Courtesy technology and its impact on the media landscape, digitisation will be the lifeline for broadcasters, as it would be for various industries, in days to come. But where most focus is on how broadcasters will perish should digitisation not take place in time, CEO of ABP News, Ashok Venkatramani, brought a different view to the table when he said, “Many of us will die post digitisation.”
Venkatramani stated three facts that he believes form the base of his argument. The first is in context to the choice-set of channels that a consumer deals with. Data shows that every viewer follows not more than seven channels on an average at a given time. On similar lines, a household consumes about 15 channels.
The second fact is that unlike entertainment content, which is sought for the content itself implying viewers watched shows not channels, news content is consumed by brand name. Venkatramani said, “When there is big news breaking, viewers look for reliability. People view news by channel brand name and credibility.”
The third and final fact is that news, like other genres on television, is advertising driven. “We all are living in a make-believe world, where the only source of revenue is advertising that is built on a projected number given by a monopolistic company, the correctness of whose data we cannot be sure of,” said Venkatramani.
News broadcasters not prepared for digitisation
Post digitisation, the first fact would not change. Viewers will see the same number of channels on an average even if they have access to 500 channels. “We all will stand exposed when the consumer would be given a list and he would have to tick how many channels he wants. How many news channels do you think he will choose? In a digitised world, much will change – news broadcasters are not prepared for this. I don’t know how many of us are even thinking about it,” Venkatramani added.
Digitised television ratings would be real and not projected because they would be connected back to the number of set top boxes in households. So, there is a possibility that while a consumer is not going to pay for a channel, the reach numbers too will come crashing down. “Ad revenue, hence, would come down sharply and that drop will not be compensated by subscription revenue,” stated Venkatramani.
News channels must introspect
He is of the firm opinion that news channels have not even begun the preparation for life after digitisation. “As news channels, we are doing enough to chase external factors, but I am not sure we are doing enough to introspect. What are we doing to build our own brand? No one focuses enough on brand building and credibility,” he further said.
He pointed out that something as simple as channel colours was not paid attention to and content differentiation was negligible. He stated, “Take the logo out and everyone looks alike. The effort to differentiate is also not there. We can argue to death whether or not there is money to differentiate, but that is building castles for the future. What is the correlation between the number of OB vans and viewership?”
Investment in training is next to nothing in the sector and when all this is paid attention to, there is a question mark on whether news channels are prepared for the day of reckoning.
Ashok Venkatramani was a speaker at the exchange4media organised NewsNext 2012, presented by Dish TV and powered by Television Street Maps.