As 2016 draws to a close, MK Anand, MD & CEO at Times Network, sat down for an exclusive conversation with exchange4media in which he hinted at a slowdown in the annual growth figures of the company owing to the damp market situation as a result of demonetisation. In the wake of Arnab Goswami’s resignation, he pointed out that Times Now had retained its market share besides indicating that their joint venture with Vice News was all set to go live soon.
He also observed that the contribution of television news to the overall revenues of Times Network has gone down. Previously, Anand had told a business newspaper in November 2015 that television news constituted 55-60% of Times Network’s annual revenues.
Existing revenues and growth prediction
“I don’t know the exact number but in the last one year we have launched Movies Now 2, Movies Now HD, Romedy Now HD and Movies Now 2 HD. Four new channels have come so naturally that (revenues from news channels) would have gone down,” he said. Maintaining that revenues from television news must be in the range of 35% and not more, he insisted that Times Network is “on track” to provide BCCL with 15-16% revenues by 2017-18.
However, there has been an adverse impact on the business as a result of demonetisation. “In this quarter, our lull is more than what print has seen but our average growth has been more than 20% (compound annual growth) from 2014 onwards,” Anand mentioned. Opining that the contribution from Times Network is increasing because it is growing faster than the print company, he was also quick to point out that the network had a much smaller base.
According to him, while the first half of the current financial year was normal, the latter half has turned out to be quite abnormal. In such a scenario, the level of growth will be reduced. “We should be happy to get a growth of around 8-10%,” he said.
Labelling advertising as “sectoral”, Anand argued that the impact of demonetisation on advertising has been both positive and negative. As per him, the overall impact across media can be pegged at 25%. “At the end of it all, I think December will be better than November but the market seems to be as damp as it was in November,” he claimed.
He added that the situation was bound to improve by February or March as the people living in the urban centres and metro cities will once again have currency in their hands by that time.
Times Now in post-Arnab era
Anand also addressed the situation arising out of the departure of Goswami, former Editor-in-Chief of Times Now & ET Now, in November. Citing the example of movie business, he said, “When you are in the movie business, you sign up stars and market the movie around the star and the movie type. You go on with the business. Once that movie gets over, you start another movie and in certain cases you may not have a star, you may have a multi-star cast.”
Till the very last week of his association with Times Network, Anand stated that Goswami was the face of the channel. Anand “was very happy that he (Goswami) had those multiple faces of his on the channel and it was good for the network’s viewership at that point in time.” Post Goswami’s exit, not much has changed for Anand.
“It’s not about holding onto numero uno position. We have been able to keep our market share intact. It’s not something going up or down. We have done whatever needs to be done,” he asserted. Claiming that the total market share of Times Now from week 41 to week 45 of 2016 was 41%, he noted that the figures remained the same after Goswami left from week 46 onwards till week 49.
A report published last month claimed that Goswami’s resignation led to a sense of panic among advertisers who asked for renegotiating their contracts. When questioned, Anand told exchange4media that some people blatantly came and said that since The Newshour’s star presenter was gone, the network was all set to lose Rs 100 crore.
“My answer to that is I wish it was (The Newshour’s alleged worth of Rs 100 crore),” he said. Going further, he mentioned that The Newshour was well on course to become a property worth Rs 100 crore owing to its powerful nature. Eventually, Times Network does intend to “make our Newshour Rs 100 crore property”.
But Anand completed rejected stories of advertisers walking out of Times Now. “Not a single person has walked out,” he maintained. He went ahead to suggest that the same can be corroborated with the help of ADEX since the sponsors and lead advertisers on The Newshour this week were the same as the ones in October which is Hyundai, Patanjali and Vivo.
On the renegotiation of advertising prices, Anand remarked, “I did my grounding in Response (the ad sales unit of Times of India). I do not know how to go back on pricing. I only know how to go up on pricing.” Staying clear of being “exploitative”, Anand opined that Times Network’s “pricing policies will never be compromised by any reason”.
Reacting to reports of Times Network serving a legal notice to employees who quit recently, he said, “It is entirely hogwash. It has been instigated by outsiders wanting to create a story where there is no story. There is no legal notice at all.” Enumerating on the process, he claimed that the organisation cannot serve any person with a legal notice just because he/she has resigned. For a legal notice to be served, the person needs to be an outsider, he added.
A clause in the contract of Times Network’s employees apparently states that an individual cannot work for any rival organisation for a period of at least one year after his/her resignation. “That provision is for me also,” Anand responded. He mentioned that whenever an employee resigned, the HR department sends out a reply to him/her notifying them about the exit interview. “In this case, I think 8 people were there, it is the standard format which has gone,” he said.
Stressing that the show must go on, Anand emphasized that what is seen on television screens is the work of more than 300 people. “One person may quit. That doesn’t mean the work of the other people is going to be compromised,” he said. He explained that the team at Times Now is determined to perform well. “To be honest, that team has actually got together and are now coming up with a point that everybody celebrates our ex-colleague and there is a feeling we will go down, we want to show you that we will do better,” he narrated.
He conceded that Goswami was a “celebrity” but not an “endorsement specialist”. “He was the representative of the platform and platform’s viewership is intact,” he noted.