To say that the Hindi news space is highly competitive would be an understatement. In conversation with Medianews4u.com, Karan Abhishek Singh, News18 CEO – Hindi news cluster, speaks about how the broadcaster tries to stand out, the rating system, future of the Hindi news genre, work on delivering for connected audiences and more.
As reported by Medianews4u.com, News18 India claimed 13 pc market share basis BARC viewership data (Week 27-31; HSM-Urban+Rural).
Advertisers were still on news channels even when BARC did not rate the genre. When BARC ratings were released, more than one channel claimed the top spot. What are your thoughts on the news channels’ frenzied race for TV ratings? How do you perceive the rating system?
There had been an absence of ratings for a prolonged period of time. And when the news channel ratings were released, broadcasters were keen on claiming the top spot. From the broadcasters’ point of view, they are also looking for some flags with which they could communicate internally and externally about the success of the channels and the programmes. Every player was justified in looking at the various cards, claiming the top positions.
BARC ratings are the evaluation metric in the industry. The current rating format is devised after consultation with all stakeholders in the industry. When questions like, “Can it be better and have a wider base?” are raised, there is always a debate.As of now, we have given the most robust metric of channel performance.
How will the new broadcasting ecosystem develop in the coming times? What does the future hold for Hindi news channels?
The Hindi news genre manages to be at the pulse of the nation because of the large geographical bands of the country it caters to. The genre also plays a prominent role in shaping the narrative of the country, and it’s a huge responsibility that the players in the news genre carry on themselves.
From a futuristic point of view, these are exciting times. We are talking about 5G expansion in the country, and the way in which content is created is evolving rapidly. The revolution in content consumption in the country doesn’t follow the template that has happened in any other developed country. India is setting its track in a very unique manner. Consumers are getting more and more choices.
As of now, we are content creators specialising in news, and we will continue to develop and deliver best-in-class coverage of news to our viewers. We will be available across all the screens that they choose to consume news on, whether it is TV screens, connected TV, OTT, or mobile handsets.
How does the channel prepare for most awaited events like the upcoming Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat elections?
Interestingly, in India, we have one election every six months. From a programming point of view, we work a lot on building our tech capabilities to be able to bring the best of analytics and updates around the elections.
During the last UP, Punjab legislative assembly elections, we have strongly put our best foot forward in leveraging the strength of the network. Our regional channels have very different content and reach among the masses on the ground.
The last time it happened, we had a very impactful election season. We are picking up learning and the best practices from there to prepare for the next phase of elections.
The Hindi news space seems highly competitive. How do you stand out? And is there space for these many players in the long run?
I agree that the Hindi news space is very competitive. This is a space where key stakeholders from various geographies can connect. Eventually, our viewers are smart enough, they require content, and there are many choices that are available today. Unlike in the entertainment genre, the content available is pretty much the same. The content I have access to is also available to my competitors. We are absolutely well placed and we have invested in building the kind of loyalty that some of our anchors enjoy.
New entrants will come and go. Whoever manages to catch the fancy of the viewers will manage to build a loyal viewer base for themselves.
Do you think the Hindi news audience is getting mature or they still prefer sensationalism?
I think the viewers have always been mature, and we don’t subscribe to the philosophy of sensationalism. It can give you short-term benefits. As a network, we are very clear that if there is any sensational news that’s happening, it is very important to give a balanced view of the perspective to the viewers. Let the viewers make a choice and any players who think that it is very easy to mislead the viewers, are wrong. Viewers are extremely intelligent.
How’s News18 India performing on connected TV? Given the high pace of cord cutting, do you think connected TV will replace linear TV?
Connected TVs are something at which all broadcasters are looking very closely, and so are we. There are various discussions that’s happening at our end in terms of the technology upgrade required to keep up with the demands of the viewers across connected TV platforms.
Unfortunately, there is no metric to measure the viewership on connected TV platforms and I am sure someday it will come in place.
We are working towards our own offerings as the best in class across platforms, and in another few months I will be able to share a few more details on the same. There is work happening in a frenetic phase, internally and externally.