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TV18 expands regional news bouquet with ETV News Bangla

MUMBAI: TV18 Broadcast, which recently completed the acquisition of the ETV Network, has soft launched Bengali news channel ETV News Bangla in Kolkata in the presence of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Coming at a time when the country is gearing up for the Lok Sabha elections and flaunting the tagline ‘Amar Khobor Din Bhar’ (‘My news throughout the day’), ETV News Bangla seeks to position itself as the mouthpiece of Bengalis living across the country.

The news network is most likely to launch the channel on 14 March, ETV News Network group editor Rajesh Raina told TelevisionPost.com. In case of a minor delay, the launch date would fall within a week after that.

Adding more weight to the network would be the launch of ETV Kannada news channel (likely date 19 March), ETV Gujarati news channel (in first quarter of FY15) and ETV Oriya (by 31 July).

ETV News Bangla will be operated from Hyderabad till the completion of the general elections. It will shift base to Kolkata after that.

ETV News Network houses TV18’s state-specific news channels like ETV Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand, ETV Bihar/Jharkhand, ETV Madhya Pradesh/Chhattisgarh, ETV Rajasthan and ETV Urdu.

With the launch of ETV News Bangla, the group’s hybrid Bengali-language channel ETV Bangla will transition into a full-fledged general entertainment channel (GEC) airing fiction, non-fiction and movie content. Earlier, ETV had a mix of entertainment and news content. The news content will now move completely to ETV News Bangla.

Dhrubajyoti Pramanik, who was earlier with the ABP Group’s Bengali news channel ABP Ananda, has joined ETV News Bangla as editor. The news channel has hired 20 journalists with as many as seven bureaus spread across the state.

“We have already recruited 20 journalists while the recruitment drive is on to hire more. Since the launch is happening close to the Lok Sabha polls, we will add two to three more bureaus, if need be,” added Raina.

Asserting that the channel’s USP will be its wider reach, Raina said, “We will have a freelance journalist in each of the 294 assembly constituencies, who will give 100–150 breaking stories throughout the day. We will cover the length and breadth of West Bengal.”

Even as politics will form the mainstay of the channel, other issues like culture, entertainment and sport will also be given due importance. “ETV is a very strong brand and we enjoy a loyal viewership. Owing to its high news consumption, West Bengal is a very fertile market for us to grow,” Raina averred.

However, the head of a rival news channel said that ETV News Bangla will have its tusk cut short as the Bengali TV news market is already overcrowded, with Zee Media’s 24 Ghanta and ABP Group’s ABP Ananda being the market leaders.

“Bengal is one of the best news consumption markets in the country. However, it is also a very loyalty-driven market as viewers watch news channels for which they have affinity. Over and above that, the market is already very crowded and there is not much space for a new player. So for any newcomer, getting viewership will be a big challenge,” stated the executive, preferring anonymity.

Apart from Zee’s 24 Ghanta and ABP Ananda, the other contenders for the estimated Rs 100-crore (Rs 1 billion) ad market are Kolkata TV, Tara News, News Time, Channel 10, R Plus, CTVN News and NE Bangla.

“About 75–80 per cent of the Rs 100-crore ad revenue is divided between the top two players while the rest is divided among the rest,” the executive added.

ETV Bangla, the general entertainment channel, however, had a very strong news band. “ETV is a known news brand in West Bengal. Its challenge will be to convert the news band into a full-fledged news channel and it will be competing with two strong players in the market,” said a media analyst.