ITV to see NewsX get scale with substance

17 Jul,2012

 

By Shruti Pushkarna

 

It’s been in existence for just a little over four years, but has been making news even before it was launched. Indeed the X factor in NewsX has been the exits – if not those of key staffers running the the channel, then the promoters owning it. In the case of promoters, not once, but twice over.

 

The latest is that INX News Pvt Ltd which owns and operates the English news channel NewsX has been acquired by Kartikeya Sharma-led ITV Group. The takeover was officially announced in a press communique which issued late last night and announced to the staff in the afternoon.

 

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Sharma said, “This is a logical market expansion for us and enables us to enter the English news domain while strengthening our presence in the broadcast and digital media space.  NewsX has emerged as a quality news provider with great growth potential and making it part of our group’s network of seven regional news channels will bolster news gathering abilities and create multiple synergies all around.”

 

 

‘Competition, not clutter, in English news TV’

 

Kartikeya Sharma took time out from meetings with NewsX staff to speak to MxMIndia’s Shruti Pushkarna on his plans for the channel and the changes he intends to initiate.

 

Excerpts from the interview:

 

What are your plans for NewsX?

We intend on getting NewsX back on track. We want to distribute the channel properly everywhere. And we think that the content of the channel is pretty good, it’s just that for whatever reason it’s not been visible everywhere and it’s not been distributed everywhere, so we are going to fix that.

 

Will there be any kind of content and resource sharing between the channels, NewsX and India News?

Yes, there will be because we already run seven regional channels at the moment and we are expanding that portfolio also to 14 in another six to eight months. So there’s a lot of synergy that comes out of it. There’s a lot of infrastructure asset that can be shared, lot of content which will be shared. It even becomes a more attractive offer for planners and other people to pick up a product which addresses different TGs and different age categories and different genres. So it completes our bouquet. We were expanding our regional footprint till now and this will add as a national product that w did not have.

 

But there’s already so much clutter in the television news space, how do you intend to make a mark with NewsX now?

The clutter in the English news market is far less than the Hindi news market. We have five news channels in the English space, whereas you have more than 25 in Hindi. It is a competitive environment but I won’t call it clutter because clutter would be perhaps the right word for the Hindi news market. Yes, it’s competitive, but I still feel there’s a need for a good English news channel which is distinctively different. NewsX has always done things differently and that’s one of the major reasons for us to acquire it, and we’d like to continue that kind of editorial approach which is not about creating too much noise or sensationalism, it’s about reporting things how they are and letting people form their own opinions.

 

What changes are we going to see in the leadership…any changes at the editorial level?

At the moment everything is the way it is, we’ve just taken over and it’s too early to make any comments. But yes, right now everything stays the way it is.

 

NewsX has seen a couple of management changes in the past as well but unfortunately the channel never picked up in that sense…what changes can we hope for this time?

At the moment we are not looking at any changes, it’s too soon for us. The channel has always been very good, I have always watched it and liked the content, it has a differentiating factor to it. The only problem is that it’s not been visible everywhere. No matter how good your content is, if it’s not visible everywhere then you will really miss out. Let’s say you’ve got an exclusive story and you can’t take a lead on it because others will hijack it immediately and take the credit for the story even though they didn’t break it. So this acts as a real dampener for the team which has worked hard to get the story on air. We’ve got a good team over here, they do a good job in terms of content and we would like to accentuate it rather than make any changes. We will tweak it in the right places, we will give it what we think is missing but the backbone of the organization, the product and the content will remain the way it is.

 

Is there going to be a name change…NewsX had announced a change of name to IMN News in 2010…

We are still undecided on it. We will have a couple of consultants talk about it. At the moment there are no plans of changing the name. If there are, we will definitely put it out.

 

You and your family have been involved in the case and controversy around Jessica Lal’s murder and there is a lot of speculation in the media on how this might affect or change the channel’s stand on this issue…what would you say to that?

Well I don’t know what you are talking about. I have been doing my media business for the past five years and it’s completely unrelated to this and I think it is even uncalled for to bring it up and discuss it at this platform. I am a 31-year-old individual who has been working for almost six years in this industry, I run a successful media company and this is my new acquisition, so I don’t understand how is this related in any way.

 

ITV Media (Information TV) is the parent electronic media company which broadcasts 24/7 Hindi news channel, India News. ITV Media is part of the Piccadilly Group also owns runs a print division GMI (Good Morning Media India) that publishes daily Hindi Newspaper, Aaj Samaj as well as a weekly Hindi magazine, India News. ITV Media also operates six regional news channels in northern and central India.

 

Vinay Chhajlani

NewsX, which was earlier owned by INX News, was launched with much fanfare in March 2008. Later in January 2009, it was bought over by Indi Media Network, a partnership between then Nai Dunia pr0moter and CEO Vinay Chhajlani and Businessworld Editor Jehangir S Pocha.

 

In a joint statement Messrs Chhajlani and Pocha said, “We are happy to hand over the channel to the ITV Group and acknowledge the contribution of the team that has earned NewsX much recognition.  Being part of the ITV Group will help NewsX transcend the limitations of being a standalone channel and give new thrust to the channel’s editorial and commercial development.”

 

Jehangir S Pocha

While Mr Chhajlani’s association with the channel ends with this acquisition, Mr Pocha is likely to continue in his editorial position. Speaking to MxMIndia, Mr Kartikeya Sharma said that there will be no changes in editorial roles at this point of time. He said, “At the moment everything is the way it is… we are not looking at any changes at the moment. We’ve got a good team over here, they do a good job in terms of content and we would like to accentuate it rather than make any changes.”

 

Mr Pocha met with the staff in his office yesterday to announce the takeover by ITV Group. He met with the employees and addressed their concerns with the management changes that will come about with the acquisition. Mr Pocha assured the worried staff that there won’t be any lay-offs following the management change. Soon after, the new owners, Mr Sharma accompanied with Mr Satish Jacob (Former BBC journalist) met with the staff and assured them of a smooth transition. Addressing the NewsX team, Mr Sharma said that he liked the content and style of the channel and there will be no changes in that.

 

Speaking to MxMIndia, Mr Sharma said that this acquisition completes their bouquet of products. He said, “We were expanding our regional footprint till now and this will add as a national product that we did not have.”

 

Commenting on the acquisition, Ms Anita Nayyar, Director (Customer Strategy), BCCL said, “With too much clutter in any genre today, the outcome is going to be consolidation. Television channels – especially in the news space — need deep pockets to run as there is recurring costs involved. Therefore, I think the development is going to work as an advantage for both as they’ll be able to combine and share their resources.”

 

Mr Sundeep Nagpal, Founder Director, Stratagem Media added: “The ITV Media which runs two regional news satellite channels, India News Haryana and India News Bihar and a print venture in Aaj Samaj have a very regional presence. They are only popular in Chandigarh and surrounding areas and are doing fairly well there. Buying out NewsX means getting an English news channel into the kitty and for them this means a national footprint. As for NewsX, it’s known that the channel wasn’t performing well in the genre. So, maybe this move will work for both of them.”

 

NewsX has been reportedly in the market for a while now and although it has received positive reviews for its content, the channel hasn’t done well in terms of ratings and revenues. While the latest acquisition brings hope for the channel, there is a lot of speculation in the media on the new owners of the channel.

 

So, who’s Kartikeya Sharma?

An Oxford Graduate with BSc Honours in Business Management, Mr Sharma went on to complete his MBA from King’s College, London. In 2004 he took over as Managing Director of Piccadilly Group. He is credited with the launch of the media verticals, Good Morning India and ITV. Under his leadership, a new satellite channel Indianews Haryana was launched in September 2009 and within four months it became the No 1 new channel in the state of Haryana.

 

Mr Sharma is the son of leading Haryana Congress leader Venod Sharma and the brother of Manu Sharma, a convict in the Jessical Lal murder case. Soon after the acquisition was announced, there were discussions within the media on how the new ownership will impact the channel’s stand on the controversy around the murder case.

 

MxMIndia posed the same question to Mr Sharma and he replied, “I have been doing my media business for the past five years and it’s completely unrelated to this and I think it is even uncalled for to bring it up and discuss it at this platform. I am a 31-year-old individual who has been working for almost six years in this industry, I run a successful media company and this is my new acquisition, so I don’t understand how is this related in any way.”

 

MxMIndia spoke to a few journalists who have worked with ITV’s media properties in the past and currently, and they too endorsed the editorial independence that Mr Sharma facilitates. “There was no taboo on covering anything and there is little interference,” a former editor told MxMIndia.  The challenge for companies like ITV, a senior staffer currently working with one of the channels,  said was in managing the company professionally.

 

That we guess is a prerequisite for all media companies, and not just for NewsX.

 

With inputs from Meghna Sharma and Bureau

 

 

The eXit Timelines

 

Peter Mukerjea
Vir Sanghvi
Arup Ghosh
Vinay Chhajlani

March 2007: Former Star India CEO Peter Mukerjea sets up INX Media which owned INX News. Former Editorial Director at Hindustan Times, Vir Sanghvi was the then CEO of the channel.

 

January 2008: Vir Sanghvi quits as CEO of NewsX even before the channel went on air.

 

February 2008: Arup Ghosh takes over as the Newsroom Head. Arup Ghosh held senior positions at channels like NDTV, Sahara Samay and Channel 7 in the past.

 

March 2008: NewsX is launched, the channel goes on air under Arup Ghosh’s leadership.

 

January 2009: Indi Media Company Pvt Ltd, a newly formed company by Vinay Chhajlani, the then promoter and CEO of Naidunia and Jehangir Pocha, Former Editor of Businessworld, buy 100 percent stake in INX Media.

 

April 2009: Arup Ghosh exits NewsX as Newsroom Head. A set of lay-offs follow.

 

September 2010: NewsX announces its intention to re-brand and re-launch the channel as IMN News

 

February 2012: Zee and NewsX talks fail to acquire channel

 

July 2012: INX News is bought over by ITV Media.

 

 

 

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