The corn fairy is here again. Come general elections and innovative programme formats are being incorporated by all the mainline news channels. The conventional is clearly making its way to the exit door, while live wire puppet shows, opinion polls, election related trivia, heated debates and discussions, attacks and counter attacks and speeches and sermons are ruling the roost. With an overwhelming of news channels clamoring for a piece of the election pie, how much differentiation can you actually expect in content? More importantly, what kind of a yardstick are media planners using when it comes to rooting for the best buys?
Credibility has many faces and evidently, it has those many election offerings too. NDTV has incorporated around eighteen segments, all in the election vein, which includes Sarokar, Chalte Chalte, India Bole, Apni Party Apni Baat, Party Headquarters Se, Chota Mooh Badi Baat, Chunavi Chakkar and Yeh Vada Raha. In addition, Vinod Dua would be giving his sound bytes on the twists and turns of the constituencies, accompanied by the seasoned Pranoy Roy. Clearly a formidable combination!
On the other side of the spectrum, the current leader of the ratings mart, Aaj Tak has announced some interesting initiatives of its own which includes Vote Bank (an analysis based programme that the projects the swings that are likely to occur), Aaj Ka MP (an election report card which would indicate what the people think about their MP’s), Election Express (around 30 days of run up to the elections, across the length and breadth of the country), Fast Forward (election rallies and tidbits) and Badalte Bol (which would cover decibels of those leaders who have changed their stance over the years.)
Again Zee News has its own election centric initiatives such as Janta Mange Hisaab (where a sitting MP would be confronted with a report card prepared by Zee journalists), Chunav Chaupal (the format would bring people and elected representatives on a common dais), Daurey Par Netaji (the format would capture select leaders and capture their style of canvassing) and Daurey Par Abhinetaji (a similar trailblazer with stars from cinema, television, art and sports.)
Variety is undoubtedly the spice of life. But doesn’t this wide plethora of offerings leave the planner in a fix? Hiren Pandit, GM, Mindshare asserts, “I believe that Aaj Tak has brought in some good offerings in the spirit of the elections but the competition is close. It’s a tight frame, and I guess that news channels are trying to explore the all the possible dimensions through which, the elections can be sliced. As for the buys, a great deal depends on the communication needs of your brand and the kind of audience that you are looking for. It all boils down to the kind of packages that are being offered by news channels. Do they provide enough value for money?”
He adds, “ April is generally a period, when spends of all the major advertisers is expected to see an upswing and by default, news channels would only stand to gain from it.”
Manas Misra, Associate Vice President, Initiative Media states that on a rough estimate, news channels stand to see an increase in revenue of approximately 15- 20% on account of the election fever. Misra believes, “ Since its election time, a certain amount of unplanned expenditure would undoubtedly occur on news channels. But it wouldn’t be all that sizeable in nature. Content wise, nearly all the channels are experimenting to a great degree and the same is reflected in the wide plethora of innovative formats. It’s quite difficult to take a pick, content wise. The primary consideration while attempting a buy would be the kind of packages which are being provided by the various news channels and the needs of the brand in question.”
Meanwhile, what are the channels expecting from the mile long election yarn, monetarily and otherwise? The spokesperson for TV Today, Rajesh Sheshadiri says, “ Relevant and credible information is our primary objective. The initiatives are completely in line with our commitment towards our viewers and our expectations revolve around the assumption that we would set the agenda for election coverage in the country. Monetarily, we have always performed well. And we are sure that the in-depth election coverage that’s being provided by us, would be just as widely supported by advertisers.”
As the countdown begins, proceedings on the various news channels are expected to get all the more exciting. Undoubtedly, it would have its own toll on the TRP’s as well.