In the crowded & #BANNER1 & #space of Hindi television news, Aaj Tak has been the numero uno for a very long time. But now, it seems to have been pushed down to No. 2 slot by India TV.
The GRP ratings and channel share provided by TAM for the two weeks, May 18-24 and May 25-31, show India TV to be in the lead. India TV's GRPs for the two weeks stood at 51 and 47, respectively; Aaj Tak's GRPs were 51 and 44, respectively.
India TV claimed a channel share of 19.52 per cent and 19.7 per cent, respectively, for the two weeks in the CS 15+ target group; Aaj Tak garnered a share of 19.71 per cent and 17.77 per cent, respectively. STAR News stands third with a channel share of 17.37 per cent for the first week and 16.13 per cent for the second week.
Sharma also attributes the good results to having a wide network of reporters spread all over the country, a livewire newsroom and, above all, the credibility and trust that the channel commands with its viewers.
He agrees that breaking news or any major development influence the ratings or image of a channel, "The news on any channel caters to the kind of demand for that content in terms of viewership. Maybe sometimes a few channels go too far."
Krishnan is of the view that news channels do command a loyal viewership. He reasons, "There is definitely loyalty in the case of breaking news when viewers will always tune into the news channel that they find credible and consistent. The news business has to have a long term time frame and should not be carried away with temporary blips."
Even industry experts voice that India TV's success at No.1 may be short lived.
At the same time, Radhakrishnan points out, "Channel loyalty is much weaker and less in the genre of news as compared to the general entertainment genre. Therefore, it is premature to predict whether the growth is a long term phenomenon or a temporary spurt."
Sharma counters the claims of inconsistent performance: "When I started the channel, people cautioned me to drop the project because the market was crowded and saturated with big players. I ignored them and went ahead. The channel has been performing well for the last three-four years, but our performance has always been sidelined. Nobody has ever thought us capable of becoming No. 1. The cynics say whatever they want to without once considering the real progress made by us."
Sharma further says, "For example, on and off, a certain kind of news is zeroed in on to attribute the success of my channel. Is the same news not available to all the other channels? The point is that if we are doing well on account of a certain kind of story or reportage, it means that we have handled the topic more creatively and in a more interesting manner. Our research, reportage and presentation are better - that is why our channel fares better than the others."
He adds, "People of my own fraternity make attacks, which are in bad taste. Only recently, a news channel ran a five hour programme rebutting and criticising one of our news items. Now how does one categorise or define this kind of reaction within the industry? Is it something that can be accounted for as being fair and objective?"
Media Planners stress that assurance of the right target group and availability of lucrative deals will guide advertisers to put their money on any news channel, be it India TV or Aaj Tak.
Sharma points out that his channel has more than 70 brands advertising on it, and this despite the fact that the channel has raised its spot rates twice in the past six month.