CNBC, Aaj Tak lay claim to top slot among news channels

CNBC India and Aaj Tak from the India Today stable, both quoting AC Nielsen TAM data, have separately come out with figures showing their respective channels as the leaders among the news channels.

"We are now the number one news channel in India even if we don't factor in the viewership figures in offices, for which there is no proper tracking system in place," asserts Haresh Chawla, CNBC India CEO.

Reeling off AC Nielsen TAM data to back his contention, Chawla says the figures speak for themselves. For a four week period ending 10 March, data culled from nine major cities, category SEC A, age group 25+ shows Aaj Tak from the India Today stable coming a close second, Chawla points out. Zee News and Star News come third and fourth, he says. The figures quoted for channel share were: CNBC - 0.7, Aaj Tak - 0.6, Zee News - 0.5, Star News - 0.4, BBC - 0.1 and CNN and Jain TV as negligible.

TV Today Network executive director G Krishnan, however has his own tale to tell on the subject. "Within 60 days Aaj Tak has become the most watched news channel in India. Aaj Tak has managed to capture an audience share of 33 per cent among the news channels, which is equivalent to that of Zee News whereas Star News gets 15 per cent channel share. The channel has created a loyal audience base with Aaj Tak viewer spending 32 minutes on the channel as against 15 minutes on Star News and 23 minutes on Zee News." Interestingly, Krishnan also quotes AC Nielson's TAM data to support his argument. And CNBC figures nowhere in his calculations.

And for good measure, Krishnan also refers to INTAM data in buttressing his argument. "Aaj Tak has already captured 33 per cent share among the news channels which goes up to 37 per cent as against 26 per cent for Zee News and 17 per cent for Star News in Sec A, B/15+years target group. The latest INTAM report also confirms that Aaj Tak is the most watched news channel with a channel share of 31 per cent which is higher than that of Star News and Zee News," says Krishnan.

Chawla says CNBC is in the process of beefing up its five bureaus in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkota, Madras and Bangalore, adding that it has recently expanded its anchor teams.

As for Hindi programmes, Chawla says there will be an increase of half an hour per day (from one-and-a-half hours to two-and-a-half-hours) over the next two quarters which would take Indian programming on the channel to 11 hours a day from the present 10.

Krishnan, meanwhile, scores his channel's performance as being linked to its easily comprehensible and in-depth news coverage coupled with state of the art technology and graphics. Advertisers have also been quick to realise the channel's worth with brands like Nestle, LG, Opel Corsa, Videocon, Berger, Oriental Insurance etc, advertising, Krishnan says.

The channel has recently introduced a stock ticker keeping in view of the audience with interest in business news. "Our viewership growth is a function of cutting edge technology & extensive coverage of everyday events & happenings," Krishnan asserts.

On plans for the near term, Krishnan says the company is exploring the possibility of launching news channels in regional languages as well as a 24-hour Hindi business channel in future, the plans for which would be firmed up by the end of this year.

Chawla, meanwhile, says the channel is setting up additional facilities in telecom and infrastructure in the coming quarter which will enable a direct uplink to Singapore. "We will invest $ 500,000 in telecom facilities in Delhi for uplinking to Singapore. A V-Sat link to VSNL's hub is being set up in Delhi for this purpose, he says, adding that a laser link was what CNBC was using earlier.

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