The opening numbers of Times Now are here, and with that comes the first set of ranking of the suddenly populated English news genre. The first week hasn’t given the urban skewed English news channel much, but media experts are still optimistic – of Times Now and the English news genre.
TAM Media Research shows that for the SEC AB 15 + in the metros, English news channels have seen a dip in the latest week, in comparison to the 1.3 total channel share that the sector had in week five, in week six, it is 1 per cent only. In the latest TAM week, NDTV 24x7 is the clear leader with 31 per cent. The second slot is taken by CNBC TV-18 with 19 per cent. CNN-IBN claims a cool 18 per cent, NDTV Profit has a 15 per cent share, Headlines Today has 8 per cent, while Times Now is 5 per cent. BBC World and CNN have 3 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively.
In absolute terms, the beginning numbers aren’t big, but there is a lot more here that needs to be taken into consideration. For starters, as Sunil Lulla, CEO, Times Global Broadcasting Co Ltd, put it, “You cannot expect a baby to get up and run in the first week itself.”
Media experts tend to agree with him on this. “It’s too early to say good or bad, every channel needs time to stabilise. If we are even comparing it with CNN-IBN, the latter is two months old now,” said Divya Radhakrishnan, VP, The MediaEdge.
“You can’t also neglect the fact that for Times Now, this is a first in television. Despite the attempts they made at getting everything right in terms of distribution before they launched, they still have time before each of these things, which impact numbers, will be put in place,” added Nandini Dias, Vice-President, Lodestar Media.
For experts like Pradeep Iyengar, Vice-President, Carat Media, for channels like Times Now, numbers weren’t the first chase. “I am clear that Times Now is a channel for the urban and they have done a great job of ensuring that they live up to this claim. They are the Indian answer to the BBCs and CNNs of the world. And numbers is just a question of time – in their TG, they are going to build loyalty soon,” he added.
The relevant TG is a point that Lulla also stresses on. “We are a SEC A profile channel and I don’t know how much comparison can be done on that parameter with the other channels and get a clear gauge,” he maintained.
Dias added another point here on Times Now, “The channel is differentiating itself by being a news plus style channel – the audience will take time to absorb something like this – but the important thing is that the proposition has the potential to be absorbed, so there is much more to look out for from Times Now.”
Giving the channel’s point of view in a nutshell, as far as numbers are concerned, Lulla said, “We have been steady in a week where other channels in the English news genre have dropped, and that to me is a very encouraging sign. If you look at reach, where a channel like CNBC TV-18 is at a 5.3, we are at 3 and this is not too far behind. On all these counts, we will catch up.”
On a more generic level, is there reason to worry that English news genre may just not grow at the pace and in the manner that media experts have been speaking about? “Not at all,” said Dias, “I can still not understand why the segment has had been a monopoly for so many years. The youngsters today are largely consuming news in English only and this is only set to increase further. The viewership will grow and that will, in effect, grow the ad spends in the segment as well.”
Iyengar seconded that, “There will be more money spent in the segment and now there is more choice as to which brand you want to put on which channel. For me, Times Now would be the Mercedes channel, and NDTV and CNN-IBN would be the Ford Fiesta channels – the bottom line is that you can increase the English news channels in your media plan now.”
Radhakrishnan chooses a more conservative response. “Instead of one channel, there are two more. On occasions where you wanted to watch an English news channel and the only channel that was there wasn’t giving anything and one was forced to watch, say a Hindi channel. We will see a difference but those are the only select cases,” he pointed out.
Surely the sentiments of media experts vary in regards to the English news segment, but one thing common is the optimism in the sector, despite facts like awaited channels like Times Now not raising rating waves. So far, it is quite the action segment for 2006 and there is yet a lot more to watch out for here – like how will newcomers catch up and how well will NDTV 24x7 defend its position.