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Our prime time has back-to-back debates, others followed suit: Managing Editor, News18 India

24-May-2018
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Our prime time has back-to-back debates, others followed suit: Managing Editor, News18 India

News18 India is the Hindi news arm (both television and digital) of the Network18 Group. exchange4Media interacted with Prabal Pratap Singh, Managing Editor, News18 India, on the audience reaction after it underwent a revamp in 2016, news vs debate, mobile journalism and the idea of keeping news crisp and quick. Excerpts:
How is News18 India keeping itself relevant in such a competitive market?
One should look at the entire day’s bulletin. We have designed it in a way that our prime time is dominated by three back-to-back debates which start at 6pm and go on till 9pm. Then from 9:00-10:00 we focus on almost 70-80 stories in our prime time bulletin following which we pick up one issue at 10:00 pm and then at 10:30 pm we have a crime show.
If you look in morning bouquet of News18 India from 7am to 10am we bombard viewers with almost 100 to 150 stories and keep stories very crisp, between 15-30 seconds and this covers the entire news genre. We started this practice about five weeks ago and we began getting good numbers and that’s how we keep ourselves relevant.
In Prime Time between 7pm and 10pm we are ahead of other channels including Aaj Tak. In morning also between 7:00 to 10:00 am we are getting good numbers. From 8:00 AM to 9:00 AM we are number one. Our challenge is now day time. 
How has the graph been after News18 India went through a major revamp last year?
Before rebranding in November 2016, if you look at the numbers earlier we were floating around 6-7 per cent and post rebranding we introduced couple of programmes and then we started getting good traction and last year in March when the election were happening in Uttar Pradesh, that was the turning point for us. Our rating touched 12.5 per cent during that period and we have been able to retain our position since. 
Do you think there has been any shift in the interest of people from news to debates?
Obviously, in fact we were the first one to start back-to-back debates for two hours. We introduced the concept of having a debate from 7pm to 9pm. No one was doing it, but us. That is why we also introduced the third debate from 6 pm, which is not done from the studio but from outside. 
Everyone is now talking about Mobile Journalism, how is News18 India adapting to these technology transformations? 
Mobile Journalism is entirely dependent on the requirement of the situation. We will not force our reporters to switch over to Mobile Journalism. If you are at a spot where live feed is not working but mobile network is good, we have developed software where we can take the live feed but to completely switch over to Mobile Journalism, I don’t think we have any such plan. We will use it as a source multiplier, not as a source of news gathering. 
Why do you think the audience is loyal to a particular news channel when most of the content is almost the same?
It will not be correct to say that the content is similar. People come to watch us because of the differentiated content offering. We produce 100-150 stories in different formats, which is important. Other channels show Jyotishi etc, we do not. We have small bytes and short scripts, so even if the story is same, the packaging is different. Even in the evening when we took the risk of back-to-back debate, no one was doing it but then everyone started doing it. Audience came to us because we were the first to do it.

How important and reliable do you think ratings are for a news channel?
Ratings are for bread and butter as there is no other way by which you can measure the performance of a channel. The entire business of a channel depends upon ratings. 
What do you keep on priority as someone who is leading a news channel?
News.

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