Can CNN-IBN survive (and thrive) minus CNN?

30 Jun,2015

By A Correspondent


One still recalls the euphoria about the first Gulf War coverage on CNN in 1990-91. Or the coverage of the Babri Masjid demolition of 1992. Both channels had a headstart in independent television news journalism in India. A World This Week and news on Zee TV or Aaj Tak and Tonight hadn’t started by then. Doordarshan news had its star anchors, but it was a government mouthpiece.


If both channels had got their act together, we wouldn’t have the half-dozen English news channels in existence today.


While BBC still has some India-centric programming, CNN has hardly any of it. Even though it’s had a full-time bureau here and several desi names across the world.


So when Rajdeep Sardesai quit NDTV to team with up Sameer Manchanda and later with Raghav Bahl, stitching up a licensing agreement with CNN made sense. Although NDTV was an independent operator and Bahl had earned his stripes with CNBC-TV18, a CNN prefix gave their new channel the push for it to speed ahead. The fact that it was CNN-IBN and not IBN-CNN indicated that there was a sentiment that the CNN connect will give the channel an upper hand.


It did, but we soon realised that save on occasions when there was an American election or some other major developments, there wasn’t much of Made by CNN coverage on CNN-IBN. In recent times, we had some Farid Zakaria interviews – including one with Prime Minister Narendra Modi – but they made no impact.


Clearly, IBN didn’t need CNN.


For the channel, the exit of Rajdeep Sardesai last year was a bigger setback. The primetime bulletins aren’t bad, but the channel is no longer counted among those that matter.


So TV18 and CNN have announced the concluding of their 10-year licensing arrangement in January 2016. The conclusion of the arrangement will enable each company thereafter to chart its own growth trajectory independently.


Said A P Parigi, Group CEO, Network18 in a statement: “The last decade has seen a lot of momentum in the Indian media industry and has been particularly exciting for us. During this time we witnessed two media houses coming together to redefine the way news is presented to a demanding audience; we at TV18 have benefited from this relationship with CNN. At the launch of the channel, TV18 was a relatively small organization; that has changed now.  Network18 has grown from two news channels in 2005 to 17 news channels in 2015. Today, we have the largest footprint in the current affairs, regional and business news space in India.  The TV18 line-up of channels today are well established and highly regarded in this dynamic, complex and challenging environment.”


Now, let’s interpret this. What Parigi obviously means is this:  “Ten years back, both media houses needed each other to present an offering to a demanding audience. We were a small organisation then, but that has changed.”  And of course this: “We don’t need CNN.”


As for CNN, talks with the Zee group are reported to have reached an advanced stage and this could well result in an all-new English news channel from the Zee Media Corp stable.


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