Abhay Ojha, Executive Vice President, Head Sales & Marketing, News Nation Network recounts the journey of News Nation & News State, the DNA of the channel and plans for the channel looking ahead.
Could you please give a report card of both the channels – News Nation and News State Uttar Pradesh/ Uttarakhand?
News Nation was launched in 2013 in a cluttered market, and in the span of two years we are among the top three/four Hindi news channels. We acted as a catalyst as the entire news ecosystem has undergone a change with lot of positive and feel good news with less negativity. Before that news channel would say ‘everything is a breaking news’. Now that has taken a full stop. Our DNA is: “Khabre Jo Banti Hai Aapki Power and we live by this.
We believe if we keep everything simple and the content neat, people will watch you. We have maintained a very basic agenda, don’t be biased, just report. This is how we are now ranked in top three or four and have beaten most of the older channels, having big legacies and are from larger media houses.
On completion of one year of News Nation, we launched News State Uttar Pradesh/ Uttarakhand (News State UP/UK)– a channel that caters to Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. When we launched there were six to eight players in the markets and currently our channel is number one. We report from 75 districts of UP and 13 districts of Uttarakhand, and have a program called Ab Tak Aṭhāsī (88) where we report from every district. The local people see our journalists as messiahs because he takes their point of view and reporting it to the concerned authorities so that they can take it forward.
There is still a lot of room to improve upon. It will now translate into revenues because at the end of the day our client and agencies who is buying looks at longevity. Going forward we should be able to do a decent number in terms of revenues on both the channel.
What are you doing on the distribution front?
That is still a big concern area for us. We thought that with Digitisation, carriage fee will come down by about couple of points but that has not happened because Digitisation has taken a back seat. We are a free-to-air channel and have invested in content and distribution so a huge amount of money goes into distribution. We are looking at Digitisation of the entire country so that carriage fees go down and my dependence on the advertising revenue comes down. But today, it is a big amount and distribution cost is a huge cost in running of the channel.
What are the plans that you have in place for 2015-16?
We are very clear that in the next six months to one year, we want to be in the top two or maybe the topmost channel in the Hindi news space nationally . We have full confidence because if we can reach the the top four within two years of launch, then the next target is to get into top three or two or maybe the top channel in next one year.
We have to grow the base number and we’ll be working on content, distribution and post that marketing so that the channel reaches out to everyone.
Are you looking at launching other channels?
We have plans obviously to broaden the bouquet of channels. Currently I cannot comment but yes, it could be another national channel or regional channel or it could also be a General Entertainment Channel. So the basket is pretty much open to us to realise the potential and need gap and on basis of good research detail we will be in the space at the opportune time.
The Hindi news space is really competitive and cluttered, what are the differentiators that you see that makes you stand apart from your competition both in terms of content and also otherwise?
We have maintained the hygiene factor, when it comes to look and feel of the channel and content plays the key role. So, we have maintained a very basic content and simple, pure reporting from across the country. That is what has led us to where we are has led to the cleaning of the content in the entire news eco-system. That is our trump card.
In terms of content and competition with other channels, my screen is less cluttered. Our reporters report to India what they see. That is one very big differentiator and we are not aligned to any point of view.
What has been the response from advertisers?
We launched in February 2013 and then took a very conscious call that we would start to go out in the market for business ten months from then. We met clients and agencies and told them to watch the
new channel with a different brand promise , neat content, hygiene factor, distributed across all touch point. The first campaign we signed was in November 2013 and since then we have almost 350 clients on-board across all categories.
A number of clients in the automobile category commented that they bought the channel because of the content and hygiene factor. So, yes clients also look at hygiene factor rather than just the number.
Do you see any upside in terms of ad rates?
Oh yes! In fact if you look at the last financial year to now, we have been able to increase the rates by about 30-40% on our base rates. And there is still room to grow and we are at par with most of the established channels when it comes to ad rates. Our idea was to establish the channel with good content and then command a good rate. So with regards to rate if we had compromised on it, then we would have got higher volume but then you compromise on content. My content to ad ratio is not saturated. When I say that, how much advertising per hour to how much of content, mine is a channel which is not saturated unlike others. I maintain a decent inventory of about close to 19,000-20,000 in the highest capacity and on an average close 15,000-16,000 per day; compared to the other established channels, where it would be 25,000-27,000 and lowest would be 20,000 on established channels. So we maintain a decent ad to content ratio.
A Hindi news audience is affluent and they are the ones who can take decisions unlike the GEC audience or Hindi movie audience where in you get audience from all walks of life but they might not have the disposable income. The ratio is pretty much skewed towards Hindi GEC audience or Hindi movie than Hindi news with regards to rate.