Viewers stuck to their favourite news channels during Union Budget

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | July 16, 2009
Aaj Tak, NDTV 24X7 and CNN-IBN were the leaders in the Union Budget coverage in Hindi and English general news genres, while CNBC 18 and CNBC Awaaz toppe din their respective segments

The much awaited verdict on the performance of the business and general news channels on the coverage of the Union Budget is out. TAM has released the ratings for July 6 - the day the Union Budget was presented and it has also put together the ratings for the pre/post-coverage of the event between July 5 and July 11.

The English business news genre saw CNBC-TV18 leading the pack, followed by a distant second player, NDTV Profit. According to TAM data for C&S 25+ All India, on July 6, CNBC-TV18 garnered a channel share of 67 per cent. For the period July 5-11, the pre/post coverage period of the event, the channel fetched a market share of 72 per cent.

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For the same period, NDTV Profit, placed second, recorded channel shares of 22 per cent and 14 per cent respectively. UTVi was placed third for its Budget day coverage and post-Budget coverage, with channel shares of 7 and 9 per cent respectively.

The new kid on the block, ET Now's Budget coverage got it a channel share of 4 per cent on July 6 and a channel share of 6 per cent for its post-Budget analysis (July 5-11).

Speaking to afaqs!, Udayan Mukherjee, managing editor, CNBC-TV18, listed the things that worked in favour of the market leader on the Budget eve, and also when it came to the post coverage of the news event. He shared, "Our analysis and TAM data indicate that our Budget speech ratings from 11 am-1 pm contributed as much as 90 per cent of the ratings on July 6, when finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was reading out the Budget speech in the Parliament."

He further adds, "We did a lot of value addition on screen in the form of graphics when the speech was being delivered by the finance minister."

The second best contributing factor was the impressive group of panellists that CNBC-TV18 managed to host on the show. It had a line of bankers on the channel, which included names such as Deepak Parekh, KV Kamath and Vallabh Bhansali.

Mukherjee added that this year's Budget was not seen as one for stock markets but one which was supposed to touch everyone. This fact inspired a large number of people to switch to the Budget coverage on television and for them, the first port of call was undoubtedly CNBC-TV18.

Commenting on the Budget report card of the English business news channels, R Venkatasubramanian, vice-president, Lintas Media Group, shares, "The budget ratings are on expected lines. CNBC-TV18 has always been the leader in the segment, followed by others. UTVi, too, has evolved in terms of content showcased and its presentation."

"However, encouraging performance of the other players and its own numbers somehow failed to capture the change. News viewing is more about a habit, so even for big news happenings such as the Budget, there is no major change in the viewers' preference of channels," says Venkatasubramanian.

The Hindi business news market leader, CNBC Awaaz, once again proved its credibility, being the true leader when it came to the coverage of the country's most important event after the recently held General Elections. The channel's Budget day coverage fetched it a channel share of 69 per cent and its post-Budget analysis coverage (July 5-11), too, got it a channel share of 69 per cent. The data for the Hindi business news channels corresponds to the 25+ HSM (Hind Speaking Markets).

The market leader was followed by another Hindi business news channel, Zee Business, in the second place. Zee Business had a channel share of 31 per cent for both its Budget day and post-Budget coverage.

Sanjay Pugalia, editor-in-chief, CNBC Awaaz, attributes the success of the channel to the fact that CNBC Awaaz was the only channel that was providing a Hindi translation of the Budget speech as it was being delivered in English by the finance minister.

Pugalia says, "We interpreted the Budget through our analysis of tax rebates and customs duty analyses. We went for sectoral analysis, even in our post-Budget coverage."

Pugalia believes that unlike the last few years, this year's Union Budget saw heightened interest from even general news channels. This was perhaps on account of the buzz related to the common-man agenda and the National Rural Employment Scheme highlighted by youth leader Rahul Gandhi. All these factors made it a common man's dream budget. So, this time there was an increased possibility of the Budget becoming a big general event news.

However, the domination of business news channels such as CNBC-TV18 and CNBC Awaaz together proves that people specifically came to business news channels for their dose of financial news.

The general interest news channels, too, had put their weight behind the Interim Budget presented by the Congress led government. The leader in the Hindi genre was Aaj Tak. As per TAM data, 15+ HSM, the news channel topped the charts for its Budget coverage on July 6, with a channel share of 20 per cent. In the second and third spots were STAR News and India TV respectively, with channel shares of 18 per cent and 14 per cent.

For the post coverage analysis and dissection of the Budget recommendations, in the Hindi news genre, Aaj Tak scored over its rivals by being the leader in 15+ HSM (July 5-11), garnering a channel share of 17 per cent. However, the week-long in-depth analysis and debates on Budget announcements saw both STAR News and India TV tied at the second spot, with identical channel shares of 16 per cent each.

Rajat Sharma, chairman and editor-in-chief, India TV, points out things that worked in channel's favour, "Simplicity and relevance were the keywords for Union Budget on the channel. We dissected the content according to time bands, who would be watching what at a given period of time and information and analysis that would make difference to viewers' lives. Our content was shorn of jargon and pretence. Nor were our guest line meant to dazzle fellow experts out there. Plus, we gave due recognition to the fact that even on Budget Day other things were happening in the country; so we eschewed the temptation for ball-to-ball coverage."

The channel engaged viweres with shows such as Sabse Saral Budget, Ab Kitna Denge Tax, Sasti Trolley.

Venkatasubramanian adds that in the Hindi news category, Aaj Tak has always been a leader and the same thing has been reflected in the Budget analysis, too. Be it the English or the Hindi news genre, the Budget coverage as such has not altered the fortune of any channel. This is because of the fact that during big events, the overall viewership of a category or a genre tends to go up due to increased sampling. However, individual performances of the leaders and followers remain unaffected. Thus, the domination and order of preferences of news channels has not seen any change in context of the Budget coverage.

Reacting to the report card of the news channels based on the TAM ratings for the Budget coverage, Neeraj Sanan, marketing head, MCCS, says, "While evaluating the performance of the news channels for a big event such as the Budget, one must remember that content is only one of the three parameters on which the performance is based - the other two being placement and distribution. Thus, content alone should not be held responsible for being a maker or breaker when it comes to the coverage of news events of great significance."

Having said that, Sanan, however, accepted that market leader Aaj Tak had an edge over the others when it came to the Budget coverage as well. It surely benefitted from its decade-old presence in the market. Moreover, he added that when it came to channel share, the gap between the leader and STAR News was not too significant.

What worked in STAR News' favour was that the channel occupies the viewers' mindscape, and secondly, the channel's property, called Desh Maange More, created as a run-up to the D-day, contributed to the channel being the No. 2 player in the Hindi general news genre.

As per the TAM data, 15+ HSM for July 6, NDTV India and Zee News scored identical channel shares of 10 per cent each, and were placed fourth. The sixth player, IBN7, had a market share of 8 per cent.

Budget coverage on July 6 got Samay and News 24 channel shares of 5 and 4 per cent respectively.

Amin Lakhani, head, exchange, Mindshare India, says that it's always interesting to see the performance and contributions of general interest news channels and business news channels during Budget coverage.

Even for a specialised big news event such as the Budget, general interest news channels by default turn out to be largely watched simply because of a broader and higher base of viewers; and secondly, they are considered as open channels, the usual and first preferred platform for news by viewers.

According to Lakhani, the Budget is about a thousand things - some things work out for a few and some do not. As far as the Budget day content is concerned, every single channel has to take the common feed from the Government of India. Thus, what is important here is the expectation built up by a particular channel. Since the viewer has so many options today, this aspect does not turn out to be a big differentiator. What matters is the post-coverage, where, as expected, the big players such as CNBC-TV18 and CNBC Awaaz have clearly scored.

As for the coverage of the Budget by the English general interest news channels, as per the TAM C&S 15+ All India data, NDTV 24x7 led on D-Day, with a channel share of 32 per cent, followed by CNN-IBN, whose channel share stood at 31 per cent. Times Now's coverage of the day saw it grab a channel share of 19 per cent.

Headlines Today and NewsX were next in line, with channel shares of 13 and 6 per cent, respectively.

The week-long debates and commentary, based on the Budget announcements, saw both CNN-IBN and NDTV 24x7 with identical channel shares of 28 per cent each (TAM figures for C&S 15+, All India Markets). For the same period, Times Now gathered a channel share of 25 per cent.

Commenting on the performance of the newly launched ET Now, Lakhani says, "The channel had a big launch, strong PR and promos leading up to two weeks to the Budget. A decent number of viewers were expected from the channel. It has delivered to some extent, keeping in mind that this was its first budget coverage. However, perhaps it missed on a few counts for lack of distribution. It's also true that it's too early in the day to pass a final judgement on the channel."

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