News channels look to make the most as all eyes now on Counting Day
After months of preparation and a long 7-phased voting process, the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections will culminate tomorrow (May 23) with the counting of votes and delivery of Indians’ mandate for the next government.
It’s been a busy time for news channels, who have been following the entire process since almost three months before the voting began with a plethora of special programming, debates & discussions, analyses, interviews and on-the-ground reporting. All that will culminate into the extensive coverage for the Counting Day and the nation’s eyes will be glued to their TV sets as the process unfolds. And the action will begin early on May 23, as early as 6 am.
Adgully spoke to some of the leading news broadcasters to find out their Counting Day coverage strategy and what the viewers can expect from them.
Innovations & technological upgradations
All news channels have upped their game for this Counting Day, when the viewership is set to peak to almost maximum levels. Ritu Dhawan, CEO & MD, India TV, said, “We, as leaders in this space, are also unveiling a completely new set loaded with state-of-the-art modern features, including Video Walls, large interactive displays, Augmented Reality and so on.”
To lift the exuberance and excitement of the dynamic movement of the election results, ABP Network is organising an innovative 360-degree live setup to help viewers understand the ground zero of elections across India. “Being leaders in innovation, we will also replicate it on YouTube to reach out to maximum viewers, who will be able to witness all the excitement on their mobile phones. Additionally, our AI based tool will create live stories to engage and update our viewers on a real time basis and an active data LED wall will be installed in our studio with colour codes and alignments to help understand the dynamic movement on the results,” Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network, informed.
General Elections require great preparedness not just from the content point of view, but also from what goes on behind the screens. Technology and innovations have become the backbone of delivering impactful news viewing experience.
To enable a superior news viewing experience on the counting day, CNN News18 has planned and invested in technology by deploying a ‘Magic Wall’, an analytical tool that uses Artificial Intelligence for election programming and result presentation. It has been developed in association with CNN America.
Elaborating on the Magic Wall and other programming initiatives, Basant Dhawan, CEO, English & Business Cluster, Network18, said, “Once the numbers start pouring in from counting centers, the data will be fed to the Magic Wall. Powered by research done at the constituency level by the extensive News18 Network, this innovative tool will produce accurate data, do a quick comparative analysis of the trends vis-a-vis the previous poll results, winning and losing candidates, their margins, emerging giant-killers and percentages. This will enable us to present the results in the fastest possible manner with impeccable clarity and accuracy.”
To help elevate the consumer’s experience on Counting Day, the results will be showcased through interesting infographics rather than just trails and leads. It will also help the viewer understand how each constituency has voted, by gender, caste and demographics to understand the larger pattern. “News18 Network’s unique offering is with respect to election results as we are deploying systems for end-to-end data collection, processing and dissemination that no other television news channel or media house does. We have an extensive network of 1,200 reporters spread across the counting centres in the country leading to fastest yet authentic and precise results,” Dhawan added.
With Mandate 2019, Times Now is aiming to present the most realistic virtual reportage of election results live on May 23, 2019. Augmenting the elections news viewing experience on Indian television, Times Now is deploying state-of-the-art technology using Unreal Engine to deliver fastest graphics rendered in a virtual space with authentic and reliable data. Through the Unreal Engine, Times Now will recreate the Lok Sabha as the anchor explains the formation of the Parliament and what permutations and combinations will enable the formation of the government at the Centre. Unreal Engine comes from the gaming pedigree known for its unparalleled rendering of scenes, real-life entities and movements. This live segment has been created in association with Pixotope, a virtual production system developed in Norway by The Future Group.
Additionally, Times Now has put up 600+ screens across Mumbai and Delhi at key locations such as metros, railways, airports, etc., which will air live broadcast and share updates on Counting Day.
With an army of 150 reporters, 100 live connections, 35 panellists and 9 studios, Republic TV is all set for the Counting Day with Arnab Goswami.
With the Counting Day being a working day, news channels are also turning to digital in a major way to keep their viewers updated on the latest news and maximise reach throughtout the day.
Speaking about News Nation Network’s strategy, its President – Sales & Marketing, Abhay Ojha, said, “We have planned an integrated coverage strategy, which will cater to all our viewers on various social media platforms. From app alerts to superfast Twitter updates, we will also have a unique YouTube plan for those who want TV-like coverage. The interactive, updated news nuggets via live blogs will cater to those who want to follow a trend of a particular state.”
With Counting Day bringing forth the results of the largest democratic exercise in the world, CNN-News18 India will strive to be the ultimate news destination for election coverage with a dedicated team giving regular and comprehensive updates regarding the elections across the nation. To make the news reach its viewers in the fastest and most accurate manner, CNN-News18 has an engaging line-up of shows and reportage from every corner of the nation. Basant Dhawan informed, “Our technology platform has cohesive and coherent back-end catering to the entire content value chain from information collection to processing and presentation and further to distribution to all our news channels, websites and Mobile Applications. Integrated Broadcast and Digital newsroom operations will aim to generate a high level of synergy underneath, driving high energy output for our shows. We are reaching out to a wide variety of audiences across the country through our digital platform News18.com which provides news in 11 languages.”
CNN-News18 has also deployed ELEXA, a technological platform that captures all the relevant data pertaining to voting by the electorate, analyses it and applies algorithms to render a virtual display of a map with factual results. On the backend, ELEXA has a unique database that interacts with the state-of-the-art technology for studio camera tracking and live dynamic on-screen graphics. This result is an interactive and engaging on-screen TV viewing experience.
Ritu Dhawan added here that India TV’s digital division is all geared up to update the viewers minute by minute with data, graphs, interviews, expert opinions and Live TV for those on the move through its Websites, Apps and Social media handles, including, but not limited to, Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc.
Today, digital is one of the most preferred platforms for viewers to stay connected and updated with the important developments across the country on the go. Addressing the changing consumer behaviour and demand, ABP Network has tried to make its Counting Day programming more innovative, interactive and engaging for its viewers. Avinash Pandey informed, “We are doing third party associations with Samsung, Hotstar and Jio TV to ensure presence across platforms to gauge maximum viewership. Viewers can browse real time data on our digital platform to keep themselves ahead – they can do leader wise, state wise and constituency wise search for their clarity.”
With all eyes on news channels for the momentous day, it’s but natural that advertiser interest will be at the maximum. The Counting Day has seen a huge surge in demand for inventory, given that it is expected to attract more viewers than even IPL. This is reflected in the fact that the inventory is selling at very high premiums.
As News Nation’s Abhay Ojha said, “There has been a tremendous response from the advertisers. It is the most important event of the year, and everyone is interested in the biggest elections on this planet.”
Echoing similar views, Ritu Dhawan said, “Advertisers’ interest is the highest for Counting Day as everyone expects the reach of news channels to surpass GEC channels, backed by higher time spent. The advertisement rates are expected to be in line with the expected high viewership numbers. Also, the number of advertisement breaks is also expected to be significantly low than on regular days in order to promote stickiness and ensuring highest deliveries to the advertisers.”
ABP, too, has seen huge traction from advertisers across all markets. As shared by Avinash Pandey, “At ABP, advertisers place a lot of trust in our ability to provide the most innovative, extensive, and reliable coverage for the Elections. More advertiser interest translates to better revenues. We are already in line to deliver high revenues across our businesses. Counting Day brings up the curtains on the festival of democracy. With our robust programming, coupled with innovation, we are sure that the advertiser will benefit from the eyeballs that we will deliver with our unique and programming for the Counting Day.”
General Elections is an ideal time for advertisers to be present on the genre as the news channels draw huge viewership, which reaches its peak in the exit polls and on the Counting Day. Basant Dhawan noted that brands across categories have already signed up to leverage this high reach that they will derive on these days. “Due to the limited inventory and high time spent by the audiences on the counting day, the advertisers get a disproportionate value,” he added.
Mayank Jain, CEO, Hindi News Cluster, Network18, added here, “Advertisers have shown tremendous interest in the 2019 Elections. There has been a lot of demand from large FMCG advertisers, besides traditional news advertisers. On the back of this, News18 India is expected to see a 3X growth in ad revenues. We have also successfully been able to create innovative solutions for our advertisers, bring new customers on board, and maximise revenues from our inventory.”