Being in the top four, we are the only ones who have to fight on a day-to-day basis even today: HR Ranganath, Public TV

The Managing Editor of Public TV gives insights about the struggle the Kannada news channel endured during its nascent stage and what led them forward to the second position that they occupy right now in what is a rather crowded marketplace

e4m by Akshata R Murthy
Published: Feb 9, 2018 8:50 AM  | 5 min read

After sharing his 2018 plans of launching Public Movies and Public Comedy, HR Ranganath, Chairman and Managing Editor of Public TV, spoke to exchange4media about the news channel segment of Kannada television industry. He also talked about the position of the channel and the Kannada news market, which had quite a few new entrants in 2017. Excerpts: 

When you launched Public TV there were other players in this segment. Why did you choose such a crowded market?

We were the seventh player who entered the Kannada news industry. We had no other option. Because I had left Suvarna and I did not know any other job, I had to do something. The obvious possibility was print, which I felt was more difficult in terms of its capital investment and sustenance. News was the other possibility because I felt it had lesser capital compared to Print and also, since I had worked in Suvarna with some limited name to my credit, I thought it might work with the general public.

Everyone did tell us that it's already a crowded market. But one thing that kept me thinking is that there are so many toothpastes and products that have existed from a long time but Patanjali is still successful. The confidence in yourself can be a big differentiator. It's not the crowded market that matters, the differentiator with which you come in is what matters. The public has to have the confidence in you to accept you as a new player. I think we were able to give that differentiator, so we are still here.

Do you think there's room for more new entrants into this segment right now?

Right now, there are about 13 to 14 channels. We expect another four or five to come into the market, which means that this segment will be almost three times more crowded than when we entered. The 14th or 17th player might think the same thing that I thought when I entered. They might be confident of having that differentiator that will help them stand out and become successful. But these are all theories. Practically we know that the Karnataka news channel market does not have space for so many channels. We thought there is no space when we were the seventh so there is (really) no space right now. It is more difficult for a person to enter right now than when I entered back then. I am not saying it is impossible but it will be more difficult. 
It is also tougher as the market size has remained the same. There is not much difference in the market size in terms of rate in GRPs. The basket has remained the same. The revenue part might have taken a hit of around 15 per cent to 20 per cent, thanks to demonetisation and GST. The ad basket has remained the same. It is a question of sharing now. Seven of us were sharing it, now 17 of us might have to share it. So the tougher nut will remain and the other nuts will crack.

How has Public TV been positioned in this crowded market currently compared to competitors?

Number one is well settled, which is TV9. It might be because they were the first to come into this space or they might simply be good. We are in the second position. In the third position is this channel which is supported by a financially powerful man like Rajeev Chandrasekhar. Number four, we all know, belongs to Mukesh Ambani's News18.

Being one in four, we are the only one who have to fight and sustain ourselves on a day to day basis even today. Amongst the remaining three, the first one has a buffer of being the first one to enter and having settled down, the third one has a very strong financial base because of which they can sustain and survive even if something happens and the fourth one belongs to this group which owns a ship of channels in which even if something goes wrong with one channel, it does not impact the group. We are the only one in trouble.

How did you market Public TV in the beginning? What was your strategy then?

We didn't have any strategy. We hardly spent anything on marketing. We hardly spent Rs 10-12 lakh on hoardings during the nascent days of the channel. We didn't publicise at all because we didn't have money. It was not that we didn't want to do it. We just started the product and left it to destiny with the public. We believed that if a little bit of word-of-mouth is generated, it will help us a long way. One more advantage was the show I used to do for Suvarna which was relatively popular. I'm not saying it was too famous, but people might have been looking for my face again in television. So the moment my face came on screen, I became the saleable product for the channel. I had no option but to be the brand ambassador of Public TV.

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