Can Republic TV kill Competition?

05 May,2017


 By Pradyuman Maheshwari [updated]

For a television channel that’s determined to fight for the need for transparency in public life and government, its launch date appears to be a closely guarded secret. But now it’s confirmed: Tomorrow, May 6. Why a Saturday, one may ask. Because that’s the first day of the week (Week #19 of 2017) as per BARC measurement. And Goswami, as he must, keeps a close watch on his viewership numbers.

Before we had  confirmation on the date, we did have word from the Star India Corporate’s PR agency that Republic TV would start streaming on the OTT platform with effect from tomorrow. No time stated.

Having said that, Republic is on a roll in terms of marketing across media. It has a healthy set of advertisers: Vivo, Jio, Renault, Hike, Yes Bank, Microsoft, Ravin, Nestaway, Future Group, Havell’s, Gionee, Lloyd, Raymond and Ola. Star India, we are told by sources, will continue to be an advertiser, though its logo is missing from today’s Mint ad.

We asked ChromeDM, specialists in research on connectivity to give us a report on the availability of Republic TV, for, distribution along with content and revenues will eventually speak about the success of the channel.

And this is what Pankaj Krishna, Founder & CEO, Chrome DM said: “Currently, on an average, an English News Channels has an availability of 45.1% among Urban Homes in India. With its soft launch, Republic has 18.4% Urban India availability (as per Chrome OTS or Opportunity to See, 3rd May 2017). In Mega Cities, Republic is currently available in 32% of the Households.”

Note this is for data as of May 3. A distribution industry expert we spoke with said that the availability will leapfrog once the channel goes on air, as even though the deal is inked, some discerning networks do not like to air test signals. So the expert we spoke with said the ChromeDM data as of now may not be the right measure to look at right now.

However, MxMIndia is a neutral observer and it’s important that you know facts as they are. Also, according to the ad, distribution deals have been inked with all platforms. Other than Hotstar, Republic will be available on Jio, Ditto and we are sure other platforms too.

“There’s a buzz around Republic TV, and even if deals aren’t inked, viewers will want to watch it and will ask for it… at least for the first few weeks. Moreover, it’s free-to-air, so the pull factor increases,” said one distribution network owner.

A media buyer and marketer we spoke with requested to speak on anonymity. Here’s what both echoed.

  1. That the buzz around Arnab Goswami has increased after he quit his previous employer.
  2. The legal notice which Goswami spoke about making an emotional appeal touched a chord, and there is a certain amount of sympathy for him.
  3. The issues with Pakistan are raging, and that’s a topic Goswami is passionate about
  4. There are enough inefficiencies across the country which Goswami will definitely dwell on

Meanwhile, other channels are also getting their act together. Both India Today and CNN-IBN have launched shows at 7pm and also relooked at the rest of the primetime programming. Extension of primetime to 7pm will expand the viewership in all.

As per BARC ratings for Week 17 (April 22 to 28), Times Now was the leader followed by India Today, CNN-News18, NDTV 24×7 and BBC World News. NewsX and WION didn’t figure in the Top 5. This data is for urban and rural viewership from amongst males of 22 years and above.

MxMIndia also spoke to industry captains and while all of them wish Republic TV and Arnab Goswami the very best, they do acknowledge that it’s not going to be an easy ask. There are comparisons made to how CNN-IBN (now CNN-News18) scored a march over NDTV 24×7 when Rajdeep Sardesai started the channel, but those were early in the history of English news television in India. Times Now didn’t exist and Headlines Today (now India Today) was near-inconsequential.

And what is our view? Well, who doesn’t like a David outwits/ outshines/ kills Goliath story. We all love it. But then we are going to be as neutral as it’s possible. We report on the business regardless who gives us business.

However, there are issues which are beyond just R&R… in this case ratings and revenues. It’s the kind of journalism we will see on Republic TV. And hence across all channels. Will channels talking about the noise be contributing to the noise in their own way? Will the new style of television journalism – nationalism and raising questions against it – actually damage situation on the ground, even though the viewership of English news channels is limited.

It’s our third ‘Big Story’ on Republic. Or fourth? We’ve lost count. But, then, it’s possibly one of the biggest media launches in the last decade.

The last question to ourselves (and as in the headline): Do we see Republic TV killing Competition?

Our response: We don’t know. Yes, we do care and we will be delighted to report on the numbers. We will await the BARC ratings over the next few weeks quite how in the old Hindi films the old parents would wait for the ‘daakiya’ for an update.

Our normal end-line would’ve been: May the best channel win.

But here, we will say: May good (and smart) journalism win.

Now don’t say who cares!



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