The genre of English news channels is going through an interesting phase. Soon after NDTV 24X7 introduced business programming replacing general news content from 9 am to 4 pm, Headlines Today - NDTV's rival in the general news space - started reporting that its viewership has increased.
Headline Today's claims are backed up by solid statistics. The channel's viewership has constantly increased in the period July 1 to September 30, (C&S 4+, all India). In the month of July, the channel's average channel share was 16 per cent, which increased to 18.8 per cent in August. In September, its share rose to 20.4 per cent.
NDTV 24X7 has also maintained a constant viewership. During the corresponding three months, the channel achieved a market share of 40.8 per cent, 41.4 per cent and 40.4 per cent, respectively (C&S 4+, all India).
When agencyfaqs! spoke to a couple of media planners, they were of the opinion that while NDTV 24X7 might have gained in the number of business news viewers, general news viewers might have also migrated to Headlines Today. They also said that there has been a general growth in viewership in the English news category.
Sandeep Tarkas, chief executive, Optimum Media Direction, says, "Headlines Today might have gained in viewership in the short-term. But it's important for the channel to retain this viewership growth, when NDTV 24X7 eventually switches back to general news after the launch of its business news channel."
The number one business news channel, meanwhile, is claiming that it's business as usual despite the entry of NDTV 24X7 in this genre. The channel, in fact, claims to have a larger channel share than NDTV 24X7 in the males, 25 + age group category.
Between July 4 to October 2, all days 7 am to midnight, (TAM, Males, 25 +, SEC A&B, all India) CNBC TV18 got a channel share of of 37 per cent, whereas NDTV 24X7 got 33 per cent. Headlines Today achieved a channel share of 15 per cent in the same period.
Between CNBC TV 18 and NDTV 24X7, during the 9 am to 4 pm time slot when NDTV 24X7 focuses on business programming, CNBC TV18 got a channel share of 74 per cent in comparison to NDTV 24X7's 26 per cent. (Period: July 4 to October 2; all India, males, SEC A&B, 25+).
According to TAM, in the C&S 4+, all India market, across all English news channels, during July-September, CNBC TV18 was behind NDTV 24X7 with an average channel share of 24 per cent in July, which increased to 25.6 per cent in August but declined to 22.6 per cent in September.
CNBC TV18 is unperturbed about the C&S 4+ figures. A senior executive of CNBC TV18 says, "It's really the male viewers in the 25 + age group, which matter for a business news channel like CNBC TV18. These people are the core business news viewers."
The channel believes that the 20 million investors in the country - spread across small cities and sub-metro towns - is and will continue to be a major source of viewership for business news programming. The CNBC executive says, "It's not only the stock market traders who are interested in business news programming. Even small-time traders and professionals living in small cities invest in the stock market. This particular segment is very much interested in business news programming."
Even in this segment, CNBC TV18 produces statistics to claim its leadership. On the basis of TAM Media Research figures, in cities with a population of more than 1 million excluding six metros, (males, SEC A&B, 25+ ) CNBC TV 18 claims to have a channel share of 81 per cent in comparison to NDTV 24X7's 19 per cent.
So, does this mean that NDTV's strategy of launching business news programming during the day has gone wrong? Or, worse, will it affect the viewership of the channel in the long run?
Tarkas of Optimum Media Direction says, "For NDTV 24X7, getting into business news is a very strategic move for a shorter duration. The idea is to create viewership for an existing channel and then migrate the same to a new channel. But for a longer duration, the formula doesn't really work."
"NDTV is simultaneously moving on two horses and this has been done before in the case of Cartoon Network and TNT. Past experience suggests that the strategy hasn't been successful for a longer period."
LS Krishnan of BroadMind agrees. He says, "This has been a wise move on NDTV's part. It's a great example of creating a viewership for a new channel on the grounds of a channel which already has a loyal viewership. In a way, it's a classic example of brand extension with the help of an existing stronger brand."
Francis Xavier, head of Francis Kanoi, a marketing research firm, says, "This brand extension is wise decision and even after NDTV 24X7 launches a separate business news channel and eventually switches over to the general news format, it won't affect the brand identity or the viewership of the channel. After all, NDTV 24X7 has a very strong brand identity of a pure English news channel."
"There might be a few blips initially, but it won't take long for a broadcaster such as NDTV to retain its viewership. The channel has already proved it in the past," he adds.
However, not everybody is bullish about this initiative. Jagdeep Kapoor, chairman and managing director, Samsika Marketing Consultancy, says, "NDTV 24X7 is a very strong English news channel brand with respect and credibility. If the brand reinforces its positioning further, it will grow very, very fast. On the other hand, if the brand diverts its attention or its core positioning, there are chances that it will create some confusion in the minds of the viewers."
Kapoor also feels that it would be prudent to launch a totally new brand for business and test market it separately rather than experimenting with a strong and tried and tested channel such as NDTV 24X7.
Raj Nayak, CEO, NDTV Media defends. He says, "There is no question about dilution of the brand. NDTV has always been synonymous with business and news. Budget analysis by Prannoy Roy and his team has been the most watched programme during Budget and this year too, it was no different."
"Moreover, NDTV used to produce India Business Report for BBC till recently. Then, INDEX, a business programme, on ZEE was also an NDTV production.... we have always covered the markets on both our Hindi and English channels, since our launch," he adds.
"With our existing viewers demanding more of business coverage, all we did was to extend the coverage of the business shows and provide regular updates throughout the day. The fact that it is working for us is proven by the fact that we have got a tremendous response from viewers."
A section of media planners feel that had NDTV 24X7 been a Hindi news channel - shifting to business news in one part of the day, there certainly would have been a problem. "But, since the English-speaking viewers are interested in general as well as business news, I do not foresee any problems for NDTV. As I see it, NDTV 24X7 will continue to rule the news prime time with the loyal audience it already has," adds Krishnan of BroadMind.
Media planners are already offering a recipe for NDTV 24X7 when the stand-alone business channel is launched. Krishnan feels that to regain its general news viewers during the day, NDTV 24X7 will have to introduce some women-oriented programmes. His rationale: In India, not all English-speaking women are professionals. If NDTV can target them with programmes of their interest, this category of viewers can compensate for the loss of business news viewers, who will shift to the upcoming business news channel during the day.
On future programming at NDTV 24X7, Nayak of NDTV Media says, "We will consider both the commercial aspect and viewership trends before deciding on any future strategy regarding the channel's day-time programming."
Some media planners felt that it would be premature to exactly judge the viewership trends as the scenario will certainly change in the coming months as a couple of other business news channels are on the verge of being launched.
© 2004 agencyfaqs!First Published : October 25, 2004