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IPL, Polls, World Cup will buoy news broadcasters’ revenues by 40%: MK Anand

In a freewheeling interaction with Adgully, MK Anand, CEO & MD, Times Network, speaks about the 2019 Elections and what they mean to the news media industry, marketing opportunities, key trends and much more. Excerpts: 

What is media’s role in the elections in today’s scenario?
Media’s role in the elections is for the candidates to communicate to the consistency and for voters to pick up and figure out what is happening in the world. It’s a medium of communication and I think that considering social media is such an important aspect of this communication, unlike in the past when media used to be the mode of communication, media’s role has evolved into more of a validating mechanism than a communicating mechanism. I think the credibility that media brings is essential to validate what has already been communicated by people. 

Of course, the regular stuff like pre polls, exit polls is being done, but we are also looking at potentially talking to large group of supporters like the youth, etc., to figure out what they think. It’s more of a means of communicating to the parties and candidates as to what the citizens want. 

What do marketers look for or what attracts them to election programming?
While elections are paramount, at a fundamental level elections are like competitive sport – it’s the largest event that happens in the country and look at the spends that go into it. The nature of the competition is where you vote for your champions. However, unlike sports which clearly has two sides and the result is black and white, elections are more open-ended. They have a certain narrative and it goes on, it’s not a 1-0 kind of an outcome that you’re expecting from the news. 

But you can root and cheer for somebody and you can pursue it till you find out what happens. From that point of view, I think from the current moment till the new government is sworn in, it’s going to be almost like a mega tournament, consuming everybody’s attention. Therefore, you wouldn’t want to miss out on this event as a marketer and place your brands there. I genuinely believe that elections are a very underrated event if you look at it from the point of view of ad sales. I think it should be about two to three times the size of IPL, which of course, has a format to position and place ads. I’m not saying that the elections should become a revenue making opportunity, but purely from a theoretical point of view and given the audience that is aggregated for this largest festival of democracy. I think the value of elections as an audience aggregating mechanism is vastly underrated. 

What are the key gains from the advertising point of view?
I’m not so operationally involved, but I can specifically tell you that from an advertising point of view, the top day would be the results day. 

With the political climate heating up, the advertising canvas looks very promising. The news broadcast industry can expect about 40% growth in monthly revenues in these 3 months. 

What are the key factors that can attract the audience to the elections?
The distribution is now more or less on par, so the key hooks that one has to use to ensure that they are getting the audience are the brand and the activities that go beyond ad sales. This could be the kind of contributions one is making to improve the quality of the elections or the quality of candidates and so on. Therefore, the contextual activities that we do to make the brand a relevant platform as well as the inherent strengths of the brand are the differentiators. 

Would the IPL and ICC World Cup and IPL lead to fragmentation in a less engaged viewership during the elections?
I don’t think so. As I said earlier, although the elections are a much bigger event, they are vastly underrated, and therefore, I don’t think these events are going to make any impact on the trends. I think because the elections are a smaller category than sports, the price that is commanded by the news channels will nowhere reach the price commanded by sports channels. 

What is the impact of second screen experience and change in consumer habits on broadcast media?
I think the second screen experience is increasing the brand connect. We are also able to serve intermediate interstitial communication to viewers through this mechanism. Digital in India – and even the broadcast industry – is just only coming to terms with what can be done and the possibilities of the second screen. At Times Now, we have realised that we will be more likely delivering election news on the second screen than on the first screen because the details we will require will not be available on the TV screen. There are a lot of new product developments on content around elections, which are going to be the most important for us as a news broadcaster. 

How have the news consumption patterns changed?
Look at the way we choose our topics. The topics are even chosen on the basis of what is trending during the day on social media. So, basically it is impacting television views in a very big manner. You can see on the number of tweets on the top of the TV screen now and those are impacting the ways in which a topic is managed and handled. We are more or less online now, with timesnownews.com most likely to cross 10 crore in viewership soon. Compared to that, the total viewership of Times Now would be much less. Thus, the digital age is allowing us to expand our brand’s access to the consumers. 

Are news channels ready for a digital-first future?
Hundred per cent, at least we are. 

Where would linear television, digital video, connected TV and OTT meet up? What would be the implications for marketing?
I think this entire thing actually meets at the brand. What we currently see on air is just the limited expression of the brand. The current technology and the current formats are limiting the medium to be presented in a certain manner. Linear television, digital video, connected TV and OTT are new names that we are giving to the new formats and technologies that are simultaneously presenting to us. I don’t think giving them these different names makes them any different. Times Now, presented in these four formats, will be still Times Now. There will be multiple breaking news, multiple trending news, and multiple specific categories. Times Now’s clutch of short form videos or linear content could be served to you either on CMS or via some other ITTV mechanism, but it’s still going to be Times Now. 

So, I don’t think it’s different things that are coming together, but the same thing which is now going to get expressed in different manners only because it is possible. It’s like different strands coming together. These new mediums are going to help us tremendously in expressing in multifarious formats and allowing us to, therefore, envelope and compete better for the consumer. 

I believe that if we are a good brand, we will get paid for it. I think we are going to be in an ad-led world. Our current experience is that we have been able to serve more advertisers on the new reach that we have been able to build up. 

What kind of trends do you foresee in the news television space?
In the last one or two years, I have not seen any major changes except for digital becoming even bigger. In the broadcast television space, a major development has been the TRAI-mandated New Tariff Order coming into force. Contrary to what other say, I don’t think regional has become big. 

Some key trends in news television are:

  • This year will see several mega events – Elections, IPL & World Cup – boosting overall ad sales.
  • These major events during the year will lead to competitive advertising across platforms. Digital will see high action, specifically on digital news platforms during the elections.
  • Increased viewer orientation due to the New Tariff Order will see more consumer marketing of channels and properties. That and more events will lead to a spurt in overall TV reach.
  • This year and going forward we can expect ARPUs to rise and the industry will see a much-needed revaluation of subscription rates.
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