seeing how a nation selects the most powerful leader of the world. And the coverage of these power polls, are planned accordingly.

The media view

While the channels have planned quite a lot around the elections, media players have their own opinions. Responding to the issue, Rajiv Gopinath, Media Director, Madison, expresses, “I don’t think there will be any effect on ratings at all. From an advertiser’s point, I would be interested in how serious a channel is in promoting the coverage.”

Gopinath believes that the property can be seen only from a saliency point of view, “The only benefit can come from sponsorships and that is why the number of promos matter – how much can a brand ride on the property.”

Supporting the view that there won’t be any major number game, Navin Kathuria, Media Group Head, Media Direction, shares, “The property is necessarily for the very elite. A Hindi news channel gives you the advantage of frequency but this is going to be more about imagery.”

Kathuria adds that more than advertiser’s gains it is the news channels themselves who will benefit from the property. “Associating with the property would be a matter of prestige for the channel itself.”

Amol Dighe, Investment Director, MindShare Fulcrum, believes that the property would cater to the top-end brands. “The property is catering to a very niche audience. As a result, it makes sense for categories like automobiles, personal finance and the likes to be present on it.”

The coverage

The leader, however, have headed for the event right from the day one. “Others might be waking to it now but we started the coverage in August when we showed the conventions. In September, when we aired the Democrats convention, we even had an exclusive interview with Bill Clinton on the elections,” says Naqwi.

Aaj Tak has a daily 10-minute capsule, ‘Superpower Ka Shahenshah’ covering the various developments around the election processes. “In addition to this, to induce the Indian perspective in it, we would also be bringing analysis of the results and the impact in India.”

With an exclusive tie-up with the Voice of America, the channel has also planned substantial live coverage on the polling and counting days.

STAR News has made a tie-up with Fox TV for covering the US elections. The channel’s coverage includes elections processes in the US, the role of the media, the ad blitz, the presidential debates and each dimension will be explained with reference to the processes back home.

The channel has put in place a segment called ‘Kaun Khush, Kerry Ya Bush’. A daily segment is aired throughout the day currently. However, from October 31, the channel will air a daily half-hour show at 7.30 am.

While NDTV has inked a strategic association with various international content houses, Zee’s deal with Reuters would allow it access to exclusive content as well. “Our international news content is higher than other channels in any case,” claims Goel, “Continuing with that, we will also bring in senior media analysts, who will explain the implications of the elections.”

Sharma informs that the focus of India TV’s coverage would be on the analysis as well. “For all such events we look into the politics behind it and its impact. There would be simultaneous analysis of the results. We have always steered away from me-too-ism and in this case too, we would bring only the aspects that hold importance to Indian audience,” says Sharma.

Sahara Samay Rashtriya has launched a half-hour show, ‘Vote America’. The programme features interviews with American political experts, senators and congressmen, social scientists, academicians from Columbia University and of course, the common man. The daily show will focus on issues of concern to India like outsourcing and foreign policy matters.

Needless to say that on the international media scene, the US Presidential election is the ‘big fish’. In the Indian waters, it might not be that dominant but the news channels are not treating it as a small fry either.


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