interview with TV Today Network CEO Joy Chakraborthy
are weighing various channel launch options'
on 21 February 2012
Today Network is in the process of an organisational
shake-up as it prepares for expansion into regional
news channels and language newspapers through the Aaj
route isnt easy, considering that revenue growth
for the TV news genre is under challenge, the advertising
environment is slowing down and it is a highly competitive
TV news market where there is too much supply.
sitting on a cash pile, TV Today took a conservative
approach and has in the past few years merged the loss-making
promoter business of radio while taking a 13 per cent
stake in TV Today for Rs 455 million. Now with no cash
reserve, it is planning to expand through self-funding
and debt (as it is debt free); it is also not averse
to raising equity financing.
winds of change are blowing. There is talk of weighing
each channel individually, having business heads for
each of them, and even exiting from radio if the price
is right while at the same time preparing for its operational
profitability and building synergies between TV, print
last year, the company tapped into a senior executive
who has grown up in the television broadcasting space
as a revenue specialist. His fast-paced aggression may
have been a counter-culture to an otherwise editorial-driven
organisation that believes in expanding at a comfortable
speed. But that could have also worked in favour when
the companys revenues are growing at a snails
pace, three of its loss-making channels are supported
by its flagship Aaj Tak and radio needs to be turned
an interview with Indiantelevision.coms Sibabrata
Das, TV Today Network CEO Joy Chakraborthy
talks about how he plans to grow the company in challenging
times, upping revenues, improving profitability and
making radio operationally break-even in FY'13.
Q. How difficult has it been to fit into a pure news
organisation like the India Today Group that is very
editor friendly as your past experience has been in
entertainment broadcast networks?
There is certainly a difference between an organisation
which has got GECs (general entertainment channels),
sports, niche and other genres and that which is a pure
news outfit. When you are working for an entertainment
broadcaster, it is more about using research, marketing,
strategy and planning. News business, on the other hand,
is very brand driven and credibility plays an important
role; it is very day-to-day driven. My past exposure
in Star and Zee will help me immensely to do a cross-fertilisation
of cultures. The sanctity of news, however, has to prevail.
Q. What skills you needed to acquire to transition
from a revenue specialist to a CEO?
CEOs are not born in one day; they move up the
ladder from different wings like finance and revenue.
When you are the revenue head, you are acting like the
CEO of that arm. And I was also running P&L of eight
niche channels. So, anyway, I am familiar with handling
the bottom line role. What matters is a basic understanding
of the industry.
biggest challenge in TV Today Network is to get the
staff within oriented to my mindset. I have to get the
existing team, which is very talented, to work at my
pace. My task is to give the editorial the latest in
technology and news gathering. Being a revenue specialist,
I can work out innovative solutions and increase the
years in Zee has made me understand the cost part of
the business very well. It is important for media companies
to be very cost conscious and not to splurge money.
For TV news organisations in India, which have the structural
issue of high manpower and low top line, this is much
Q. Will we see a new restructured TV Today that is less
rigid and more nimble footed as an organisation?
As an organisation, there is a lot of potential
to grow. It has built high credibility and is a very
strong news brand. The Group will start a process of
synergising across departments and functions so that
we can streamline costs and build economies of scale.
I also hope to get the right support for taking calculated
Q. Does that mean that TV Today will have a less conservative
approach to expansion in the areas of business and regional
We are making business plans that include regional news
channels. We will be weighing various channel launch
options. We are preparing for expansion, but will wait
for the market situation to be good. Also, it has to
make the right business sense.
are open to the idea of selling the radio biz, provided
we get the right price. We are targeting break-even
in FY13. We are not going to bid for Phase
Q. When TV Today was sitting on cash, it did not expand.
Will it not be tough when there is no cash reserve and
the company is averse to raising equity funding?
We will expand through self-funding and being a
debt-free company, we can also source bank financing
for our expansion. We are also not averse to raising
Q. TV Todays cash reserves have dwindled after
the merger of the loss-making businesses of radio on
a valuation of around Rs l billion and a 13 per cent
stake buy in TV Today for Rs 455 million. How do you
justify such huge valuations and how will it help TV
We feel that radio and print will help us have
a 360 degree approach; along with our main television
business, it will complete the link and give us a cushioning
feel. It also makes us cost effective.
How do you turnaround the radio business that had an
operating loss of Rs 219 million on a meagre revenue
of Rs 42 million last fiscal?
We are targeting break-even in the next fiscal. No doubt
we are a weak player in radio. But we have a presence
in the three main markets of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
We are getting in a business head with a sales background.
By doing proper structuring and sales, we can easily
jump our revenues to the operating cost level. We are
looking at packaging Delhi Aaj Tak sales with Oye (the
radio brand). We will also be looking at the costs.
Q.Will you be bidding for Phase III to expand or you
will be content being a small player?
We will not bid for Phase III. The radio industry
is not growing substantially enough to compensate for
huge capital investments and long waiting period for
profitability. We will rather work on strategic sales
alliances with smaller regional operators who have a
presence in some of the key markets like Bangalore,
Hyderabad and Chennai; they may even have a single market
presence. We can handle their ad sales.
Doesnt it make more sense to find a buyer for
the radio business now, particularly when the time for
renewal of licence is just four years away and costs
for retention are going to be higher?
We are open to the idea of selling the radio business,
provided we get the right price. We are at the same
time going to focus on reaching operational profitability
and growing its revenues.
recently launched 'Sabse Filmy' positioning of our radio
station gives us a big advantage as a large amount of
film content can be drawn from our TV channels. With
content and ad synergies with our local and national
channels, we hope to make this operation highly cost
effective and benefit from the fast growing radio market,
which in India is much lower than other growing and
developed markets. Also with news expected to be permitted
on radio in the future, the fitment with our TV channels
will be perfect. Radio can be a support medium to our
main television business.
What is the reasoning behind TV Todays small stake
presence in Mail Today that is bleeding profusely?
Today investment is highly synergistic to our TV business,
both from content and ad revenue point of view. The
paper operates in the largest ad sales market in the
country (Delhi) and has a huge growth potential. A foray
into the newspaper space also gives us an opportunity
to set up Hindi newspaper business around the Aaj Tak
brand. The Hindi newspaper space is growing very fast
and the Aaj Tak brand is one of the most powerful Hindi
Sources inside TV Today tell us that you have been talking
of a 20 per cent revenue growth target for TV Today
in the next fiscal. Isnt this an impossible target
to achieve, considering that the revenue growth is under
challenge for the genre (TV Today just grew 3 per cent
last fiscal), the advertising environment is slowing
down and it is a highly competitive TV news market where
there is too much supply?
The market is tough at this point of time and there
is too much of inventory in the news genre. The problem
of news is that it has been sold on ratings rather than
perception. The truth is that it should be measured
like cricket; it has a huge outside home
viewership and is consumed by a lot of people. Being
a revenue specialist, I know how to drive it up but
will not be in a position to share my strategy at this
point of time.
are also looking at ways where we can have a premium
rate for news and a separate pricing for non-news content.
a genre, we have to optimise our revenue sources. That
is the only way we can stay profitable. I also plan
to control and rationalise the middle line. While personnel
cost comprises a good chunk, distribution expenses have
to be reviewed. Digitisation is a hope for broadcasters
at this stage but it will take three years to feel the
to our own building, which will have the latest technologies,
will also help us save costs and make our on air news
look the latest with great graphics and presentation.
Q. TV Todays flagship channel Aaj Tak is supporting
the other three loss-making channels. Why not shut at
least two of the channels which play a flanking or a
I am planning to have business heads for each channel;
they will have to manage their P&L. The idea of
Tej as a flanking channel works when it is strong enough
to cannibalise some viewership away from the main channel.
There needs to be some shake-up; it neednt necessarily
imply a closure. We are in the process of microscopic
analysis of each channel individually. We will take
calls where we are heading keeping 3-5 years in mind.
Q. How can you have pricing power and up the revenues
of Aaj Tak when there is so much of commodisation of
news and the second and third Hindi news channels are
priced so much lower?
Aaj Tak may have deviated for some time and gone
the wrong way of sensationalism. But it has always been
a market leader and for the past 13 weeks, we have a
30 per cent lead over our nearest rival. It is present
in most of the media plans. And dont forget that
45 per cent of the channels viewership comes from
females. There is a lot of untapped revenue potential.
sometimes make the mistake of feeding the weak child
instead of the strong. I believe in feeding your generals
even at the cost of the soldiers. We will be investing
a lot in Aaj Tak.
will be doing a lot of strategic alliances. We have
tied up with Star for its biggest upcoming property
with Aamir Khan; we are their channel partners for that.
We will be launching a weekly show with the Bollywood
star in Aaj Tak. The issue-based special follow-up show
will be similar in nature to Stars.
will also get into awards and events without compromising
our credibility. For starters, we are doing the Aaj
Tak Care Awards event.
Q. Headlines Today has gone through new positioning
and revamps a few times. How do you build the channel
into a powerhouse?
The biggest challenge is Headlines Today as we see
big potential there. We are investing in the channel
where we think we can make money. It has to build numbers
but what it misses more is perception. In fact, TV Today
needs a big marketing and PR push. We have changed our
agency to Black Pencil (Leo Burnetts creative
agency) with whom we are going to work on brand films.
You will see a lot of action around Aaj Tak and our
with the channels current status, we can double
its revenues next fiscal. We are setting up a separate
ad sales team for Headlines Today and removing it from
the rate card. The channel has not been able to get
its true value because it was sold along with Aaj Tak;
Hindi and English news channels have to be sold separately.
We have already recruited an All-India head for Headlines
Today who would be reporting to the existing network
head and coming on board next week.
Q. What about Tej and Delhi Aaj Tak?
The value of Tej will be if it can effectively supplement
Aaj Tak. Along with Delhi Aaj Tak, they can tap retail
advertisers and dig deep. Retail, in any case, is Aaj
Taks biggest strength.
Q. Are we going to see more launches internationally?
We will have to try and get more international
revenues. We will be exploring other markets outside
US and UK. We will also strengthen our existence in
UK, US and Canada. We have recruited Vikram Das as our
new international head who moves in from Neo Sports
for Executive Dossier Archives