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Times Now to have multiple variants going forward, says Rahul Shivshankar
MUMBAI: Times Network’s English news channel Times Now will have multiple variants including global markets like the US and UK as part of its strategy to become the dominant news brand in India and abroad, chief editor Rahul Shivshankar said in his first interaction since taking over the position.
“We are a channel that is now distributed across hundred countries, so going forward we will be differentiating our content to serve the people, the Indian diaspora in those countries. You are going to see many variants of Times Now. That’s why HD is so important to us. You will see many types of Times Now. We will have individual content feeds. For different markets, there will be different programming. You can call it Times Now US or UK or Europe or whatever. There will be differentiated content as we go forward, which is huge expansion that we are talking,” Shivshankar said.
The network is also in the process of launching the high-definition (HD) version of Times Now. The HD channel will not be a mirror of the SD sibling. “We are coming with Times Now HD, which will not be a mirror image of the SD version,” he added.
Talking about Times Now’s performance, Shivshankar said that the channel is doing extremely well and cited the 11th week’s data in which Times Now had crossed 2 million impressions.
“It’s the first time ever that we had a viewership share bordering on 60%. 59% share is phenomenal and it has never happened in 11 years of Times Now. This was the biggest event after the Lok Sabha elections,” he exulted.
How did Times Now achieve this milestone despite the absence of its star anchor Arnab Goswami? Fidelity to fact, was his retort.
He elaborated further, “Hot air disappears very quickly while facts don’t. People like to see factual presentation. They engage with it better. We allowed people to speak which never used to happen. Personalities did not dominate. People were not tuning in or tuning out because of a personality. They were tuning in for content and they got satisfaction from content.”
Taking on Goswami for his comments that plain vanilla news is boring while opinionated news is the future of journalism, Shivshankar said, “The point with opinionated news is that you run the risk of negating facts because you have formed an opinion and you want to cherry-pick fact to fit that opinion.”
Times Now, he stated, is also generating opinion but that is based on hard solid facts. “What we are doing is bringing you the facts and bringing in people who will argue the facts and generate opinions. We are also generating opinion but the fundamental foundation of that opinion is coming from facts,” he averred.
The chief editor also asserted that Times Now continues to set the agenda as far as TV news goes. “We have a very laser like focus on putting stories that will change the way you perceive the world around you. Our selection of stories has set the national news agenda whether it’s a [Shiv Sena MP Ravindra] Gaekwad story or [Navjot] Siddhu story,” he noted.
On Goswami’s larger-than-life persona at Times Now, Shivshankar said that the promoters were magnanimous enough to give him a free hand.
Queried as to why he is not anchoring ‘The Newshour’, he said that ‘Upfront’, which is the show that he is hosting currently, gives him the “freedom to not be someone else and be myself”.
“My personality comes across best in ‘Upfront’. The numbers for ‘Upfront’ are very good. It is leading that slot right now,” he said.
On the changes at ‘The Newshour’ since Goswami’s exit, Shivshankar said that the show now has a lot more constructive debate with panellists getting enough space to air their views. He also credited the current anchor of the show Navika Kumar for taking the show forward.
“’The Newshour’ is energetic, but this time it’s constructive noise and not just noise because the anchor who is anchoring ‘The Newshour’ is very senior and 90% of the stories broken by this channel are due to Navika’s contribution. She is perhaps the well-versed political editor in TV right now,” Shivshankar said.
Elucidating further, he said, “The debates are lot more constructive because we give a lot of space to the panellists. There is a definite end and a beginning. It’s not just consumed by a fireball of drama, spectacle and theatre. We have brought fidelity to fact and brought core values to the debate. A debate is a debate. It’s not a diatribe from the pulpit.”
Signing off, Shivshankar said that the channel is built around the brand and not the personality of an individual.