Rahul Shivshankar replaced Arnab Goswami as the Chief Editor at English news channel Times Now last December. This is Shivshankar’s second stint with the network after six years – earlier he worked as Senior Editor of Times Now. Shivshankar tells us what has worked for the channel, reception to his show ‘India Upfront’ and why content has to be built on facts.
How has your show ‘India Upfront’ been received?
The show has done very well. Currently it’s number one in its category for the last five-six weeks. It took me about two weeks to get into it. I am glad that it’s catching some traction now. The show, at this moment, is not obsessed with ratings. The important thing is at primetime I want to situate stories in a neighbourhood effect. That's my basic premise going into this show, which was perhaps not associated with the Times Now brand. And, this is what I want to take it back to. It's going to take a while for people to warm up to it. But I myself am quite surprised by the initial success of the show.
Why did you choose the 8pm time slot for your show ‘India Upfront’?
The other choice was to do ‘Newshour.’ Temperamentally I am an editor, not really the entertainer. I can’t sit there and have 12 windows open. The time issue resolves itself because we do ‘Newshour’ for two hours. Plus, you can build primetime and bring more breadth to it. I don’t see why you can't create an appointment viewing. It's possible.
How has your journey with Times Now been so far?
Spectacular! I think no one ever gives credit to this team. No personality can be divorced from its team's hard work. I left Times Now because sometimes a personality becomes a banyan tree and under the banyan tree nothing grows. And, I wasn't prepared to be someone, who in that sense, was disregarded. It's my utter joy to be working with a team that’s so professional but unfortunately, never got its due.
At one point Times Now was synonymous with Arnab Goswami, after his exit, how has it been to lead Times Now ?
No one should assume that an individual is bigger than the news genre. Once you start assuming that you make fundamental mistakes. Aaj Tak has been a leader since its launch, apart from the initial stage it has never been associated with one personality. There is so much space today for a different variant.
Tell us about your editorial approach for the channel.
It's about brand building and identifying it with the core values which are honesty, integrity, truth and fact. This is the narrative I have injected in the 8’o clock slot (‘India Upfront’) so that the viewer understands that it's now going to be a channel of substance built on fact.
Anyone who says fact is boring is contemptuous of the viewer. Opinion is great but even that has to be based on hard fact to be believable. When it comes to our record viewership, there’s constructive opinion here but it's based on undisputable facts. That’s what has worked for us.
What was the motive behind the launch of Mirror Now?
We want to build a spectrum, national to local. The print side is done effectively. Under our entire rainbow of options we want to have breadth of coverage.
What are your future plans for the channel Times Now?
We are a channel that is now distributed across hundred countries, so going forward we will be differentiating our content to serve the people, the Indian diaspora in those countries. You are going to see many variants of Times Now. That's why HD is so important to us. You will see many types of Times Now. We will have individual content feeds. For different markets there will be different programming. You can call it TIMES NOW US or UK or Europe or whatever. There will be differentiated content as we go forward, which is huge expansion that we are talking about.
Also, we want to build the channel around the core values and ensure that we do journalism that moves mountains because we believe in the truth.
Recently between Week 7 and 10, the English news genre witnessed a viewership spike of 45 per cent. What are your thoughts on the growth in this space?
We are very optimistic about it. That's why we have launched new products like Mirror Now and Times Now HD. Times Now HD is going to be an affirmation, further still, of our absolute optimism and buoyancy with regard to this genre.