Benita Chacko

Our diversified content strategy has lead to our TV channel’s success: Network18’s Smriti Mehra

The CEO, Business News, decodes the factors behind the success of the network’s channels.

In its earnings call at the end of FY 2021-22, Network18 has stated that its CNN News18 had 12.9% market share in the English news segment in Week 10-13, 2022. In the weeks 15-18 the share has grown to 29%. Meanwhile, CNBC TV18 had 83% overall market share in the English Business News genre and 90% share during the market hours.

Since the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) data for news channels resumed in March, Network18 has been bringing out a slew of advertisements claiming its leadership. CNN-News18 has brought out full page ads in newspapers and digital publications stating to be ‘India’s No.1 English General News Channel’. A similar ad by CNBC-TV18 also stakes claims to being India’s No.1 English Business News Channel.

Smriti Mehra, CEO, Business News, Network18 Group, attributes this success to the network’s diversified content strategy and its marketing initiatives.

“Not only have we diversified into multiple subject areas, but it's also the fact that we are part of a network, which has about 1200 reporters on ground. We are able to source stories from every corner of the country. Then we also have the CNN partnership, which gives us access to cutting edge, best in the business, international content and expertise. The marriage of the two brands has been spectacular. All the performance numbers reinstate that confidence,” she says.

CNN-NEWS18's print ad
CNN-NEWS18's print ad

“In the last two years we have changed the way we speak to our consumers. We have evolved from just saying something about who we are to contextual conversations. For example, paying homage to frontline COVID warriors, campaigns on masking, voting, educating girls, etc. People have an affinity for a responsible voice,” she adds.

During the pandemic, CNN News18 diversified its content from being debate-oriented to becoming a storytelling channel. It has launched multiple new shows such as ‘Bits To Billion – The Unicorn Story’ focusing on the inspirational stories of the Unicorns, ‘Plain Speak’ which brings out the hard facts of the most talked-about news story and ‘A Billion New Ideas’ highlighting the power of ideas, innovations and intentions.

“It's become multifaceted. We have diversified so that we are serving various audience cohorts, interest groups, and age groups. We must be the only general news channel doing a show on startups. Knowing the pulse of our audience, we know that startups have become central drawing room conversations in India,” Mehra says.

CNN News18's social media ad
CNN News18's social media ad

With the consumer being on multiple devices, the newsroom has also integrated and it has become seamless across digital sources. “CNBC is perhaps the largest integrated newsroom in the country. We are seamless between digital and television,” she says.

On the digital front, the primary consumption of content is through its own platforms, followed by YouTube and social media.

The network had no numbers to go by last year, due to the blackout of BARC ratings for the news genre since October 2020. It resumed the ratings only in March 2022.

“When the ratings were down, we introspected and took a step back from our regular content. We decided to use other empirical data to put out the content strategy that the network should adopt. So we started social listening and tracking where we are doing well on other platforms and screens. That gave us an insight into what the consumer was looking for,” she says.

The absence of the ratings coincided with the Covid pandemic in the country, a period where news consumption across platforms was on a high. Broadcast and digital platforms witnessed high viewership during this time, as people had concerns of viral transmission through newspapers. Also with no fresh content being telecast on television during the lockdowns, people preferred watching news channels.

CNBC TV18's ad
CNBC TV18's ad

The strong performance in the BARC ratings has meant that the channel can charge a premium from advertisers. Last month, CNBC-TV18 announced a 50% hike in advertising rates.

“We have actually broken out of any kind of competition. We are now ‘the’ business news channel of the country,” she states.

Apart from advertising the channels also provide brand solutions. During the pandemic, it partnered with Reckitt, for its brand Lizol to launch an awareness campaign #DisinfectToProtect, on the need for disinfecting surfaces. Last year it collaborated with P&G’s Whisper for ‘Period of Pride’ campaign. It has currently joined hands with Truecaller to launch #ItsNotOk campaign, to raise awareness about why it’s important for women to ‘Call It Out’ on harassment.

While it has international partnerships like Forbes, CNBC and CNN, in the coming days it will be working towards providing more hyperlocal content.

“We will get stories from every nook and corner and deploy our reporters across the country to power that. Hyperlocal news is something that people are interested in,” she concludes.

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