Alokananda Chakraborty

CNBC reaches out through events

The business channel has been able to build brand equity and reach out to its niche audience through a series of events

If the totally clueless mistake CNBC for an event management company, they could be forgiven. Consider this. In the last few months, CNBC India (a service of Dow Jones and NBC brought to India by the joint venture between Television Eighteen and CNBC Asia) has been actively involved in several events. And it's planning to get into more. The latest event was a Budget Round Table on February 18, 2002, which saw senior industry professionals outline their expectations from the budget. Also on air is a series Complete Budget Month. Coming up next, Thought Leader.

The format of the events spans a whole host of industries. Take the Awards series, which covers automobile (Auto India) and mutual funds (Moody's Mutual Funds), and Managing India that covers management and leadership initiatives. In the year 2001, there was a three brainstorming sessions for managers aptly termed Managing India Brainstorm (July 2001, Mumbai; October 2001, Delhi; and December 2001, Bangalore). Then there were the Smart Investment Camps that took place in Delhi and Pune.

Hosting events to get a bigger audience was identified as a viable market strategy to target the channel's ‘Super SEC A' audience, comprising the financial community, chief executive officers and middle management. Says Sunil Chander Nair, national marketing manager, CNBC India, "As a channel, CNBC is very clear in its positioning - it is not a ‘something-for-everyone' mass channel. CNBC is not about just knowledge and information, but about how this information can be used to garner success."

Industry observers say that the channel has been able to build its brand equity by attracting the attention of media planners, while making crucial linkages with the financial community that comprises a major chunk of its viewers. For example, early this month, Moody's Investors Service timed the entry of its mutual fund rating service in India in collaboration with CNBC India on the Mutual Fund of the Year Awards. CNBC joined hands with Standard & Poor's Fund Services (S&P FS) early in 2001, to form a credible platform for rating the entire range of mutual funds schemes existing in the country. Currently, as part of its market expansion plans, Moody's is strengthening its business in the Asia Pacific region and establishing closer linkages with India, which it sees as one of the largest emerging markets in the world.

One reason for the emphasis on reaching out directly to the viewer community has been the desire to tackle the issue of low TVR figures - a common problem with niche channels. Explains Nair, "As far as TVRs go, it is our belief that the existing rating system, in whatever form, fails to accurately represent CNBC's audience. Media planners understand this, as is borne out by the fact that they invariably, and without exception, include CNBC in their media plan whenever they target a rich and sophisticated premium-buying audience."

Analysts point out that the reasons for the poor show of channels like CNBC in the TVR ratings are many. The SEC categorisation is not defined to reflect the higher echelons wealthwise, and the low sample sizes preclude any great depth of analysis, thus being of use to only mass channels. And since the TVR system is based on the installing of television meters in people's homes, by its very nature, it excludes elite audiences who might be unwilling to let people meters to be installed in their homes, believes Nair.

This is where the event-oriented strategy comes in. In effect, the marketing strategy is like a circle. The events enable CNBC to tap into the expertise of the top leaders in the industry, and this knowledge is valuable to the investor, or the potential investor, who then watches the channel. This has enabled the channel, along with programmes like "Classroom," which target the first-time investor, or those who wish to understand more about the market, to pull in new audiences. The events have a similar effect. "These events engage our different constituencies of viewers in a live environment to qualitatively enhance their interaction with the CNBC brand, bringing its key attributes to the audience ‘in the flesh', so to speak," says Nair.

At the same time, the new audiences help the channel garner a lot of the advertising that is aimed at a premium audience. As one channel official puts it, "We do not shout from the roof tops but are partial to the intellectual hand-shake." © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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