September 11 was a like a stone chucked into a still river - the ripples are not stopping anytime soon. Attacks on Afghanistan. Civil strife in Pakistan. Long after the roar of the crashing planes have been stilled, the effects of 9/11 are being felt almost everywhere. Including media planning in India.
Ironically, after the initial hype, English news channels have started fluctuating in their reach. And Hindi news channels have gained. A look at the TRP figures - in C&S households and among those over the age of 15 - for the week September 9 to September 15 (the week of Black Tuesday), and October 7 to October 14 (the week of the US attacks on Afghanistan), shows how the Hindi news channels have gained. Take the leap of Aaj Tak. Aaj Tak's percentage reach in Calcutta, in the 9/11 week was 27.4. For the week October 7 to 14, it is 40.17. For the same period, in Delhi, the figure for Aaj Tak jumped from 54.61 to 62.42; in Mumbai, it went up from 31.15 to 36.05.
Zee News has also been doing well. In Calcutta, it has gone up from 17.94 in the 9/11 week, to 35.75 in the October 7 to 14 week. For the same time frame, in Delhi, its percentage reach has gone up from 42.11 to 45.6. However, in Mumbai, it has gone down - from 38.41 to 34.48.
This has tremendous implications as the Hindi news channels were vying for industry attention for quite some time now. According to industry sources, at least 10 big advertisers are jostling for space on Aaj Tak, which before the attacks, was just another channel.
At the heart of this shift is a need that is being fulfilled for the first time - the need for a channel that could reach Hindi-speaking middle-class households on a regular basis. Earlier, this meant either advertising on the prohibitively expensive Hindi channels with an all India reach - STAR Plus or Zee, or to focus on a certain market - for example, SABe TV for west India. Now, the Hindi news channels are slowly attaining the status of regional channels in the south - the ability to home in on a specific target audience all the time. Says Atul Phadnis, media director, Starcom India, "These channels have become a credible option. Rather than being a one-off phenomena in an advertiser's media plans, it has increasingly become a regularised option."
The sudden bid of news channels for a slice of the television budget has enormous implications in a time of recession. Traditionally, the biggest chunk of the TV ad money was split among the Hindi entertainment channels. But with spends stagnating - and some estimates say it is actually going down - observers wonder how this would affect Hindi entertainment channels.
Some analysts argue the sudden interest in news channels will not affect Hindi serials in a big way. One reason is audience preferences. Serials are primarily aimed at the family, and the news has a predominance of male viewers. "Just because the TRP of a news programme has gone up from .1 to .6, that does not mean that media planners would prefer it to serial that has a TRP of 6," points out Sandip Tarkas, associate vice-president and manager, HTA Fulcrum.
The picture for the English channels, in the weeks September 9 to September 15 and October 7 to October 14, is yet unclear. In Mumbai, BBC World has gone up from a percentage reach of 23.86 (in the week beginning September 9) to 31.47 (in the week that America retaliated). Yet, in the other three markets, it has gone down. From a percentage reach of 41.76 in the September week to 39.77 in the October week in Calcutta; from 14.65 to 10.98 in Delhi for the same period; and, in Chennai, for the same period, it has gone down from 14.73 to 11.02.
It is also not clear why. Tapan Pal, president & CEO of Zenith ventures, "In news, just like in entertainment or food habits, consumers tend to prefer items relevant to them. This could explain why the English channels have not gained as much as the Hindi channels."
Among the English channels, CNBC has been the worst hit, if one goes by the figures alone. It has gone down from a percentage reach of 27.7 for the week beginning September 9 to 17.84 in the October 7 to October 14 week in Mumbai; in Kolkata it is down to 10.88 from 15.67 in the same period; from 18.3 to 10.05 in Delhi; and from 5.37 to 2.94 in Chennai.
CNBC officials feel that the TAM figures reflect the kind of households surveyed rather than an actual decrease in viewership. They say that other indicators of viewership interest in a channel, such as e-mail comments, have gone up by more than 25 per cent. "The US economy has become the focus of attention, and given the current volatility of the Indian markets, interest in the channel is much higher," asserts Haresh Chawla, chief executive, CNBC India.
CNN shows the highest amount of fluctuation. For example, in Calcutta, the channel's percentage range plunged from 29.2 in the week beginning September 9, to 15.21 in the October week; and in Chennai, it fell from 12.54 to 6.23 in the same period. On the other hand, in Mumbai, it rose from 17.95 in the week beginning September 9 to 20.07 in the week America attacked. It rose in Delhi too - from 12.2 to 21.64 in the same period. However, CNN's determined focus on the US angle alone, which has led critics to dub it the public relations department of the US government, could be affecting it.
So, as the initial roar of the crashing planes die down and the Afghans scurry for a morsel of food as the chill of winter sets in, Hindi news channels are suddenly the focus of attention. And, if things go the way they are, they will remain so - at least for some time now.
© agencyfaqs! 2001