We are trying to make our revenues far more attractive: CEO, Prasar Bharati

Shashi Shekhar Vempati talks about the cultural shift in Prasar Bharati and how he plans to lead the organisation into its next phase of growth

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Aug 14, 2018 9:00 AM

It has been over a year since Shashi Shekhar Vempati took charge as the CEO of Prasar Bharati. His attempt to give the public organisation a new direction is showing gradual results. Under his leadership, Prasar Bharati is witnessing a cultural shift in its ranks and Vempati’s big focus on digital is driving this change.
In his second interview with exchange4media, Vempati spoke about the new Prasar Bharati identity and how he plans to lead the organisation into its next phase of growth.

Edited Excerpts:

It has been over a year since you took charge as the CEO of Prasar Bharati, what has been your biggest focus in this one year and how far have you succeeded in your vision?

The big focus in the last one year has been to improve our digital presence and we have put in a lot of effort in that direction. Now we have more than 37 active YouTube channels across our network. For the first time, you can get content in multiple languages from the DD and AIR networks on YouTube. We also have more than 250 active Twitter handles where you get updates through the day across our networks in multiple languages. We have also embedded all of this into our latest version of the AIR News App. The other interesting thing is that the AIR News App now allows you to read news in many foreign languages too.

Moreover, as per the BARC India data, in the last one year, some of our regional channels have improved their performance significantly. Our focus is to not only change what happens in Delhi but to take the change across the network. And I am happy to see the shift and progress.

What would you call the three biggest challenges of your term so far?

The first challenge is about the cultural shift, which is happening in the entire organisation. And it is not just big national channels which are seeing the transformation. In fact, one of the most vibrant Twitter handles we have is All India Radio Darbhanga. Nobody would expect a place like Darbhanga to have such an active social media presence. Similarly, we have Twitter handles from Leh Ladakh. So the cultural shift is still in progress.

The other challenge is that we have a lot of legacy issues which need rationalization, and that is an ongoing process.

The third is the revenue factor. We are trying to make our revenues far more attractive. So we have tried to rationalize our revenue structure since we have some coverages which are unique to us and nobody in the private sector does it.

You have partnered with Google for this Independence Day coverage, could you tell us more about this?

Independence Day and Republic Day tend to be high viewership events for the Doordarshan network. This year, we are collaborating with Google and YouTube to make it far more visible. On that day, if you go to the Google search page, you will see live stream of the Independence Day available there itself. This will dramatically increase the availability of live stream and make discovery much easier. This is something, I believe, Google has started doing lately; they did it during the Donald Trump swearing-in ceremony as well. Apart from this, we will have regional versions of the Prime Minister’s speech airing on our radio networks later in the day. We will also release a special song by Shankar Mahadevan on that occasion which will air across our networks.

When it comes to advertising revenues on such high viewership events, there is a huge advertiser interest before the live telecast begins. Moreover, for our online assets, it is the biggest day both in terms of viewership and revenue.

Finally, the issue of private FM stations getting access to AIR News is still not resolved and it could be a potential revenue stream for Prasar Bharati. By when do we see this happening?

There is a policy on that already, but there are certain barriers and we have sought feedback to understand those barriers. In fact, we are now trying to remove those barriers so that there is actual off take of AIR News on private FM channels. We will start with a pilot, learn from it and then implement it.

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