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HD-first launch was a brilliant opportunity: MK Anand on Times Now Navbharat

Contrary to the usual practice of launching SD first, followed by the HD version, Times Now Navbharat, the recently launched Hindi news channel from Times Network’s stable, is doing the exact opposite, launching its SD channel now, after the HD launch, which happened in August this year. Times Now Navbharat SD will launch on January 1, 2022.

Explaining the rationale behind launching HD first, MK Anand, MD & CEO, Times Network, pointed out that the launch of the HD channel ahead of the SD channel was a strategic decision. “We have launched HD first. If nobody else has done it, doesn’t mean that it is not a better way to do it. Typically, HD has been an extension of the SD version, but we felt there was an opportunity to go in HD first and position the brand at the upscale end and secure premium perception before expanding to the mass market with SD. So, brand strategy was an important reason for this.”

The only news player in the HD space till August was Aaj Tak. Entering the HD space first has made Times Now Navbharat the only other player in a set of 2, thereby enabling them to position parity with the market leader. “We have pitched our ad rates high. Even though this was a limiting factor for the ad sales team, we are already at 60% of the ad volume of the competitor,” Anand informed.

He further said that he expected that it would take a year after the HD launch before they took the plunge into SD. But then, the product was so well received by consumers and advertisers that they decided to launch it now. The elections were also a good opportunity and a window to go for mass distribution. He added that the upcoming elections in key states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Punjab have provided the channel with a good opportunity to launch the SD version.

Talking about the performance of Times Now Navbharat HD, Anand said, “Within five months, we have made an impressive impact with our content. The number of times that we have trended is equal to the sum total of the number of times that the big news from all Hindi news channels has trended in the last three to four months, after August.”

“Our content has been widely consumed on Digital and we have garnered over 100 million video views per month,” he further added.

The Hindi business news as a genre has also been buoyant post-pandemic; the network recently launched its Hindi business news channel, ET Now Swadesh. “After demonetisation and dropping interest rates in recent years, more Indians began participating in mutual funds and financial markets. Foreign institutional investors, sophisticated retail investors and corporates have been traditionally taking advantage of the great growth that the Indian stock market presents, but ordinary Indians have mostly stayed out. It’s our belief that India is Rising, but Indians are not. As a platform, ET Now has been exhorting it’s audiences to Rise with India. To bring this message to a larger audience, we launched ET Now Swadesh with the proposition of ‘Badho Desh Ke Saath,” said Anand.

He further said, “In the Hindi business news space, we are quite on top of whatever targets we had set for ourselves. In any case, business news as a genre has been buoyant post-pandemic.”

When asked about the projections for 2022, Anand said that he wouldn’t want to project ad revenue as a parameter, but would like to project the overall performance of the products and business as the parameter.

“One good thing I can tell is that one and a half years of the pandemic has taught us a lot. Several things have changed, our processes, backend, infrastructure requirements have all changed. We are operating at a cost which is unheard of, none of our competitors are anywhere compared to where we are now, and that cost advantage has given us this opportunity of coming out with three new channels even before post-pandemic normalisation has set in. With 3 new platforms and resurgent ad sales across the existing network platforms and strong pick up in broadcast viewership, we think that our best is yet to come and expect 2022 and beyond to be significantly better than the last 2 years,” affirmed Anand.

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