M K Anand on a year of Mirror Now

02 May,2018


It’s been a little over a year since Times Network rechristened Magic Bricks Now as an all-new non-political issues-based news channel called Mirror Now. MxMIndia caught up with M K Anand, the Times Network MD &CEO, who spoke of how despite much scepticism about the channel, it’s been a huge success


It’s been a little over a year since Mirror Now launched. Have you achieved what you had set out to?            

We are quite on the target. On the ball in terms of what we decided to achieve and in certain areas I think we have done little better what we had intended. I think it’s all on the dot… whatever we wanted to achieve — in terms of reach, performance or in terms of availability and the P/L itself, the positioning, the imagery. Absolutely on the dot.


If you had to give it a score on 10 in terms of what you had to set out to achieve in the first year, what would it be?

I think it would be 10/10. I normally wouldn’t give myself a 10 on 10. I would give a 7 or 8 but it was a very eventful year on the category. English news was dormant for a long time. With us losing our lead anchor and then a very, very aggressive assault on the Times Now leadership was a major event for us and the industry. English news has not really seen so much of action in the times I have seen. In the middle of that, Mirror Now got launched as a completely independent activity.



And because of the super success of the Times Now format over the last 7,8,10 years everybody had slowly started doing the same format. The same colours, tone and aggression and the debate format in the evening. If you put all the four channels that I am talking about –  Times Now, CNN, India Today, NDTV news to some extent.


You didn’t mention Republic.

I am talking about the discussion much before its launch when Mirror Now was conceptualised in my head. If one looked at all the channels then, you wouldn’t be able to identify them. You would be watching the same news. The same tone. And the same viewpoint on the news. That is the time I said when everybody is carrying, say, news on Jayalalithaathen in a country of 1.3 billion there will surely be some other news of the day. So if there was a bridge fall somewhere or a major accident or a jewelry heist, the fact that the sixth channel is carrying that makes me want to see that. My point was only that. My first assumption was if I give something else on the screen. Now I can’t do that something else saying that my channel position is that you look at all the channel and decide to do something. That cannot be and I need to react. I will give a story to it. Not to the consumer but to the creators themselves.


Are you saying that you never intended Mirror Now to be a flanking channel?

No, no. It was never a flanking channel. It just coincidentally happened to be launch at the time it did. The channel was being discussed when the earlier editorial head was there who had a point of view on it. And that was that the expenditure will be too much. Why do it?  My point was that Times Now is capable of doing more but a single feed is too narrow.  Because at the time when I am showing you this. I cannot show you that. That was the whole idea. At a certain level, my idea was can I have five Times Nows. Like there are four Star Sports. Can I have Times Now 1,2,3,4,5? I finally came out with a different branding and I agree with the branding. Honestly I would love to have 1,2,3,4,5. One could be doing defence-based news. Another foreign policy news.  And one more business, city and crime. At the current tech level, this is too expensive. But it originally came with that as a thought.



So I would say for me, we’ve achieved a 10/10 because I am thoroughly thrilled at the idea that it will be something that put Indians first where Times Now was putting India first


How are you doing in terms of revenues?

I’m happy to note we are absolutely on the dot. So whatever we have asked for investments we have been able to contain ourselves in that.


There is a sentiment that Mirror Now as a channel is attempting to compete with the #3, 4 and 5. But the objective of any channel should be to be the No 1. Is that at all there?

You are right. I mean. Let us put this way. At a network level, it’s my ambition that in the English space that if you were to take all the English channels including the business category. I would love it if I have 60%. That’s a big number. Obviously I have no illusions for Times Now from 33% it is not going to grow back now to 40%, it’s a very, very complicated [marketplace]. If anything, it can sort of degenerate by 1 or 2% to settle at 30%. But I genuinely believe that Mirror Now has got to where it hasWe have not put any inorganic growth stimulants to this. It’s a very base marketing where we are around here.


You have not spent too much on marketing it, but for the ads in Times and ET and some outdoor.

That’s what I am saying. I think that delta remains. The other thing because we started with 21 people in the team. An average English news team anywhere across the country will be about 200-250…



Yes, we started off with a small team of 21. Right now, I think we are in the range of 70 and they are delivering what is required of them. I have just about approved an expansion…


While Times Now grew to what it did over the years, you suffered much because of your main anchor quitting in late 2016. With Mirror Now too, while Faye D’Souza has grown in stature and is very good and popular, until recently she was the only ‘face’ on the channel. Pardon my saying so, but aren’t you creating another larger than life anchor who, if she decides to quit suddenly, could land you in trouble?

Yes, people are assets at first and become liabilities if they quit. That is why you know we are in such a difficult category. English broadcasting is a lot more difficult than average broadcasting. Soam I looking at them as liabilities that we created?Yes, at the front anchor level and brand level association beyond a point, I will not disagree that a certain safeguard that we could have taken earlier on. Which we didn’t take in the case of the first one. But are we creating that deliberately? No we are not? Did we create that first part deliberately? I don’t think so. Were we able to sort of take the first step and walk as if nothing has happened. Yes I think we have. Has Times Now suffered as a brand? No. The team has not withered. All the senior people are all here. Did our reach go down? Did our marketshare go down. No. Yes, it did go from 43 to 33% but that is expected when there is a big marketing activity – an aggressive marketing activity that is happening. But, yes, certain safeguards could have been taken.


To get back to my question: in terms of Faye, have you created, if I am may say, another monster? Or another Arnab?



But what she quits tomorrow?While I do not have data for the few days that she wasn’t on air recently, but is that a fear that exists?

Not at all a fear. In reality, where internal tracks as the anchors go. The top anchor inside this building is Tanvi [Shukla]. Higher than all the other anchors including Faye and from a viewership point of view and appeal point of view. I think the greatest learning that all of us have had… I would not say learning, discovery that we had that if your brand is true to what it starts then that’s the reason why I don’t have to do marketing. Even Times Now, if you see. Yes, there was ground war. But marketing wise have we gone overboard? No. I have basically harped on one single that’s at a media level your media, my media. I believe that a media brand with a tagline and staying true to the tag line is the best. It mitigates all such issues. So action begins here is the mantra that you are supposed to deliver.


You did have the ads in Times….

That is more of somebody claiming that you know by dicing and cutting data by saying No. 1, we have to sort of use the media.


So going ahead, what do we see?

What I want to say is I don’t believe in using noisy, media-based marketing to build a brand. I believe in arriving in the right position. An honest-to-god position which the creative team, the production team, the creative team accepts and imbibes. For example, Rise with India. ET Now. Ever since we have done it, if you meet Sandeep he started dressing like you. He would otherwise dress in ties, shirts, suits sometimes. He’s changed because Rise with India has become a passion with that. That we will do things to ensure that theIndia grows story is. We pull out all the stops in that. If I am able to come up with ideally a three-word [descriptor]. That’s the target to myself. A three-word description with India in it. So Times Now internal description is India first. India top front. India First. Other things. India will not. There are a certain bunch of followers who say that other things are fine, let’s not talk opposite of India. Same thing with Faye, Indians First. They define the ‘you first’ under the brand. Indians First. So she knows what to say what not to say. She knows what story to take. What not to take. There is no fight between the editors. Similarly with ‘Rise with India’. So what I am saying is that brand definition mitigates the fear of the lead actor going. I think we are running a movie like Spiderman or James Bond. We are very happy that Daniel Craig is fantastic but he gets shot, falls off a cliff and dies. James Bond is not going to go. But the values that James Bond espouses is intact in a process which we obviously we know that it will take time for the new one to get tickled in the same manner. So for six months or one year.


What next for Mirror Now?

I think the target between Faye and me and the marketing team is to organically build it to a place where it is No 2. That’s why I said about people coming in. We launched it with a lot of I would say it scepticism in the system. I launched it practically with just support from upstairs. One or two people only. Otherwise most of the people said don’t do it and given another channel launching. I said let us do it. So now we have sort of found it is larger than what it is.


When do you hope to be No2. In the next one year?

I would say it is part of our plan. Honestly it’s not part of our business plan. But that is the next thing. I think if you talk to Faye she will say yes. I don’t want to say that and put pressure.


You said No. 2 in terms of channel viewership. In terms of revenue how do you think it will do.

Revenue follows leadership with a lag, if I could say at least few quarters. If you become No. 2 in revenue directly like for instance NDTV is no.4 or 5 for a long time. But in a lot of markets they are No 2 in revenue. In a lot of categories. So that way viewership and revenue don’t really go hand in hand so I can’t say that because we have created this, this is going to be doubled up our business. It is going to be almost equal types. No such thing. It is a difficult category. English news is not you know like English newspapers which is like a 2 billion category which is at a billion dollars I think. I wish it was that way but it’s going to be I would say if it gets to half the size of Times Now with its financial you know, footprint.



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