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Exclusive | MCCS has always operated independently: ABP News' Venkatramani

When you switch on your television for news and instead of your Star News channel find ABP news channel, do not be surprised. For that is your favourite news channel with a new name and logo. Everything else remains the same. Yes  from June 1  2O12 that is today onwards, Star News has become ABP News, Star Ananda is ABP Ananda and Star Majha has become ABP Majha. To ensure that the message reaches home, Media Content and Communications (MCCS), a joint venture between the Ananda Bazar Patrika Group and STAR India unleashed one of the largest marketing campaigns in the history of news television across general entertainment channels and news channels, online and outdoors followed by a print campaign in the leading business newspapers and mainline dailies in the month of May.
 
Adgully spoke with Ashok Venkatramani, CEO, MCCS to know various aspects of the change. Excrepts:
 
Adgully (AG): What was the rationale to part ways with Star and chart out an independent course? 
 
Ashok Venkatramani (AV): STAR and ABP had decided to discontinue the brand agreement where STAR has lent the brand to MCCS. Right now, STAR continues to be a shareholder in MCCS. Beyond that this is something between the shareholders and either ABP or STAR would be right party to comment. 
 
AG: What will be the immediate plans and marketing strategy to create a distinct brand identity for the channels? 
 
AV: The brand identity is not envisaged as changing. The habit of channel viewership is a function of its consistency viz credibility of news, of  anchors/ reporters, the programs that go on air, the looks, the channel number on which a viewer gets to view it and  the brand name. Only the name is changing. All other elements that give the brand an identity, including the taglines of the three channels are the same. There is no change, just a new name.
 
ABP News will be powered by the same star anchors that are a household name today. Deepak Chaurasia, the best known political anchor in the Hindi News space, Aditi Sawant, Siddhartha Sharma, Kishore Ajvani, Shrivardhan Trivedi - all the most credible names in news in their segments.
 
Besides the studio remains the same, the reporters remain the same and all Editorial    policies continue to be the same. The Channel look will remain exactly the same with only the logo changing.
 
The story is essentially one of continuity with no change in content, access and packaging planned. The existing stakeholders and viewers are likely to migrate to the new platform since its old wine in an old bottle and only the label has changed. 
 
AG: Do you see an impact on advertising revenues and viewership? 
 
AV: I believe there will be a temporary uncertainty with which our advertisers may watch us but I am confident of the capability of our content team which has repeatedly proved its worth and enabled the rest of the company to become the most successful news broadcast company in India. Beyond the first few weeks of uncertain advertisers, nothing will happen. The ratings and rates should stabilize in a status quo within the first quarter of name change.
 
AG: How do you plan to go about it? What you feel are your strengths that will help you to stand out? 
 
AV: MCCS strength has been our ability of 'great content and great monetizing'; with a consistent daily effort, daily recognition and long term partnerships. We have been away from gimmicky sensationalizing news or mindless superstition inducing stories which has been recognized by our viewers and trade partners. Our programs have been milestones in the Indian news history which have been watched and followed by most of our contemporary competitors. I expect this trend to continue. 
 
AG: The news channels segment of the industry is very competitive. What is your competitive strategy, what will differentiate you from the others? 
 
AV: The strategy of a positive business is never built on competition. Yes we do keep an eye on our competition but MCCS has in the past, and will again in the future prove the simple philosophy of an everyday hard work with great content and great monetizing.
 
AG: ABP is not a national brand, it has regional strengths. Do you see this as a limitation to expansion? 
 
AV: Given India is a republic of multiple languages and numerous dialects; I see this variety of India's regions combined with digitization (read capacity expansion) not a limitation but an opportunity. The regional news category has been and will continue to expand. A news company has to build itself mirroring the nation’s DNA. To this effect any company excelling the art of managing regional brands should feel proud. 
 
AG: What will be your medium to long-term plan? 
 
AV: Build a robust brand that viewers trust, advertisers gain from and employees feel proud to be a part of 
 
AG: Can you give us a sense of incremental investments envisaged as an independent entity? 
 
AV: At the moment the shareholding pattern has not changed so I am not sure any 'new' entity. And operationally MCCS has always operated independently, with its own board.
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