News broadcasters eye big growth in viewership, ad rev due to GE 2019

MUMBAI: As the country gears up for the high-stakes general elections, the TV news broadcasters are trying to make the most it from the event by launching dedicated programming.

With the news viewership expected to go through the roof, the news channels are also eyeing double-digit ad revenue. To stand out from the clutter, the news channels are trying new innovations in programming as well as the way the news is presented.

According to BARC India data, the viewership of English and Hindi news channels had touched new highs during the coverage of the recently concluded assembly elections in Telangana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.

The viewership of Hindi news genre increased 8.2 times in Chhattisgarh on the counting day (11 December 2018). In Rajasthan, the viewership increased by 3.9 times followed by Telangana (3.4 times). The English news genre grew by 2.9 times in Madhya Pradesh/Chhattisgarh; 23 times in Rajasthan and 3.7 times in Telangana.

Apart from the national news channels, the regional news channels also see significant traction in terms of viewership as well as ad growth. Chhattisgarh’s regional Hindi news channels grew by 9.4 times while Rajasthan regional Hindi news channels grew 8.9 times. The Telugu news channels in Telangana grew 5 times.

Speaking about the growth in news viewership, BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta said, “The news genre has been on an upward trajectory since we started reporting All India viewership data in 2015. The year 2018 has been the year of News as we saw successive higher peaks on the back of various events of national significance, be it the demise of a political leader, terror attacks or various state elections.”

Dasgupta stated that a lot of focus during the general elections will be on the news genre as the news channels will leave no stone unturned in putting their best foot forward with special programming and content to attract both viewers and advertisers. “Going by the trends seen during previous state elections, significant growth in the viewership of the genre can be expected.”

Media agency GroupM had forecasted that India’s ad expenditure is expected to grow at 14% in 2019 to reach an estimated Rs. 80,678 crores this year. As per the report, the two key growth drivers are expected to be the Cricket World Cup and General Elections. FMCG, Auto, Retail, e-commerce, Tech/Telecom are expected to contribute to 2/3rd of AdEx.

Dentsu Aegis Network Chairman & CEO South Asia Ashish Bhasin believes that the news channels might rake 20-30% growth in ad revenue.

He said, “Elections tend to be a period where the news consumption goes higher. Advertising tends to follow eyeballs and more eyeballs are going to be on news channels during elections, so it’s quite likely that news channels will attract more advertisements. Their advertising might grow 20-30% during elections but that will be for a short period of 6 weeks or so, as elections are time-bound.”

ABP News Network CEO Avinash Pandey informed that the advertisers are willing to pay for quality content and in-depth news analysis. The news channels attract advertisements not just from the corporate and retail advertisers but also from political parties.

“Looking at election scenario, revenue is divided into three phases that come to a news channel. The first is the umbrella sponsorship of the programming that continues close to three and a half months for General Elections. The second is advertisements by political parties, which happens closer to elections and the third is high viewership days – opinion polls, polling days and counting day,” Pandey noted.

Sharing his views on advertiser interest during elections, Network18 CEO – English & Business Cluster Basant Dhawan said that there is tremendous advertiser interest during the election period.

“While the national brands are looking at leveraging the entire network association, we have interest from regional advertisers who are signing up with cluster of our regional channels basis their market requirements. The Ad revenue growth in this period is in line with the expected increase in the viewership.”

Zee Media Corporation Ltd (ZMCL) MD Ashok Venkatramani said that the challenge during this period is ‘how to differentiate ourselves in the clutter where consumers are exposed to similar content from different news brands?’ “But we address this through innovation in programming, standing true to nation and delivering on consumer expectations to put Zee News ahead of others.”

News channels line-up special programming

The news broadcasters have a special line-up of programmes for the general elections to engage viewers. Primetime and weekends are the key slots that news channels are focussing on. The special programming line-up includes studio-based shows as well as on-ground reporting, and expert analysis.

Zee Media has planned over 10000+ hours of programming with 500+ shows throughout 60+ days of coverage and more under the umbrella brand, “Ab Ki Baar Kiski Sarkaar”. “While there are also multiple on-ground and on-air election programming and a dedicated segment for the first time voters,” said Venkatramani.

Network18’s Dhawan said that the News18 Network has planned the most extensive programming which will be telecast in 15 different languages across 26 states and will span more than 3,700 hours with over 200 shows and segments.

CNN-News 18 has special shows such as ‘Youngistan’ focusing on youth; ‘The Women Vote’ focuses on women voters of the country in order to ensure that their voice doesn’t go unheard; ‘Kings & Queens’; and ‘Election Yatra’ showcases the top leaders who will determine the outcome of Elections 2019.

News18 India’s special shows include ‘Bhaiyaji Kahin’ – a chaupal-cum-travelogue; ‘Lapete Mein Netaji’ – a ‘hasya kavi sammelan’; ‘Ye Desh Hai Humara’ and ‘Desh ko Jawaab’. Along with the special editions, the programming will also include profiling of the political leaders, exclusive interviews and wide-ranging coverage on polling days and counting day.

Dhawan said, “We have lined up a plethora of programming to track sentiments of people across the length and breadth of the country. CNN-News18 and New18 India have already started their programming around the General Election under the umbrella branding ‘A Million Votes’ and ‘Sabse Bada Dangal’ respectively.”

He also claimed that News18 Network’s USP is that it has the largest team of reporters on-ground (1200) who have been deployed to deliver real-time result updates across the country on key issues and thereby, providing unparalleled access to the viewers.

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