The election period has become virtually an Olympics for TV news channels. Every channel worth its name has tried to outdo the rest in terms of coverage to attract more eyeballs. The programming has intensified and investments have increased with each player looking at returns – be it higher ratings or all-time high ad rates.
For the leader, the coverage was positioned at 100 hours of original programming. The hours began on May 10, 2004 and hence technically end tonight. “The programming in this period has been completely original,” said Rajesh Sheshadri, Marketing Manager, Aaj Tak.
Did this pave the way for increased ad rates? “No,” replied Sheshadri, “Elections coverage for us has seen intensifying of activities but that is strictly in terms of the editorial. We are looking at long terms gain here rather than just increasing ad rates. Our inventories are already so full that hikes of these kinds cannot be made.”
What then were the gains? “Viewership in this period will be very high. We want to capture the new viewers and retain those eyeballs. Moving towards this stage, it is like reaching a crescendo and we want to ride that wave.”
For STAR News and NDTV, the case is different though. To begin with, the special coverage for both channels began today at 6.00 am. Both channels plan to observe midnight to 6.00 am as a cold period where the channels will telecast repeat programmes. In terms of programming initiatives, STAR News is not positioned at a specific hour period. The channel’s spokesperson informed that they did not do this as there is no guarantee as to how long it will take to form the government. Speaking more about their programming, he said, “Poll Khol will be stretched for the day. Shekhar Suman will be in the studio all day and he will be commenting on every election-related move. In that sense we are completely geared up.”
Which is also the case with NDTV, which too is positioned at 100 hours of election coverage. Raj Nayak, CEO, NDTV Media remarked, “NDTV is synonymous with election for years and we are giving that kind of credible coverage. Our teams are spread all across to report every election-related activity.”
However, increase in investment means increase in ad rates for both the channels. STAR News will see all-time high rates from today till the period that the elections are covered. Informs Joy Chakkraborthy, Sr VP, Ad Sales, STAR News, "The revenues that we have signed just on the back of elections is to the tune of Rs 18.7 crores."
Explaining more on the action here, he says, "Elections are a high ticket item but we came with very flexible packages so that even the lower budget advertisers can be a part of the election. Our inventories are cross categories. We have new brands like Cadbury, Loreal, Oxyrich, BASE Corporation, Indiagate Basmati, to name a few advertising with us. With these advertisers coming in, I think the period has proved to be a very productive one for us."
Similar is the case with NDTV. Nayak divulged, “We are charging an average of Rs 40,000 to Rs, 50,000 for every ten seconds of our spot buys as against the otherwise rate of Rs 10,000 on an average. Of course, the advertisers who took in the spots earlier got it cheaper. Now our inventories are full and we have had to say no to a few clients.”
Whether these 100 hours be able to match the cricket ratings, will be an interesting aspect to watch out for. And will the election coverage give the news genre the expected boost? That’s another question that will find an appropriate answer soon.