Regional & digital have been main revenue drivers for ABP in 2018: Avinash Pandey

The CEO of ABP News Network believes that 2019 may see quite a few mergers & acquisitions as the new tariff order will not allow a lot of inefficient players to go on

AvinashPandey

Avinash Pandey has been elevated as the Chief Executive Officer of ABP News Network (ANN). Pandey has been associated with ABP for almost 14 years now, guiding the growth of advertising revenue and playing a key role in the expansion of the network's reach.  In a converstaion with exchange4media, the new CEO talks about his role and the way forward.

 

Edited Excerpts:


Journey with ABP & the new role

 

I joined ABP News Network in 2005 as the AVP of Advertising & Sales and Head of Strategy. That role of mine made me directly work under Uday (Shankar) and it was an immense learning experience. That was a very exciting time as Uday was trying to transform the news television industry and we were experimenting with a lot of things. We wanted to shine in the crowd and so learnt a lot in terms of pricing strategy, go-to market, expansion, creation of property and their sale as GEC properties. Also, we launched a new news channel in Bengal, ABP Ananda. That led to the discovery of the market. We never thought that there was place for a news channel in a vernacular language in Bengal. But look what we have created today-- the strongest brand in media space in Bengali. In 2007, we launched Marathi news channel Majha.

 

After 2007, I started looking at the entire advertising sales of the company and I continued to do that until very late. In between, I handled marketing and media research. I became the COO in January 2012, after which I handled distribution team, marketing, sales and strategy. And at the same time, I started having a deep involvement with the content teams, which led to the creation of good programmes such as Ghoshna Patra, Press Conference, Ghanti Bajao and Pradhan Mantri, which is the finest documentary that we have produced. Last year, we launched our first channel in Canada, which is very successful. We also expanded digitally. We were the first news channel to go with Hotstar. We also launched our digital product which is again very successful.

 

As a CEO, I feel responsible for one thing—to get news priced appropriately. In India, news is grossly underpriced. My job is to make it premium and get it appropriately priced from advertisers and consumers.

 

Key focus areas

 

We are at an inflection point in the industry. Conversion is happening in a very big way because of telecom, cable and satellite businesses. My first task would be to make sure that we serve the advertisers and viewers in a place that we don’t lose out. The task that I have taken up is to make sure that the reach of all channels grow with the growth in market, and that digitally, we are the finest company in the country.

 

TRAI’s new tariff regime

 

Brands and product that are not strong will certainly have an issue. But brands and products that are very strong will get benefit out of this. If we talk about the news industry, the top five news channels will be benefitted. And I don’t mean top as in top in India, but channels popular in particular regions will be benefitted. Right now, the product has been made like a platter which is for everyone, but now the product needs to reinvent itself. We will have to decide who the consumer is and the product will have to be curated accordingly. Many of us have not done this exercise because everybody targets the HSM and all kind of TGs. The race will be more sensible now. The business leaders have to think which direction they want to go. Everybody will have to define the business they are in.

 

2018 for news industry

 

From the advertising perspective, there has been ups and downs. Obviously, with so many changes happening in the industry, one is likely to get impacted. But most of the news channels have seen double-digit growth. There has been a major focus on politics, and so channels that specialise in covering politics have gained a lot. Issues such as Triple Talaq and Ram Mandir have gained prominence. Therefore, social economic issues are mixing up with political issues. Channels that are strong in this field are gaining momentum. One of the shifts that has taken place is that a lot of consumption is taking place on digital. And thanks to the decline in the cost of bandwidth, all good brands have huge digital numbers now. May be not much revenue is out there right now, but there is immense opportunity in digital in future.

 

2018 for ABP News Network

 

Despite all problems, we have registered a double-digit growth. Our main revenue drivers have been regional and digital businesses. Hindi business has shown a decent growth. Our events division has also done extremely well and created a lot of IPs in West Bengal and some of them are worth million of dollars in terms of overall output. The West Bengal business is also going up every quarter. It's an interesting time for us to be in the business.

 

ABP's future projects 

 

We have planned some launches in the coming quarter. We are still in the discussion stage, but we will definitely be expanding.

 

Three predictions for TV industry for 2019

 

One, there will be very heavy consumption of news, driven by general elections and cricket world cup. Hence, news and sports will be the dominant players in the television space in the coming three quarters. Second, the way we consume television at home will go for a change because all leading broadcasters will be doing digital experiments. And with data cost going down, a lot of VOD players will grow, even in the news category.

Three, mergers and acquisitions will happen in the country. This is because the change in environment brought by the new tariff and regulatory order will not allow a lot of inefficient players to go on any further. And thus there will be mergers and acquisitions.

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