Death By Elections?

26 Oct,2018


By Shailesh Kapoor


Five states go to elections in November and December, immediately after the Diwali week. The festivities that characterise the months of October and November every year will give way to a long political festival. Starting November, till the end of the next General Elections, which could be anytime between February and May next year, we will witness India’s longest political festival – one that may last six long months, without any letup. There have been election seasons in the past, but this one promises to be so long-drawn and fierce that it will suck you in first, and eventually exhaust you by the end of it.


The states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan may see the Congress either coming back to power, or at least running BJP very close, if early opinion polls are anything to go by. This will set up the mood for the big 2019 elections. Because who wants a one-sided contest after all?


Over the last few weeks, news channels have started launching their 2019 election shows. As we near December 11, which is the results day for the five states (and already a hashtag on a couple of channels), these shows will become bigger, both in terms of their air-time and their promotions. Once the 2019 elections schedule is announced, I suspect no other primetime programming will be left in the news category.


The problem of plenty manifests in such a scenario. You have so much to choose from, with about 20 national (Hindi and English) news channels, more than a hundred news portals of some repute, and the many newspapers and magazines. How do you decide which ones to go for?


There are three kind of audiences in this context. You could equate them to the three formats of cricket, in a simple but easy-to-understand analogy. The T20 type is not interested in the depth and the details. He would rather get his information quickly, while being entertained on the way. The count of political leaders they are aware of is in single digits. The Test connoisseurs, low in volume but very high on engagement, get into the smallest of details. They can name Chief Minsters of most states in India, understand the math behind how vote share does not always convert systematically into seat share, and know terms like Bellwether (some even spell it correctly). The ODI group is somewhere in between. They are more aware of the alliances and the leaders, but haven’t immersed themselves into the fascinating world of election numbers.


These segments show similar age and gender skews as cricket. T20 is younger and the Test connoisseurs the oldest. Most women audiences who follow elections fall in the T20 category. While the exact sizing of these segments is not possible to share in a public column, suffice is to say that the choice is between volume and value, as one moves from T20 to Test connoisseurs. In TV, they call it Reach and Time Spent.


Audiences tend to sub-consciously choose platforms that align well to their segment. Though, I suspect, the elections festival, and the media overkill around it, may convert some audiences from T20 to ODI, for a short period of time anyway.


If you have the appetite for elections, like the Test connoisseurs, fasten your seatbelts for an intense season ahead. And if you are more the T20 type, be prepared. Because death by elections is round the corner.



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