The final session of exchange4media NewsNext 2010, held in Delhi on September 1 was the power-packed CEO Panel, which pondered over the topic ‘An Evolved News Television Industry... Is India there yet?’ The panel comprised Barun Das, CEO, Zee News Ltd; G Krishnan, CEO, TV Today Group; Shashi Sinha, CEO, Lodestar UM; and Ashok Venkatramani, CEO, MCCS. The session was chaired by Pradyuman Maheshwari, Group Chief Editor, exchange4media Group.
Maheshwari started the discussion and pointed out that there were a handful of news channels where all the advertisers’ money went. Krishnan said that if Indian news industry has to evolve it has to stand on both its feet and cannot be solely dependent on the advertiser’s money. “There has to be a secondary stream of revenue, which I see in subscription. Earlier there was a 100 per cent dependence on advertisers, now it has reduced to 86 per cent. The rest comes from subscription. Once the news channels can find an alternate source of revenue, it can also charge relevant ad rates from advertisers”, said Krishnan. On the question of sustainability of news channels, Krishnan thought that the genre will not only sustain itself, but also grow exponentially.
Barun Das too saw a bright picture for the news channel industry in the future. He said “News business is a brilliant business and there is a lot of money to make. When digitalisation happens in the near future, the pay revenues will grow for news channels and subscription will grow. The economic recession has brought back rationality and made news channels understand that they can’t solely depend on advertisers for revenue. Also, I feel that the regional news channel market is still nascent and there is a lot of scope in it.”
However, Venkatramani didn’t think the picture of news channels in the future will be all hunky dory. He does not see digitalisation happening anytime soon, and hence the revenue problem of all the news channels will still remain. “In countries like US, the consumer sees value in the product (news channels) and approximately 85 per cent of the revenue comes from subscription. For India the problem is to get the dependency on advertisers down from 85 per cent. It is going to be very hard to come out of this dependence,” he added.
However, Sashi Sinha saw a growing market trend for future and with it he thought that the news channels will grow too. “News is ideally poised to reap the benefits of growth in the market.” There are various ways of looking at economic value. However the unfortunate truth remains that content is often undermined over attention when the advertiser’s money is concerned.
Krishnan however thought that changes are happening in the industry are for the good. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry is trying its bit, TRAI is trying to do what it can. Changes are happening slowly, but steadily. “Corrections will eventually happen... the number of players in the market is increasing. We have entered a narrow lane and now we have to look forward to increasing the capacity. However, there are a few serious players, and few non-serious players who are here just to make money,” added Krishnan. It is also essential that subscription rates are charged and the rates decided by the market and not by the Government. Only then will the good content flow be automated, when the channel knows that it only has to focus on content for consumers, and not the attention of the advertisers.
The panel also thought that localisation of news channels will be important in the future. Like in the case of newspapers, regional news channels will do well too. The panel also spoke about carriage charges amongst other things. Even though they realise that carriage fee will remain in one way or the other, they were all of the view that it could be regulated in a better way. The panel of CEO’s thought that there is scope of growth for the industry in future, albeit it must be treaded on with caution.