The Hindi news segment is abuzz with action. Old players are seeing a change in order and new players are trying to find their place in the new order. On the overall scene, this segment can be divided into two sets – Group A with top four channels (Aaj Tak, NDTV India, STAR News and Zee News) and Group B with the next rung. The recent weeks have seen STAR News perform well in Group A, while Channel 7 has done the same in the Group B channels.
TAM Media Research shows that for the CS 15 + in the Hindi speaking markets, Aaj Tak dominates the Hindi news scene. However, in the last 10 weeks, STAR News has given the space something more to talk about. The channel has been on a constant raise – equating with Aaj Tak in weeks 34 and 35 and otherwise being a close second.
However, in the latest TAM week 39, STAR News has taken over with a market share (relative channel share) of 24 per cent in comparison to Aaj Tak’s 21.3 per cent. Zee News is at 15 per cent and NDTV India is at 13 per cent.
The order remains the same for the male TG, too, with STAR News as the lead channel. STAR News officials are obviously excited. “This is the first time in the history of Hindi news channels that a channel has displaced Aaj Tak and we are happy to be that channel,” said Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR News, “The beginning of the year has seen us invest in the channel – in terms of content and other aspects and it is now paying off,” he added.
It may be recalled that the first six months of 2005 saw STAR News on a downhill trend with Zee News delivering for the genre. Zee News has dropped a little now, but at an average is at par with the numbers it has thrown earlier in the year. Given changing trends like these, media experts have emphasised time and again that due to the clutter and fragmentation in the Hindi news genre, advertising decisions will soon bank more on perception than ratings.
Though STAR New’s Shankar agreed with this, he added that perceptions would always be based on numbers. “Perceptions don’t come out of thin air – they are based on tangible facts and a 10-week long stint will play a significant role in changing perceptions. The viewer is appreciating what he is watching on the channel. The Hindi news segment had faced the problem of reportage being done from a VVIP or a politician’s point of view. We have moved from that and cover news from the viewer’s point of view and that is working in our favour,” he asserted.
He is convinced that the road ahead has good news for STAR News.
Another channel currently upbeat is Channel 7. Despite Group A channels easily claiming over 70 per cent of the Hindi news genre, Group B channels are seeing a battle of their own. There is no clear leader here. Competition is hot between old players – DD News and Sahara Samay National – and newcomers, Awaaz and Channel 7. In the present state of affairs, Channel 7 is seeing a good run here, even though it cannot be called a consistent one.
In the latest TAM week, the market share of Channel 7 is in the same league as India TV and Sahara Samay National – all grossing over 5 per cent market share. However, for the last four weeks, Channel 7 has either surpassed these channels like in weeks 38 and 37 or been in the same delivery area.
For the six-month old channel this is good news. Channel 7’s Siddhartha Gupta informed that some aspects of the data indicated that they were on the right track. “If you look at the Uttar Pradesh numbers, we have always been in the top three, but as the channel has grown, other markets are also opening up for us, with the exception of Kolkata, we are being appreciated in all other markets and this is very encouraging.”
Throwing more light on this, he explained that the channel had seen substantial response in the last two months from the Mumbai and Maharashtra markets. “Every channel covered Ganpati celebrations in Maharashtra, but viewers chose to watch it on our channel and for that period we had the highest market share vis-à-vis any other channel,” he pointed out.
Gupta felt that the news game was based on perceptions. “Take the case of English news channels – they can’t be taken on the basis of ratings, it will make no CPRP sense. Hindi news channels are in that zone already, too. What will work in favour of a channel is when it has something to talk about. The Ganpati numbers gave us something to talk about. These are the kinds of examples that we have to consistently bring in so that we can create the right perception of the channel.”
Explaining that even on fine parameters of day wise or market wise shares, Channel 7 was seeing some positive reactions, Gupta said, “When the top four channels take 70 per cent to 75 per cent of the market, the challenge for a channel like us is to be viable and strengthen ourselves more. According to recent data, we are on the right track in achieving this.”
Aaj Tak officials couldn’t be contacted for comments on these developments. Being leaders in the space, the channel has seen many challenges with every new player coming in. The network is already gearing for the launch of more channels, Tez being the first from the lot. How the Hindi news scene and the market share for the group changes once these plans materialise, will be quite a watch.