Mitron, the Nation wants to Know…

06 Jan,2017

 

Call it the News Channel Dangal or whatever, here’s an analysis by Stratagem Media on how the English news channels fared post-demonetisation and Arnab Goswami’s exit

Background :

The economic and political scenario in the country over the last two months has been fodder for the news business – mainly with the announcement and unfolding of the demonetization drama, followed by the demise of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa. But for all of us in the marketing and media fraternity, something equally dramatic happened about the same time.

On November 2, the media fraternity witnessed a piece of truly “breaking news” –Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief and star NewsHour anchor of Times Now channel had resigned. Well of course, he was still on air, for the next few days, when on November 8, even as everyone was trying to predict the after-effect of his departure from the TV screen, the shock-n-awe of demonetisation happened.

Speculation about Goswami’s departure from the TV screen, and his plan thereafter,has been rife, ever since.

Objective of the study:

At Stratagem Media Pvt. Ltd, we were equally eager to understand the effect of these developments on the viewership of news channels. Our friends (mitrons) and fellow professionals in the media and marketing fields (by and large, our ‘nation’), would be keen to understand

– whether news viewership has risen post-demonetisation

– whether there is a difference between the after-math of demonetization on English and Hindi news channels?

– Or has Mr Goswami’s absence from the TV screen, had any effect on channel viewership and if so, how much?

But we felt it would be prudent to resist the temptation of jumping to conclusions and not rush through the analysis. So, we waited for the scenario to stabilise, till viewership data for at least a few weeks had trickled in.

Here’s a study of viewership,both pre- and post-demonetisation, which happened to also coincide with ArnabGoswami’s last week on the screen. Naturally, the questions that have been addressed are whether the viewership of English and Hindi News channels was affected in any way, post that week, and what was the effect on the viewership of specific channels.

 

 

Methodology:

A simple viewership comparison was undertaken for a period of 10 weeks i.e. five weeks pre- and five weeks post demonetisation/ Mr Goswami’s departure from the screen.

This study was focused on the ‘9 pm to 11 pm’ time slot on the weekdays, (which historically contributes to a major proportion of viewership). This analysis was done for three relevant geographical units (the 1mn+ cities across the country, Mumbai+Delhiand Mumbai+Delhi+Bengaluru), as well as for a relevant and sufficiently wide target group comprising of Males,above the age of 22 years belonging to the top two segments of affluence (i.e.NCCS AB)Although not all of it is published here, the analysis was also undertaken simultaneously, but separately, for the entire genre of Hindi News channels and English News channels (including English business channels).

Two viewership parameters were examined – gross impressions and relative channel share (for the English and Hindi channel genres).

The source of all data was the BARC viewership ratings.

Conclusions (English channels):- (Refer slides above)

From the above analyses,in the five weeks post-demonetisation,it is evident that (within the specific TG of Men, above the age of 22, from the top 2 affluence classes – NCCS A&B), in the prime time slot of 9 pm to 11 pm,

– The viewership of English News channels in all main cities in India, in fact declined by 1 %, in the 5 weeks post demonetization. But it increased by about 11 % to 12 % in the 2–3 main metros. In other words, as expected, the viewership pie of English news genre as a whole has only managed to increase in the main cities (Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi) where the English news channels get most of their eyeballs.

– While Times Now continues to lead the pack in the English News genre, the decline in its viewership, ranged from – 29 % to  -45 % in these 3 market units. In fact, even CNN News18 declined by about 27 %, to 61 %,whereas the gain in viewership of other channels such as NDTV 24×7 and India Today TV, was considerable, ranging between 99 % to 230 % for either of them, over the same period. However these channels grew from a relatively much smaller base.

– Consequently, in the main cities of the country as a unit, the decline in the relative share of viewership for Times Now was from 55 % to 40 %, whereas NDTV 24×7’s relative share grew from 8 % to 17 %, and India Today TV’s relative share grew from 12 % to 19 %.

– The corresponding changes in viewership shares, in the main metros for these channels were even more pronounced, as evident from the graphs.

– And yet, without doubt, Times Now still stands head-n-shoulders above the other English News channels.

 

Conclusions (Hindi News channels)

From the analyses, it was also evident that in the 5 weeks post demonetisation, (and within the specific TG of Men, above the age of 22, from the top 2 affluence classes – NCCS A&B), in the prime time slot of 9 pm to 11 pm

– The viewership of Hindi News channels increased by as much as 29 % in the 1 mn + cities, with some channels registering gains of more than 50 %

 – In terms of relative channel shares, the biggest gainers were News18 India, Zee News and AajTak.

So, on an apple-to-apple comparison, Hindi channels seem to have grown in the post-demonetisation phase, in the cities, whereas English channels have in fact, marginally declined. So, could this perhaps be a case of missed opportunity.

This does however give rise to another pertinent question. What constitutes brand identity for a media house – be it a newspaper title, a TV channel, an FM station or a website? They say ‘Content is King’, but is it just content, or the values that the brand is perceived to stand for, or production quality, or just the sheer the persona of the anchors/ RJs.

To validate some of the quantitative findings of this analysis, we asked senior media professionals about their individual opinions and experiences. This is what they had to say :

Sandip Tarkas

Sandeep Tarkas, CEO (Sports, Media & Special Projects), Future Group, states that “I think Arnab was the person I missed the most during the entire demonetisation debate. After initially watching a lot more of news for about a week, I have almost stopped watching news TV, and that’s where I missed Arnab. He would have brought the right issues to the fore even if one didn’t agree with his take on the issue”.

 

 

Karthik Mani

Kartik Mani, Founder, Chief Insurgent – Merry Men, says that although he has never been a fan of Arnab Goswami, but Arnab’s absence has made watching Times Now, a lot less compelling.

 

 

 

Munnish Puri

Munnish Puri, media expert & Founder, Indian Financial Advisors, has this to say:”Beyond doubt, Arnab and Times Now were a highly impactful combination. Viewers tuned-in to get real ‘inside information’ of the news that mattered. Even global audiences took a strong liking to Arnab. Looking at the recent viewership data, it is not surprising that the Times Now viewership has been impacted. The Newshour is certainly not as engaging without Arnab!’

 

 

Bharat Kapadia

Bharat Kapadia, veteran media expert, confesses that he gets put off when news channels become noise channels, and that leads to reduced exposure. But he adds that Arnab always had the last & loudest word which at times made it interesting. And that he has hardly watched Times Now after Arnab quit. Bharatbhai also adds that his time spent watching news channels post demonetisation had increased, but he was disappointed about the way the topic was covered by all channels in general. There was no depth in the content, just opinionated angles and gimmicky presentation. He feels that it is entirely possible for face value to outweigh brand value of a media house, just as it happens in the film industry.

 

Sumit Roy

For Sumit Roy, Founder Director Univbrands, Times Now was not the preferred channel. He sums it up by saying: “Times Now isn’t any better now, without Arnab. As a policy I switch channels when any Anchor speaks over the Panelist and cannot control panelists speaking over each other. Some other anchors seem to have gone that route as well.As a result my preferred news channels are India Today, NDTV and BBC World. In that order. I stay with whichever (of these) has the more interesting story at the time of watching.”

 

Nevertheless, as evident from the above analyses, it’s not just content, or the values of a news channel, or production quality, that builds a TV brand. Viewership also seems to be obviously sensitive to changes in brand persona.All in all, with state elections around the corner, we can be sure that the News Channel ‘Dangal’ is far from over.

 

Sundeep Nagpal

This report has been conceived and produced by Stratagem Media Pvt Ltd., an independent media specialist company, headed by its Founder–Director, Sundeep Nagpal

 

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