Elections are like World Cup of news genre: Kartikeya Sharma, iTV Network
Kartikeya Sharma, Founder & Promoter, iTV Network, speaks about the big political spectacle and how it is slated to impact the news genre
As we enter the first phase of Lok Sabha elections today, the viewership and advertising spends across news channels is expected to witness an upward trend. While all news channels are trying to make the most of this big political event, iTV Newtork has specially curated news programming for the widespread election coverage across the country.
In an interview with exchange4media, Kartikeya Sharma, Founder & Promoter, iTV Network, spoke about the big political spectacle and how it is slated to impact the news genre on the whole.
2014 elections were touted as the first elections fought in media. Do you see political parties upping the share of voice even more?
There’s a changing narrative from 2014 as India braces for 2019 Lok Sabha elections - the world's largest democratic exercise, and the biggest ever test of the role of social media in an election.
Political parties have upped their social media outreach manifold. India already has close to 900 million eligible voters, and an estimated half a billion have access to the internet. The country has 300 million Facebook users and 200 million are on Facebook's WhatsApp messaging service—more than any other democracy. Political parties now exploit all channels viz. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp.
The methods of wooing first-time voters have changed. In 2013-14, Facebook was the mainstay to PM’s online campaign. Ahead of 2015 Bihar Assembly polls, Whatsapp overtook Facebook in wooing first-time voters. In 2019, cheap smartphones and 4G connectivity are likely to change the way political parties will conduct their election campaigns. (India now has 450 million smartphone owners against 155 million at the last election in 2014, according to Counterpoint Research.) Parties are likely to focus on video content like never before to woo the voters.
The only thing predictable about Indian elections is that they are unpredictable. The big question, though, is which political party or alliance will succeed in creating the right narrative ahead of the 2019 polls to attract the younger electorate. With the spread of 4G connectivity to rural India and availability of cheaper smartphones, the 2019 battle is likely to be fought as much on phones as in the streets. Maybe, the younger lot will find phones handy. Social media and data analytics will be the main actors in the upcoming India elections.
What are your plans in terms of shows and content on TV and digital platforms?
At iTV network, we strive towards creating news content that reflects the country’s unfolding diversity, especially visible during election time. Our online digital platforms – inkhabar.com and newsx.com-- will leverage the synergies with the group-owned television network that includes the Hindi frontrunner India News and the English news channel News X, four language channels in Hindi heartland, four language channels in Punjabi, Gujarati, Kannada and Odia and two newspapers - a Hindi daily, Aaj Samaj and a weekly newspaper, The Sunday Guardian.
In the recent five state Assembly elections, Newsx.com was the most viewed channel on You Tube with 6.4 million views on the election counting day. While the national Budget Day ushered de-growth for our competition, NewsX performance continued to shoot off the charts occupying second place in YouTube views after NDTV. (Source: Social blade).
Elections also attract big viewership, how have advertisers responded to this big event so far?
Elections are like the World Cup of news genre. The advertising spends of the country is expected to rise in 2019 driven by the general elections. According to PMAR Report 2019, Indian AdEx is expected to grow at 16.4 per cent in 2019. Advertising demand on television has immense headroom to grow. Despite digital growth, TV continues to be dominant as it enjoys unmatched attention of audiences. We should hope for 2019 to deliver higher revenue growth for the news genre.
In terms of new shows around Lok Sabha elections, what all is lined up?
We have launched a slew of new shows and have ramped up our existing ones. Elections clearly drive a strong spike in viewership of news channels. Through engaging properties, we promise to make the election coverage more exciting and captivating for our viewers. We are geared to present extensive ground reports from the polling states.
Our editorial teams of India News and NewsX have curated special news programming for the widespread election coverage. The team will be doing extensive reportage to bring the latest happenings in the political landscape and keep our viewers updated on the political scenario in the country. To gauge the mood of the nation, India News is doing series of political conclaves in various states under the flagship of ‘Manch – Ab Ki Baar Likh Kar Do Sarkar’ and Kissa Kursi Ka PM Kaun? While India News is also doing a series of election news shows under the umbrella branding of Kissa Kursi Ka PM Kaun?
India News has already started daily shows such as Loktantra Zindabad, Chunavi Reporter, Desh Ka Sawaal and 8 PM Special that will showcase, engaging prime-time debates on critical political issues and analyzing the extensive electoral data.The on-ground reporters will interact with people to get an insight of the public opinion and gauge the mood of the nation. There will be weekend special shows like Siyasat Ka Big Boss and Nehle Pe Dehla–Takkar that will focus on covering the top politicians.
For NewsX, there are series of election news shows under the umbrella branding of “Who’s Winning 2019?”. Shows such as No Holds Barred, Roundtable, Policy & Politics and Cover Story focus on covering exclusive interviews of top politicians, debates with senior leaders on critical issues, elections agendas and narratives on top politicians. Besides, NewsX is also conducting Polstrat Snap survey addressing the key factors impacting the general elections 2019.
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