Hindi news channels seek revenue boost with B2B campaigns

In the last few years, the news genre in India has witnessed a flurry of activity driven by the launch of various channels across languages. Thanks to the country’s burgeoning middle-class, the news genre—especially Hindi news channels—has enjoyed a healthy spike in viewership as well as revenue. According to BARC’s Breaking the News Story report released this year, news contributes to 8 per cent of the total television viewership in the country, making it the third biggest genre in terms of viewership. Moreover, the genre has seen a 15 per cent increase in the number of channels to 163 channels in 2017 from 142 channels in 2016.

A significant driver of growth for news channels has been advertising, especially for the Hindi genre. There have been a plethora of marketing campaigns and attendant emailers from these channels with many claiming the top spot in terms of viewership and reach. Recently, News18 India came out with a new campaign, called Aaj ka No. 1, claiming the leadership position in the urban market in the primetime slot. This high-decibel pitch caught the attention of the B2B audience towards which it was targeted. The broadcaster’s latest mega campaign, 18=1, has also helped the channel to break regional barriers. The object of these campaigns was to attract the attention of advertisers, brand managers and media planners to communicate the leadership position of the News18 group and position it as the country’s leading news outlet.

Not be left behind, Aaj Tak, too, has made a splash with its B2B campaigns in a bid to augment advertising revenue. In line with these activities, Zee has also run campaigns in a bid to promote its leadership position in the genre. 

According to an industry expert, however, such campaigns don’t help channels to create this perspective in any way. “B2B campaigns are devised just for the marketers, wherein you just target the advertisers. Advertisers, however, clearly monitor the data that they have on TV channels. If news channels are coming ahead and claiming that they are topping the charts, it really doesn’t matter because advertisers will run their data on the particular TG that they want to target,” he said.

Referring to a trend that was prevalent five to six years ago, he said that every news channel would conceptualise consumer-oriented marketing campaigns such as Sabse Tez and Apko Rakhe Aage. All these campaigns helped in increasing viewership. “These days, I feel, news channels are going through a bad phase and facing a low marketing budget and that’s why they themselves create their own campaign,” the expert added.

Shekhar Banerjee, managing partner, Wavemaker India, too clarified that it is not about who is number one but more about why the genre is not able to retain its audiences.

“Today, the Hindi news genre’s reach in a month is equal to the reach of Hindi GECs so they have the base but it is heavily fragmented. If time spent goes up, they are likely to monetise their platforms much better,” he affirmed.

“In my view, the only thing these emails do is to keep the brand TOM (top of mind) while the planners are planning campaigns,” said Mohit Joshi, managing director, Havas Media.

Further expressing his views, he explained that while it does provide a TOM exposure, the media planners and buyers still undertake thorough research on the viewership numbers, the profile of the channel/programme, the stickiness of the channel and how competitive the overall deal is. They don’t go by the numbers shared in these mailers as the specific client’s TG and market are different. In case the channel is promoting a large property, then the logos of the advertisers sponsoring it will give additional visibility to the client. This visibility, however, is restricted to the small set of people receiving the mailers—not necessarily the core audiences for the brand

Shedding light on the current scenario, the expert said that there is no breakaway leader in the Hindi news genre. “If you look at the top-four channels, Aaj Tak leads the way but with just a 10 per cent gap but the remaining top three channels are more or less at the same level (viewership-wise). There are no clear breakout numbers and that’s why they all try to become number one with such marketing campaigns.”

While the efficacy of such campaigns undertaken by Hindi news channels is still in question, they definitely help TOM recall and build the perceptions of the TG that they are directed at. Even as channels strive to serve their audiences in the best way possible and build viewership, an email, every once in a while, helps to attain revenue targets. With the general elections coming up next year, more targeted messaging for the B2B audience is on the anvil.

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