BY: Yohan P Chawla
Mayank Jain is the CEO – Hindi News Cluster at Network18. He leads the entire Hindi news cluster which include all channels of News18 India, across all HSMs and nationally. He has joined Network18 early this year from Star India.
In this Straight Talk he speaks about the election coverage, plans for the channel and all the various growth prospects.
You have taken charge of the Hindi Cluster only very recently in February 2019. How different has this role been to you from the one you previously held at Star India? Also please give a basic structure of the Hindi News cluster of Network18?
Let me start by saying that I think I have joined Network18 at a very exciting time. The group has taken some huge strides in recent years to emerge as the largest news network in India witha reputation for high quality journalism.
At Network18, I am responsible for ratings, revenue, brand reputation and overall P&L for the portfolio of channels in the Hindi cluster.The Hindi cluster includes News18 India – a leading Hindi general news channel – and regional news channels in Hindi speaking markets such as UP, Rajasthan, Bihar, Punjab, Haryana, and MP.My role now is broader in scope compared to the role I had at Star, where I was responsible for sales and revenue management.
How do you see News18 India growing in next few years, what are the innovations you aim to try?
News18 India is the fastest growing brand in the Hindi news genre. Over the last two years our viewership has grown and as a result we have become one of the leading news channels. Our aim is to continue this pace of growth over the next few years and emerge as the top news destination in the country.
Our content strategy and high quality journalism fuels this growth. We have a tremendous variety of news shows that cater to different audiences’ tastes. For instance ‘Sau Baat Ki Ek Baat’ is focused on those seeking a pacy update of the day’s happenings along with a gist of key issues from a credible source. The hugely popular ‘Bhaiyaji Kahin’ is based on the idea of inclusion and allows people at large to become a part of the show to voice their views & concerns. ‘Aar Paar’ and ‘Hum Toh Poochenge’ are really sharp debate shows that provide viewers with varied opinions and perspectives.
How difficult is to thrive in the Hindi news space at a time when you have three competitors above you, Aaj Tak, India TV and Republic Bharat? What have you planned to do differently to become number one?
We are the fastest growing news channel and have a lot of momentum with us. We know that our strategy is working and we are focused on execution. We have rolled out a number of innovative programmes during election that will boost our viewership numbers, and have many other exciting new shows planned.
What are the key challenges you see in the Hindi News space?
The Hindi news channel space is highly competitive. There have been some new players that have entered the market as well. Moreover, the industry is dealing with the disruption in the distribution landscape as a consequence of the New Tariff Order, which will end up increasing costs for the industry. These shifts are likely to result in viewership getting increasingly concentrated with the bigger brands.
The long-term health of the industry depends on yields going up. We intend to work harder at spurring advertising demand by working closely with our customers and agencies.
How has the election season been for you? What growth have you seen this season? Which brands have added to the inventory this time?
There has been a lot of advertiser interest in elections this year. Besides typical news advertisers, we have seen a lot of demand from large FMCG advertisers. We are on track to have a fantastic election season, and expect News18 India to see 3x growth in ad revenue. Our teams have been working hard for months creating innovative solutions for our advertisers, bringing new customers on board, and maximizing revenues from our inventory.
Counting Day is going to be one of the biggest televised events in this country. It is expected that there will be more viewers watching election results on Counting Day than even IPL. This has led to great deal of advertiser interest as well, and inventory is selling at very high premiums.
How are you gearing up for the counting day? What will be the programming line-up on that day?
News18 has earned a reputation for being able to correctly call the elections on counting day and be the first ones to give accurate results. We were the first news network to correctly call the results in the recent state assembly elections, including Bihar elections in 2015, Gujarat in 2017, and Karnataka in 2018. What powers our ability to be the first to give accurate results is our own proprietary Result Hub team.
Unlike other news channels that rely on 3rd party sources, we have the largest number of reporters that are stationed to report live from each and every counting centre across the country providing a continuous flow of updates into our Results Hub. This enables our anchors to be the first to give accurate and real-time results for all constituencies in India. It’s a massive operation that has taken many months for us to put together, and we are confident that it will once again give us an edge on 23rd May.