Vivid: To have or not to have the Chief Enthusiastic Officer

Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group throws light on the ongoing debate of whether news channels need a CEO

e4m by Annurag Batra
Published: Jun 4, 2012 4:40 AM  | 4 min read
Vivid: To have or not to have the Chief Enthusiastic Officer

News businesses, especially news broadcasting businesses, have tremendous power to influence public opinion and bring about change. News broadcasting is an agent for change in more ways than one in India.

About five years ago, a friend who was the head of marketing of a leading news channel came to me for advice. He said that he wanted to change his job. I mentioned to him that his news network was growing and he was the blue-eyed boy of his boss, so why would he want to leave.

He shared his concerns with me. He said that the role of marketing in a news channel is limited, adding that in a news TV set-up, the brand is what the content is and that is determined by the editor. Also, he would like to run a business and be responsible for profit and loss and not just the marketing function.

Three years ago, another very senior professional from a news broadcasting set-up reached out to me and said he had hit a roadblock and was saturated as director of marketing of his news network. I suggested to him that in order to grow he should look at taking some profit and loss responsibilities. The professional acted on my advice and took on new responsibilities. In one and a half year, he became the CEO of his news network. This CEO has created differentiated initiatives which are both, brand enhancers and revenue drivers for the news network.

Some professionals within his company and outside his company raised the issue then asking whether a news channel needed a CEO. The editorial is done by the editor and the revenues brought in by the revenue head or sales head. What is the role of CEO in a news network?

Everything is for the eye these days – TV, Life, Look, the movies. Nothing is just for the mind. The next generation will have eyeballs as big as cantaloupes and no brain at all – Fred Allen

The above applies to all forms of TV and not just news TV.

Many senior professionals in broadcasting have asked me why we need a CEO in a news network. Doesn’t all he does is act like a co-ordinator and buffer between the owners and the editor and revenue head.

The big assumption here is that the distribution, which is the largest outflow from a news broadcasting operation, is also reporting to the CEO and that all news broadcasting networks are similar in structure.

Revenue heads and sales heads always ask me whether we really need a CEO. Sometimes I end up believing them that maybe we don't need a CEO.

However, on closer examination and contemplation, I have realised that news channels do need a CEO...I am sure sales and revenue heads will disagree.

Let me put this in perspective by sharing a philosophical thought which in some way describes the role of a news CEO.

Conductors must give unmistakable and suggestive signals to the orchestra - not choreography to the audience – George Szell

A news broadcasting set-up in India is full of anchors who are stars and celebrities in their own right.

The revenue head or sales head is also a star as he/she brings in the revenue that is the life-blood of the news company.

A wise man once said, "An orchestra full of stars can be a disaster."

That is why we need a news CEO.

The CEO articulates the strategy beyond operational details and always has an eye on the future. The CEO is detached from day-to-day editorial calls and sales targets. Hence, he can guide the editor and sales heads in implementing the vision for future. The news CEO makes sure sales, marketing, editorial and distribution work in tandem. He can objectively evaluate efficacy and need beyond vested interests. The CEO is the interface with investors and external stakeholders.

I know a lot of my friends would not agree with me and say that the editorial person should be the CEO or revenue head should be the CEO. Why not? Uday Shankar was an editorial professional when he became CEO of Star News – now ABP News. You can be good at what you do functionally and add on other skills to become the CEO.

My editor friends and revenue head friends perhaps now should aim to be CEOs of their companies or grow in other news networks rather than debate whether a news set-up requires a CEO or not. It's time for action.

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Sovereign governments decide news media laws, not tech companies in the US: Paul Fletcher

The former Australian Minister for Communications will speak at DNPA Future of Digital Media Conference 2023 today

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 20, 2023 9:33 AM   |   3 min read

paul fletcher

At a time when Big Tech monopoly has been throwing a spanner in the works of news media houses world over, the world applauded Australian goverment's moxie for bringing out the News Media Bargaining Code in 2020. The Code became a gold standard for the world as a tool to keep tech giants in line and to create an equitable environment for the dissemination of digital news.

A person who was instrumental in bringing the Code to fruition was Paul Fletcher, the former Australian Minister for Communications, along with Australian PM Scott Morrison.

Fletcher, who is in India to attend the DNPA Future of Digital Media Conference 2023 as a speaker, spoke to e4m about his experience in developing the code, his admiration for India's digital revolution and DNPA's role in taking on Big Tech.

He explained how the Australian government dealt with resistance from Google and Facebook when the draft of the code was first shared with them. "There was a bit of turbulence along the way. Google at one point threatened to withdraw Google Search services in Australia. In response to that, the PM and I met with the global experts of Microsoft who said they will be interested in expanding BING (Microsoft's search engine) in Australia. We didn't hear much more of the threat," he quipped.

Facebook, in retaliation also shut down pages of vital community services like Australian police, ambulances and the Red Cross, a move that turned out to be a PR mistake for the tech company.

"In the face of that, we held firm and there was a strong political leadership from Josh Frydenberg (Former Treasurer of Australia) and the legislation passed parliament. I am pleased to say that both Google and Facebook have since negotiated commercial deals with news media businesses nearly 20 (times) from Google and 13 from Meta," he stated.

Fletcher reiterated that his visit to India has two purposes: first to share his experience in bringing the code to fruition and second, to learn more about the extraordinary success of Indian tech companies like TCS, Infosys and Wipro. He also had some words of praise for India's tech sector, which he describes as "world-leading."

He also expressed his admiration for India's tech revolution: "To deliver services to citizens who only five or ten years ago may not even have had mobile services or a bank account, what's being achieved here is extraordinary."

Fletcher attributes the success to the Indian government, the country's IT sector and the telecom operators who stoked the digital revolution in the country.
Calling the big tech monopoly in news a "competition policy issue", Fletcher highlighted the injustice in Google and Facebook's actions. "They have got extraordinary success in digital advertising. In so doing, they are competing with news media businesses. The content they are using to successfully attract eyeballs includes content by news media businesses."

He emphasised that every country needs to make its own laws to deal with the inequality of news dissemination. "It's a very important principle for governments of sovereign countries to make, but a corollary of that is that it should be a decision made by a sovereign government, not tech businesses in the US. In a liberal democracy, you must have a diverse media."

Speaking about DNPA's role, Fletcher noted that it will help make a case to define the issue and to advocate public policy solutions. "There will be no doubt that the government will be interested in the views of DNPA like other stakeholders."

"When global companies come to a country to operate, they need to comply with the laws of the country," he signed off.

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e4m-DNPA Future of Digital Media Conference & Awards today

The day-long conference will bring together the best minds from across the world to explore the future of digital news media and the various challenges it faces

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 20, 2023 8:43 AM   |   2 min read

dnpa

The Digital News Publishers Association of India (DNPA) in association with exchange4media Group is organising its first annual conclave in India today, January 20, at Hyatt Regency, Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi. The day-long conference will bring together the best minds from across the world to explore the future of digital news media and the various challenges it faces. The conclave is a platform for cross-pollinating ideas and thoughts and sharing the latest technological developments in digital media. Industry heads and experts will also discuss regulatory or policy challenges and other issues that the media has been facing.

The speakers include international and Indian thought leaders from the fields of digital publishing, media regulation, competition law, technology and governance. Through various keynote sessions, panel discussions and expert presentations, the event will decode the issues involved in creating an ideal relationship between news publishers and Big Tech platforms in rebuilding the business of journalism.

DNPA represents the digital arms of the country's top media companies working in the areas of print and television. The chief guest of the event will be Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology and Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. Some of the eminent speakers include Mr Paul Fletcher, Member of Parliament, Australia Former Minister of Communications, Australia, Mr Pierre Petillault, Managing Director, Alliance de la presse d'information générale (APIG), Mr Owen Meredith, Chief Executive Officer, News Media Association, Ms Apurva Chandra, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, Dr Pavan Duggal, Chairman, International Commission on Cyber Security Law among others.

Later in the day, the e4m-DNPA Digital Impact Awards ceremony will be held where the winners will be honoured for their cutting-edge digital initiatives that deliver on-demand governance and services to citizens in various fields. The awards celebrate the digital technology innovations that have improved citizens’ lives and promoted nation-building.

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There will be a lot of acceleration between sales, marketing & IT: Sir Martin Sorrell

Sorrell was speaking to Rahul Kanwal, News Director, India Today, and Aajtak, India Today Group at the World Economic Forum in Davos

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 17, 2023 4:32 PM   |   3 min read

martin sorrell

In a conversation with Rahul Kanwal, News Director, India Today, and Aajtak, India Today Group at the World Economic Forum in Davos,  Sir Martin Sorrell, the Founder and Executive Chairman of S4 Capital plc, weighed on a variety of topics. 

The longest-serving chief executive of any FTSE 100 company shared his thoughts on advertising and marketing trends, the future of print and TV in the age of digital, Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover and his vision for India. 

On quizzed about the ad trends that he will keep a close eye on this year, Sorrell had this to say: “Two things – One is moving down the funnel as we call it to activation and performance. So there will be an emphasis on volume, revenue growth, ROI, media mix modelling, and digital spend which is easier to measure.”

The second thing he will keep an eye out for is digital transformation. “Because margins are going to be under pressure. Most analysts are forecasting that earnings will be down this year. There will be a correction on earnings and there will be pressure on margins.”

He noted that there will be a lot of acceleration between three functions: sales, marketing and IT. “They’re coming together and they have to come together to make a case to procurement and finance – which have more power inside corporations.”

Sorrell boils it down to two crucial goals: “Top line growth and getting the cost down.”

Kanwal also asked Sorrell about his outlook for traditional media, but the advertising wizard said that his forecast is “pretty gloomy.”

By 2025, he believes that the ratio of advertising earnings to GDP (as per the US) will be around 1.5% and a large chunk of the same will come from digital media. 

He added that the grip of traditional media on younger viewers is loosening and clients have been shifting their ads to platforms that are accessed more by the young. 

“So the clients are saying ‘why am I spending an inordinate amount of money on classical TV or analogue TV and repeating the problem?’ Why don’t I cap it and move money to digital?’” he added. “Digital as a medium is easier to monitor, measure and perfect. Ultimately, everything will be digital in some way, shape or form.”

Kanwal also quizzed him about the growing relevance of AI in marketing. “Do you think that in the way marketing is evolving, that ultimate distribution comes down to artificial intelligence?”

Sorrell responded by saying that it will take some time. He also explained the distinction between artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial general intelligence (AGI), stating that AI is more mechanical and AGI is more sophisticated. 

He also agreed with Kanwal saying that one day a programme like ChatGPT can do the media planning and it would be very effective. 

Sorrell also weighed in on tech-dominated ad marketplaces that are calling the shots in advertising in recent years, especially in the age of Google and Meta and Twitter.

He also noted that Elon Musk should have stuck with a 10 per cent shareholding at Twitter, “because the upside is very little for him,” while commenting on the Tesla CEO’s struggle with advertisers. Sorrell also said that he’s “quite bullish” on India. “Two reasons, Modi has been an inspiring leader and has made brand India a greater force.”

The other reason for Sorrell’s optimism is concern about security around Taiwan and China. “India naturally benefits from this equation. It becomes the primary beneficiary of the redistribution of the supply chain.”

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Chrome Pictures expands team of directors, producers

The production house has so far produced over 5,000 ad films

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 16, 2023 3:15 PM   |   2 min read

Chrome

Ad production house Chrome Pictures is expanding its team of directors and producers. After producing over 5,000 ad films and carving a niche in the advertising world in their 19-year journey, Chrome Pictures is all set to include a few new names to their list of directors.

The list begins with “Secret Superstar” and “Laal Singh Chaddha” fame director, Advait Chandan. The list also goes on to name Debanjolie Bhattacharjee, Aman Rai and Roopali Singhal as in-house talent, who has grown into becoming a known TV Commercial Director.

Since the success of Chrome Pictures’ feature film debut, the National-Award winning film “Badhaai Ho”, directed by Amit Sharma and his Ajay Devgn-starrer “Maidaan”, they have branched out to avenues such as production of films, OTT and more.

Their upcoming feature film production “Trial Period”, directed by Aleya Sen is set to be released in 2023. To take the new avenues ahead, Prachi Thadhani joined the team as Creative Producer, who has a career spanning over a decade and half in the Indian and International entertainment industry.

Chrome Pictures is all set to take on a much larger team of producers for meeting the high demands of the ever-growing advertising sector, along with their success with its digital wing Minikin DGWorks. Having led the TVC department for 10+ years, Napolean Daniel Amanna and Abhishek Notani are now joined by Kush Malhotra and Rajat Gulati. With more than 14 years of experience, Rajat was the Vice President, Account Management at McCann, Delhi. His prior experience also includes account management positions at agencies such as Leo Burnett and Ogilvy.

Some of the recent ad films made by Chrome Pictures are for brands like Truecaller, Netflix Cherrapunji wali Diwali, ‘Titan Raga- #BoldlyBeautiful’ starring Alia Bhatt, ‘Vi’, ‘Epigamia’ - Want to hear something new?, ‘MakeMyTrip’ starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, ‘Catch Masale’ starring Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar, ‘Fogg’ TVC, ‘Urban Company’ & ‘Uber’.

Speaking about their roadmap, Hemant Bhandari, Co-Founder, Producer & Director- Chrome Pictures, says, "Chrome Pictures felt the need to expand our team to accommodate the high demand that we are facing. We felt the need to introduce these individuals who will bring a fresh outlook and help achieve larger goals for Chrome Pictures. Change is constant, thus the need to explore newer ways to connect with the audiences is a must.”

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Streaming a big hit in 2022 despite cinemas making a comeback

According to Data.ai’s ‘State of Mobile Report’, riding high on cricket, Hotstar attracted the most active and engaging users in India in the past year

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 16, 2023 8:17 AM   |   2 min read

OTT

Leading streaming apps continued to dominate Indian consumers' attention in 2022 despite the reopening of cinema halls, businesses and workplaces. Mobile video remains a key trend to watch for marketers, suggests Data.ai’s “State of mobile report”. 

The report further says homegrown OTT platforms like Hotstar, SonyLiv and Zee5 have seen tremendous growth in 2022 over 2021 in terms of downloads, active users and user monetisation. 

The 91-page report is the annual overview of app performance trends, highlighting all the key developments in 2022.

While globally spending on mobile has slowed down, in India it is still growing. Moreover, the time spent on mobile phones in India has gone up to 4.9 hrs in 2022, from 4.5 hrs and 4.7 hours a day in 2020 and 2021, respectively. 

As per the report, India is the second largest mobile spending market ($28 billion) in the world after China ($111 billion) and the US ($20 billion). 

OTT platform

Avg Active Users/month 2022

 

In million (increase over 2021)

Avg Active Time/month 

 

2022

Hotstar

133  (+15m)

5:57 hrs

Sonyliv

25.8  (+4m)

2:14 hrs

Zee5

37.4  (+5m)

2:00 hrs

Netflix

50.3  (+3m)

4:55 hrs

Prime Video

57.4  (+2m)

2:24 hrs

Jio Cinema

15.6  (+5)

1:38 hrs

MX Player

176  (+2 m)

6:00 hrs

ALTBalaji

2.62  (-1m)

0:34 hrs

(Source: Data.ai State of mobile report 2023)

Coverage of major sporting events can be a highly effective way to add new users and keep them engaged on popular streaming services, the report said. 

Hotstar added close to 99 million downloads in 2022 with two peaks - in September’s first week and October last week - thanks to the live streaming of two cricket tournaments - Asia Cup and ICC Men’s World Cup. 

The OTT platform of Disney star group, which has been the streaming partner of the Indian Premier League, (IPL) tops the chart in terms of active users as well. The service added 15 million new active users taking its total active user count to 133 million. They spent close to six hours every month watching the content on the platform. 

MX Player, the Times Network’s platform, has been the most downloaded OTT app in India and the third most downloaded app worldwide across 2022. 

The Indian OTT audience universe stands at 424 million people, according to The Ormax OTT Audience Sizing Report 2022. Of these, 119 million are active paid OTT subscriptions in India.

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Prashant Singh of Zee Business Digital joins ET Now Digital as Sr. Editor

Singh has over 16 years of experience across Print, Electronic and Digital media.

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 8, 2023 8:04 PM   |   1 min read

Prashant Singh

Prashant Singh former Deputy Editor Zee Business Digital has joined ET Now Digital as Sr. Editor.

Singh has over 16 years of experience across Print, Electronic and Digital media. He has been part of leading media houses like Financial Express, News18.com, Dainik Jagran, DD News in the past. 

Prior to joining ET Now, Singh was associated with Zee Business Digital for close to four years. He has also worked at Financial Express Digital as Assistant Editor for almost two years and Zee Media as Correspondent and News18.com as Chief Sub Editor apart from other leading media houses.

Singh hold post graduation in Journalism from Punjab Technical University and MBA from IMT Ghaziabad.

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Muted Q3FY23 for M&E due to ecomm companies slashing spends, inflation: Elara Capital

According to analysis by Karan Taurani, exhibitors saw improved performance thanks to movies like Avatar-The way of water, Drishyam 2, Kantara and Vikram Vedha

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 5, 2023 4:13 PM   |   4 min read

elara

"TV was the first traditional medium to report higher advertising revenue vs pre COVID levels last year (grew 7%-8% vs pre COVID levels)," said Karan Taurani, Senior Vice President - Research Analyst (Media, Consumer Discretionary & Internet)Elara Capital. Taurani shared his predictions for the M&E sector, noting that Q3FY23 has been relatively muted with revenues declining 5%-6%YoY vs pre COVID levels, despite positive impact of festive, primarily due to 1) lower spends by new age/e-commerce companies (cut ad. budgets by 30%-40%YoY) and 2) muted growth in FMCG vertical due to RM inflationary pressures YoY. Here are the rest of his predictions. 

Expect ad revenue growth of 8.5%/ 9%/12.4% for Zee/Sun/TV today QoQ respectively led by festive season but a decline of 12.8%/1%/8% YoY due to higher base (TV medium surpassed pre-COVID levels last year). Expect subscription revenue to remain flat for Zee and a growth of 6% QoQ for Sun; this is primarily on the back of uncertainty of NTO implementation; we expect subscription revenue to grow 8%-10% over the near term helped by price hikes, as NTO 3.0 will be implemented by Feb’23.

For SUNTV, the absence of IPL and other operating revenue (movie segment revenue - no major releases this quarter) will lead to total revenue of Rs 8,563mn – decline of 17.1% YoY and up 5.1% vs pre Covid levels of FY20. Z is expected to report flat revenue growth YoY, but up 4%/3%, QoQ/ pre covid, whereas TVT’s revenue is expected to decline of 4% YoY, due to high base in Q3FY22, although up 17%/11.5%, QoQ/pre covid respectively, driven by festive quarter.

Expect EBITDA margin to grow 80bps/down 90bps/ up 350bps QoQ, helped by higher ad spends; however, margins are estimated to decline 722bps/487bps/1720 bps YoY for Z/SUNTV/TVT respectively, due to 1) pressure on content costs (TV and digital) and 2) lower ad. spends. Expect PAT to decline 53%/ 8%/ 51% YoY and grow 25%/5%/ 54% sequentially (decline 59%/up 13%/down 19% vs pre Covid levels) for Z/SUNTV/TVT respectively.

Exhibitors - Better performance QoQ on a low base; remains lower vs pre COVID

Exhibitors are expected to perform better sequentially led by strong performance of movies like Avatar-The way of water, Drishyam 2, Kantara & Vikram Vedha, while other big budget movies like Cirkus, Ram Setu, Thank God, Bhediya have performed much below expectations. The festive season led to healthy performance in Q3FY23 sequentially, however growth was subdued when compared to Q1FY23.

Box Office revenue is expected to post an 85% recovery to pre-covid level in Q3FY23. Expect PVR & INOL box office revenues to grow 18% each sequentially but decline 15% each vs pre Covid levels (Q3FY20), 1) multiple large budget Hindi films report a below par performance and 2) small/medium budget films continue to struggle. Expect other metrics like ATP to grow 19%/12% vs pre-covid (growth of 12%/6.5% QoQ) for PVR/INOL helped premium content like Avatar, while Footfalls for PVR/Inox are expected to decline 34%/27% when compared to pre-covid levels as Hindi content fails to perform on a consistent basis. SPH is expected to grow in the range of 2-3% sequentially for both PVRL & INOL helped by premium content (Avatar).  Ad revenue recovery to be delayed in line with expectation and may only come back to pre-covid levels in FY24; expect ad revenue to recover towards 60% vs pre pandemic in Q3, despite festive season, primarily due to 1) muted performance of Hindi content which drives a large portion of ad.spends and 2) challenged macro environment, wherein ad. spends across verticals are under pressure. We estimate an EBITDA margin of 30%/32% for PVRL/INOL (incl INDAS), which is 360bps/90bps lower vs pre COVID levels; metrics like ATP/SPH have been able to offset some negative impact of lower footfalls and helped support profitability.

Radio - Still struggling to reach pre pandemic levels

Radio medium has been growing slowly compared to other forms of media while there has been a substantial shift of consumers towards digital. Expect ENIL/MBL to report revenue growth/decline of 14%/7% YoY (down of 40%/20.4% vs Q3FY20 – pre pandemic levels) respectively; in terms of ENIL, expect non-radio segment to recover at around 83% (vs pre pandemic levels), helped by normalisation of events/activations/concerts; Believe ENIL’s non radio business will continue to report traction over near term. Expect ENIL/MBL to report an EBITDA Margin of 20.6%/12% in Q3FY23.

 

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