News channel battle shifts to Bihar

While for GEC and most other genres content differentiation is the key – in case of news and music it is largely about packaging, presentation and who- got-it-first.

In case of news channels, one more parameter is added – in-depth analysis. Another factor that makes news channels unique is that most of their coverage is based on sudden events and hence cannot be planned much in advance.

Not so in case of Elections though. Most news channels see big spike in viewership at the time of elections – be it national or state. At the moment, the stage is set for Bihar elections and its coverage is already occupying a big share of prime time programming.

All Eyes on Bihar Elections:

It would be five-phase polling in Bihar that would take place on October 12, October 16, October 28, November 1 and November 5. Counting of votes will be held on November 8th. Would it then be right to say that all eyes are on Bihar elections now? 

Ritu Dhawan, MD & CEO, India TV is emphatic, “Yes, all eyes are on Bihar elections and why not? There is a huge public interest throughout India. For ruling NDA it is a verdict on its 16 month performance. For Nitish and Lalu it’s a battle of survival. Stakes for Congress are also high.” She adds, “Our focus has always been on how to dish out most meaningful content to our audiences across India. Ratings are only an indication of the acceptance of the same.”

What makes these elections even more ‘newsworthy’ is that news media is projecting them as a verdict on national scheme of things. Interest in Bihar elections in not restricted to Bihar or Hindi speaking markets but to the viewers across the country. Abhay K Ojha, EVP - Head Sales & Marketing, News Nation Network, opines, “In a couple of weeks, around one tenth of India's population, whose development is essential if India has to develop as a nation, goes for election. Beyond the issues and priorities of Bihar, these elections will also influence the political discourse and direction of politics in the country. There is no denying the fact that there would be massive viewer interest in Bihar elections. So definitely there will be an intense fight between News channels to garner maximum eyeballs.”

Avinash Kaul, CEO - IBN Networks & President - A+E Networks, meanwhile, states that elections have always been a major event for news channels and as for upcoming Bihar elections coverage viewership is already showing an upward trend. He says, “Politics and elections are the mainstays of news channels and there is a natural spike in news viewership during any key electoral event. We are seeing a build-up in viewer interest in Bihar Elections. Both IBN7 and CNN-IBN have an extensive plan in place for 360 degree coverage of the electoral battle for Bihar as it plays out.

Channels’ ‘Bihar’ plans:

Elections are one of those rare phenomenons that give news channels ample time to create programming and improvise on it looking at the ground reality and coverage by competition. As Bihar Elections have become a prestige issue with all parties involved and are being fought in many a mind in addition to polling on ground, 

it is but obvious that channels are serving a multicourse menu to a news hungry nation. Talking of IBN Networks, Avinash Kaul informs, “We have traditionally been very strong in terms of our coverage of elections – we will leverage this strength of ours fully and do expect to find tremendous traction for our content with the viewers. CNN-IBN & IBN7 have both already started their programming around the Bihar Election titled Battle for Bihar & Patliputra Ka Mahasangram respectively. To highlight the ground reality in Bihar & capture what the voters are thinking, the channels have lined-up programming on all the happenings from the state, updates on the election buzz and insights into strategies of various parties, alliances & candidates.” He provides further details of the programmes, “The programming comprises of Chaupals on IBN7 from 30 different constituencies in Bihar, daily shows consisting of news updates of Bihar elections, Special interviews & debates, Polling days coverage, Opinion Poll, Exit poll and Counting Day coverage ensuring that the viewers never miss any vital information on these key elections.”

India TV too is presenting a huge bouquet of Bihar election centric programming. Ritu Dhawan informs, “Bihar Elections have potentially become a huge news event, thus besides regular news coverage, we have a strong line-up of worthy properties dedicated for the same. It includes Opinion Polls, Exit Poll, recently concluded Bihar Conclave – A tent pole interactive event from Patna, A Nukkad Show – with the voters and the Counting Day with Mr. Rajat Sharma himself.”

ABP spokesperson meanwhile states, “ABP News election programme Kaun banega mukhyamantri is leader since last 9yrs across news genre. Our continuous innovation in programming and viewer connect have made this happened and we are sure of continuing the leadership. Since KBM is the most recalled election programme and is no.1 since last nine years, brands want to associate with it and ride on the huge legacy of the programme.”

News Nation too has already launched an array of new programmes and segments for Bihar elections .These initiatives are being implemented in a phased manner and will mark the run-up to the elections, as well as set the agenda for the coverage. Abhay K Ojha says, “The election-related programming initiative has been christened –“बिहार का रण “. Our programming line-up for elections comes with a distinct flavour. Some of the main properties are Magadh Yatra, MLA Report Card, Chowk Chauraha, Magadh Express, Janta Ka Agenda, Badal Gaye Netaji and Bihar Ka Akhada. All these shows are distinctive in their approach ranging from in studio analyses to traveling the length and breadth of Bihar and tracking the party leaders and their campaigning, connecting with the masses and allowing them to express their opinion, to broadcast grassroots debates bringing voters into contact with candidates in key constituencies to challenge them on burning local issues,” he adds, “We believe that these shows will add immense value to our programming and enable our network to set the industry standard for years to come.”

Brand interest on Bihar election-wagon:

A few brands are hesitant to advertise on news television – more so as there is constant risk of news breaks that they would not want to associate with. However, not so in case of elections. Elections not only bring an increase in viewership but also work well when it comes to viewer engagement. Abhay K Ojha comments, “For brands this is definitely a harvest time. Elections give an opportunity to connect with every strata of the society in a particular state. Brands are eager to leverage on election related programming as many are banking on high viewership penetration.  We already have sponsors on board for Bihar elections and have booked inventories in full capacity on premium rates for the upcoming election period.”

Ritu Dhawan and Avinash Kaul too believe that high viewership, more engagement and good RoI lure a bigger number of brands to advertise on news channels. Ritu Dhawan says, “Starting 2013 Assembly elections the mood of the nation is such that Political programming has been able to engage viewers most. Needless to say Elections coverage is one of the hottest properties for advertisers. Bihar Elections are no different.”

Avinash Kaul too agrees, “There is a natural spike in the viewership of news channels during elections. Brands do try and capitalize on this trend by associating with coverage of major elections since this gives them good ROIs on the ad spends.”

News channels are gung-ho about their Bihar election specials.  Excitement on ground too is palpable if one goes by what is seen on news channels. It is all set to be a battle inordinate both on ground where political parties are fighting it out and also when it comes to coverage war between the news channels. We at are happy with the ringside view we are getting.




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