Sangeeta Tanwar

Zee News says no to ads during 9 pm news bulletin

The move is an attempt to break free from the clutter, providing uninterrupted news to viewers

Zee News has decided to completely do-away with the commercial breaks for its prime time 9 pm news bulletin. The initiative, called NonStop@9 pm, will provide uninterrupted news for 24 minutes at a stretch.

Speaking to afaqs!, Barun Das, chief executive officer, Zee News, says, “The initiative of ad-free news bulletin is another ‘first’ from Zee News, aimed to break through the clutter. We have also considered the revenue implications related to this move and very soon, we will adopt measures to adequately address this aspect of the decision.”

However, Das declined to share the measures being planned to support the channel's initiative.

How will the selection and presentation of news content change with respect to the new parameters? Satish K Singh, editor, Zee News, explains, “As a slot, 9 pm is the time when people look forward to consuming serious news and the uninterrupted news attempts to fulfil this need of the viewers. We will select news of mass importance and present it in a magazine format or style – quick, with content built on pure, hard news.”

Singh shares that NonStop@9 will be presented by two anchors. Talented anchors Prasoon Bajpai and Rohit Sardana will host the inaugural non-stop 9 pm primetime bulletin. Subsequently, Alka Saxena, an experienced hand at the channel, will also pitch in as a presenter.

Zee News says no to ads during 9 pm news bulletin
Zee News says no to ads during 9 pm news bulletin
Zee News says no to ads during 9 pm news bulletin
Anand Halve, co-founder and partner, chlorophyll Brand & Communications, says, “The audience for sure will lap up the quick, break-free news bulletins as they get to consume news stories without an interruption. For viewers, it is irritating if a news channel follows devastating news of, say, a plane crash by a peppy advertisement talking about getting together for 'Hansi-khushi ke pal'. The slot by that logic will get them high TRPs but it is hard to see how the move adds to Zee's business.”

Halve suggests that Zee may be looking at getting this particular news bulletin presented or sponsored by a major brand. As long as the channel is getting revenue, it hardly matters whether it's coming from multiple ad-breaks or an official presenter in the form of one big advertiser.

In a 30-minute news bulletin, news channels on an average have a maximum of three breaks. During these breaks, news channels either run promos, or commercials. However, the total duration of commercial breaks and promos normally do not exceed 5 minutes, each.

As per industry estimates, a 10-second slot on Zee News costs anything between Rs 1,300 to Rs 2,000.

Assuming that Zee News would have aired 30 ad spots of 10 seconds each in 5 minutes of commercial break during the 30 minutes news bulletin, Zee News will lose a maximum of Rs 60,000 a day for not airing ads during this period. This amounts to Rs 18 lakh a month, and Rs 2.16 crore annually.

However, many industry observers are also of the opinion that Zee News can compensate this money by increasing commercial breaks during other time bands.

However, some believe that although revenue is an important issue, the move could actually turn out to be a smart marketing exercise.

Premjeet Sodhi, chief planning officer, Lintas Media Group, says, “At the face of it, the move of dropping advertisements appears an attractive move to drive huge traffic to the channel because the news space itself is highly cluttered, and commercial break further adds to the clutter. The move will see Zee News building a relatively ad-free image. It can capitalise on the image by advertising before or after the so-called ad-free bulletin.”

Sodhi adds that the move may increase stickiness for the channel and could translate into better gains for Zee News in terms of revenue from the other slots.

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