TV news channels prep for political ad boost before Bihar elections

Alongside special ad deals, broadcasters are also working on their programming to add to the election mood and packaging

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Oct 7, 2020 9:28 AM
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In the absence of door-to-door campaigning and rallies, use of television ads have become one of the dominant means of candidate communication before the Bihar elections. According to experts, news broadcasters could look at at least 10 per cent rise in political ad bills.

“With special deals and a strong content line-up designed especially for the elections, TV channels have a complete package to offer to the political parties. Ads on news channels guarantee reach even in the deep interiors for markets like Bihar. The news channels will make a good pitch, and driving on reach factor especially amid a pandemic, they can expect close to 10 per cent increase in billings from political clients in the present situation,” said a media expert requesting anonymity.

“Political ads feature in the top five categories 5-6 weeks prior to the elections leading until the government formation day,” said Navin Kathuria, EVP and Principal Partner, OMD Mudramax.
“For every election season, news channels do see a spike in their revenues and rates and the inventory demand on news channels does go up many fold. Almost every political party does consider news as a key genre in their media campaigns,” he said.

Bihar is no exception. Channels are working on special content line-ups and special deals for political parties.

“While local channels are in the play, parties are also looking at a combination of mainline Hindi channels and local Bhojpuri channels. So we are seeing interest in both Zee Bihar-Jharkhand and Zee Hindustan and Zee News. We are working with political parties to work out special deals as the Covid-19 restrictions have made TV news platforms one of the primary communication channels for the candidates and the parties,” said Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer, Advertisement Revenue, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. 

Alongside, special ad deals, broadcasters are also working on their programming to add to the election mood.  

Talking about the special content line-up, Rahul Shaw, COO, TV Today Network Ltd, said, “On Aaj Tak, a brand new show called ‘Hello Kaun’ will have political interviews in the form of call-ins by viewers. The ‘Election Express’ roving studio will once again cover the whole state to capture the pulse of the common man. ‘Bullet Reporter’ will cover the electoral journey of our anchor riding on a bullet across the state. ‘Swetpatra’ will cover the Bihar elections with facts, figures and data, analysing the political trends and issues of the state. ‘Patliputra’ will be a political history of Bihar, right from the Mauryan empire to Laloo and Nitish Raj. ‘Kiska Hoga Rajtilak’ will be a news-based election bulletin.”

 Their English channel India Today TV would also have a special line-up that would include shows like ‘Motorcycle Diaries’, Rajdeep Sardesai’s ‘Elections on My Plate’, and there will be ‘X Factor’ that will look at issues which matter the most in Bihar.

Explaining why TV becomes all the more important in the present times for political messaging, Shaw said, “I think it is important to also understand the news ecosystem today and how fake and unreliable news often spread false information. In such an environment, it is the responsibility of trusted news brands to protect their audience from these information sources, and that has been our constant endeavour at TV Today Network.”

While the digital medium might have won hearts as the most popular medium to communicate in the wake of the pandemic, as per experts ,TV is the best solution to spread the word in Bihar.

“The ramifications of Covid-19 will definitely pose a major challenge for political parties, especially in a place like Bihar which has relatively low internet penetration. Therefore, traditional mediums like television, radio and print will play a prominent role in reaching out to the masses. Special programming for elections and political advertisements will be critical in ensuring effective communication from leaders and political parties to their potential voters. The onus is now on the leaders to get creative and make the most of these outlets. We are already witnessing a major boost - both in terms of viewership and ad revenue- as the political battle comes closer,” said Mona Jain, CRO, ABP Network.

Talking of how their channels plan to drive ad sales, Jain said, “High impact events like elections, IPL or key festivals typically result in higher ad sales. Therefore, we expect ad sales to boost from here on out. Our national channel, ABP News, which has an extremely high affinity in Bihar, has also curated special programming for Bihar elections under the umbrella of our flagship property ‘Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri’, which has already on-boarded many sponsors. Further, we expect other political news shows to maximize our revenue in this quarter.”

So, what do political parties and candidates look for when they plan their TV campaigns?

“The objective of any political party’s campaign is to reach maximum number of people, males, females, youth (especially first-time voters), young adults, senior citizens, urban as well as rural population. While we lay special importance on first-time voters and target them with social media activations and posts, it is very important to keep the loyal voters engaged. So if 30 per cent of budget is going in for social media, we are still using upto 40 per cent for television where news is an important genre. The election special programming helps us with better and targeted ad slots,” said one of the key campaign planners for a leading party in Bihar requesting anonymity.

Clearly, the reach of the channel in the media plan is very important.

“If regional/local language channels are strong enough to cover the maximum population of the state then those are the first choice. National channels are preferred when the state has a large population watching Hindi/English channels. This pattern also varies from state to state. Political parties of Hindi-speaking states mostly include both local as well as national channels in their TV campaigns,” said Kathuria.

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