CNN-News18: Will the change be gamechanging?

19 Apr,2016

By Anuka Roy


What’s in a name? This famous quote by Shakespeare may or may not hold true for media organisations. On April 19, the Network 18 group rechristened its English news channel CNN-IBN to CNN-News 18. The new name and logo was revealed from 8 pm onwards.


A new tagline- On Your Side- along with a revamped studio was also revealed as part of the re-branding exercise. will now be called Prime Time 2.0, a new show, will be telecast between 8 and 11 pm; comprising of on-ground reporting, opinions, debates and humour-laden content. In the press release, they said that, the focus will be on “making news more relevant to its viewers by bringing immersive journalism to the fore.


Said Adil Zainulbhai, Chairman, Network18: “A decade back, CNN-IBN re-invented news by getting to its viewers the benefits of a reputed international news partner CNN, and eventually emerging as the most awarded English general news channel. We are optimistic about bringing this change wherein we will keep the journalist and the consumer at the centre of our programming, which is the critical need of the hour,”


So, will this re-branding excercise work? What do people have to say about it? MxMInida asked a cross-section of experts about the same and here is what they had to say,


> Old wine in new bottle? Do you think the change is cosmetic? Because the people are the same, and it’s just a slicker, newer version?

Avik Chattopadhyay, a senior marketing and brand consultant (AC): I actually watched the channel for an hour. There seems to be some new programming, like “Big 5 @ 10”. The colour palette seems new. But it is early to conclude whether it is purely cosmetic or is the channel making the most of the change in name to have a substantial change. to set it aside from others and truly distinct.


Vikas Mehta, formerly CEO, Lowe Lintas, Dubai, currently blogger and consultant (VM): My take is simple. The media brand is CNN, which has a bigger brand equity. To me it doesn’t make much of a difference.


Sushobhan Patankar, professor at Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication and former employee of Network 18 (SP): As far as I’m concerned, it’s kind of sad for me. I’ve been associated with CNN-IBN since its launch in 2005. The brand had slipped since Rajdeep Sardesai’s exit. It is difficult to predict.


> CNN-IBN has been a household name for around a decade. Do you think the rebranding will mean that it will take the channel some time to become a household name? Headlines Today did change to India Today, but India Today was a known media brand….

AC: Guess the change in name is not that significant to create a total disconnect from its previous avatar. It is an evolutionary rebranding… not a revolutionary one. As long as the “CNN” name remains, the viewer will be able to connect. If it were called “Newswork 18” or something as drastic, it would have been another matter.


VM: I don’t have research to back up ,when I’m watching CNN-IBN, I would say I’m watching a CNN channel. But for the consumer to realise it would take sometime… but it doesn’t matter much


SP: When ABP acquired Star News, the channel was known for its faces. I feel faces are bigger than brands. Brand change doesn’t matter. Brands are not important but faces are.


> CNN-IBN is today far from being the leader on the ratings roster. Do you think the new look and thrust will help build it?

AC: It is all about content, content and content. They have some big names like Swapan Dasgupta, Vir Sanghvi and Bhupendra Chaubey. Now they need to create the right relevance with the target viewer they want to reach out to. It cannot be the same as one who watches Times Now or India Today or…


VM: That’s true. I don’t.know the actual reason why they have done the rebranding . May be they are trying to refurbish the brand. It’s handled right in terms of raising interest that something new is happening in the channel. When Star News changed to ABP news, they handled it quite well. The viewership didn’t suffer because they kept the curiosity factor high. It’s kind of a lot has changed but nothing has changed at all. It means it has to better than what it was and needs to be better perceived than what it was. If the change is cosmetic, it won’t make a difference but if the content has changed dramatically in terms of stories, anchors, then definitely it would make a difference.


SP: I don’t know what their editorial plan is. If they create new content and follow a new model, it might work but if they stick to the old model it may not.


> Your view on whether the masses are indeed interested in news without an agenda… or do they like the noise at primetime?


AC: Not everyone wants to ‘view’ noise. There is definitely a substantial segment that looks for quality and credible content. And there can be no news without an agenda…even if it is “100% unbiased truth”…this is also a credible agenda, possibly the most difficult to achieve and deliver over time. There are news platforms that have painstakingly built their reputation on agendas that people actually appreciate and value. CNN News 18 needs to define and deliver the same for itself. Give it time…


VM: I don’t know what you mean by masses. This is a niche channel. It is aimed at higher SECs. This is my personal view, I don’t have a research to back it, a lot of consumers want to see the reality. But a lot of channels are giving a twist of their own. For me, the masses are looking for channels without a biased point of view. They want to judge for themselves.


SP: There should be an element of spectacle. There needs to be drama to engage the audience. The audience wants something chatpata. So yes, people are more interested in primetime drama.


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