There has been quite a bit of action in the Hindi news genre of late, especially with regard to the number two player. Even as the numbers have been throwing up a different player every week recently, media professionals explain that decisions in the domain rely more on perception now and less on TRPs. And as more players are set to enter the field, the situation will accentuate further.
Looking at TAM Media Research numbers for Hindi news channels in 2005, one finds that traditional leader, Aaj Tak, has consistently lost shares. The year began with NDTV India as the clear No 2, followed by Zee TV. However, currently the No 2 spot is held by STAR News.
A look at the target CS 15+ in the Hindi speaking market shows that for all day shares, in the latest TAM week 34, STAR News has drawn level with Aaj Tak, claiming a share of 1.66 per cent channel share. NDTV and Zee News are running neck and neck to take the next spots.
STAR News has seen a good run in the last four weeks; in fact, in week 32, the channel was just a decimal point behind Aaj Tak. Evidently, as far as numbers are concerned, STAR News is seeing some good times.
Considering that numbers can often be unpredictable, how do media professionals perceive this clear swing through August? Said Manoj Malkani, Group Head, Broadcast Investments, Starcom, “STAR News is encashing on their flood coverage in Mumbai. The numbers have given the channel a boost and, as is the trend, people tend to stay with the channel for sometime after such news events happen. But it will take just one wacky initiative from any other channel to change the dynamics again.”
According to Malkani, the news channel game was moving to a platform where perception would play a more important role than ever in buying decisions. A point that Navin Kathuria, Media Group Head, Media Direction, agreed with. Said Kathuria, “An example of this is seen in the fact that NDTV is still seen as the No 2 player in the Hindi news segment. TRPs do play a role. So, if NDTV consistently drops and other channels pick up, the perception will change – but right now, irrespective of the numbers, when you speak about positioning, NDTV is slotted at No 2.”
But, then, what about the fact that like Aaj Tak, NDTV India, too, has seen a consistent drop in numbers right through the year? To this Malkani replied, “The NDTV package itself is seen as a premium one. News channels are a long-term game. Over the years, NDTV has been associated with quality and that is what is still working in its favour.”
Gautam Rajagopal, Media Buying Head, OMS, shares a similar view. According to him, “You don’t make plans on three weeks’ data. The moment you talk of a longer delivery and a six-week average and so on, players like NDTV come into the fray despite the performance of other channels. Ratings have already taken a back seat for Hindi news channels. At best, they help you with trends, but you will be in trouble if you base buying decisions on them completely.”
A point that all media professionals bring forth is that fragmentation in the field will grow more when newcomers like Tez, Indian Broadcast News and others hit the tube. The leader will lose some more points, which suggests that Aaj Tak will soon be sharing its No 1 position more, as it had to do in week 34.
The only solution for media buyers in such a case is depending on the perception value of the channel, and since perception cannot be quantified, the single currency for the advertiser’s money – ratings – will come into play.