Television

'Ratings not an apt way to judge Awaaz performance' : Sanjay Pugalia - Awaaz editor

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If news channels are largely described as niche, then Awaaz is a niche within the niche. Positioned as a consumer Hindi news channel, it breaks the general connotation of a business channel as being designed for people dealing in big business.

Awaaz is primarily, as Editor Sanjay Pugalia points out, for anybody who wants to spend Rs 100 fruitfully or save even that Rs 100. Looking at the way the India economy is changing, Pugalia expresses that there is a gap that has been successfully filled by Awaaz --- the 15+ SEC AB in the Hindi speaking markets.

Pugalia believes that the existence of Awaaz has given a new definition to this news category.

In a freewheeling conversation with Indiantelevision.com's Manisha Bhattacharjee, Awaaz editor Sanjay Pugalia provides a low-down on how the consumer channel has shaped up over the last 18 months.

Excerpts:

Awaaz underwent a change in its on-air-look? Isn't it too early for the channel to undergo a makeover?

When the channel was launched, we followed the time and tested format of CNBC-TV18. Now that we have completed 18 months in the space, it was time to give a distinct identity to the brand Awaaz, as we are addressing a much broader audience base and our offering is very different from CNBC-TV18. Awaaz is an independent product appealing to our kind of target audience. Earlier, we wore blue and white, now the channel dons red and white.

What is the unique selling point (USP) of Awaaz?

The consumer channel is primarily targeted at small investors. It is first and foremost for those viewers or consumers who are earning some money, saving some and need proper advice to invest. The channel has been principally designed in the manner wherein experts provide inputs in a manner that will help consumers take their own decisions on all the possible ways he / she can save or make money.

The channel is a powerful vehicle for small investors, buyers, sellers, etc and it provides opportunities aimed at effectively reaching our target audience.

Is this an indication that TV18 failed to target this segment through CNBC-TV18?

It is wrong to say so. CNBC-TV18 created the business news space within the English space for the big corporates. The channel's coverage extends from corporate news, financial markets coverage, expert perspectives on investing and management to industry verticals and beyond. The channel has been catering to business more relevant to different constituencies across the nation.

Awaaz on the other hand is for the small investors in the Hindi speaking market. It indeed covers the entire business space from the consumers' perspective. Who is the consumer? It could a taxpayer, an employer, a small investor, shopkeepers etc. These consumers are interested in the current share or stock market, trade, small business, managing and saving as well as investing. All these needs are serviced through our shows.

When you say that the word 'consumer' covers a vast gamut of audience, trade, equity, non-equity, financial sector etc? Where do women fit in the gamut?

It is largely noticed that female viewers are much less in comparison to male viewership on any given news channel. But it is otherwise on Awaaz. We have a very strong female viewership, approximately 45 per cent. Our key driver show is Smart Shopping, which airs at 4:30. When the same show airs at 10:30 pm, it brings in male viewership.

The unisex shows are Awaaz Plus, Tax Guru (tax is generally perceived as a male subject), Weekend Masti, Hum Honge Kamyaab, Jiyo Zindagi, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Glamour Bazaar and Trend Mill to name a few.

Let me reiterate a point, ratings is just not the apt way to judge the performance of the channel. It is merely an auxiliary data that gives us an insight to the performance of the channel.

If you say ratings are not the rightful way to judge the performance of the channel, then how do you pitch it to the advertisers?

It is difficult for me to comment on the marketing side of the channel. But all I would like to add is that the advertisers solely do not rely on Tam data, they also have other means like their own research and other external research which they commission as well as their gut feelings for the channel to make a decision to spend on the channel. Mind you, Awaaz, like CNBC-TV18, has a good number of out-of-home viewership, which is not recorded by Tam.

In this fragmented news market how do you deal with your competitors?

Honestly, we have no competitors in this space.

Well, you are forgetting Zee Business. Isn't this channel in the same space and targeting your kind of audience?

Well, as I said we have no competitors in this space. In any case, we are 300 per cent to 400 per cent bigger then Zee Business.

'Network synergies should not be confused with similarities'

Coming from the same TV18 network, is Awaaz cannibalizing big brother CNBC-TV18?

We cannot cannibalise each other being under one network. We can only strengthen each other and synergies and leverage each others strengths. But it is necessary to comprehend that as a network synergies should not be confused with similarities.

22 May experienced a massive market crash. Besides retail investors, even small time investors panicked? As you strongly term your channel as a consumer based one, how did you address your TG?

'Caution' has always been the word from the day we launch the channel, while addressing the news and information needs to the small investors, the mutual fund buyers, shoppers, small time insurance agents etc. This does not mean either that while cautioning them, the investor should stay away from equities. They have to be convinced about their investment ideas after weighing the pros and cons.

Let's take the Tam data during the market crash in isolation. According to the data, on 22 May, Awaaz recorded a 2.3 per cent channel share, beating the general Hindi news channels during the 9 am to 4 pm time band, followed by Aaj Tak (1.50 per cent), Zee News (1.43 per cent), NDTV India (1.16 per cent), Star News (1.15 per cent) and followed by the rest.

TV18 network is involved in a lot of on-ground initiatives. What kind of on ground initiative is Awaaz into?

All our ground-initiative is marketing backed and strengthen our brand by involving our viewers. When we carry out any on-ground shows it has to be relevant to the issue and place.

How different is your weekend band from that of weekdays?

We have branded our weekends as Smart Weekend, which has been created recently. It's primarily a day long exercise covering various topical aspects of the week providing a holistic and exhaustive coverage from across the nation. The weekend gone by was entirely devoted to the best colleges of Top 10 cities in India. Besides, for those students who did not secure good marks, we provide inputs from across the nation with alternative college and courses for them.

Now that TV18 is hiving of its internet business into a separate company, is the network aiming at launching a portal to complement Awaaz, just as in the case of CNBC-TV18 and moneycontrol.com?

I can't comment as it is a business decision.

What is making business news channels such a success in India?

The news needs of TV viewers has dramatically changed in India, because of growing economy, urbanisation, spread of wealth and increased purchasing power to millions of Indians. They want to know about the things; products and services, they can use in order to make decisions every day about shopping needs, investments, spending and saving... and they want it in a relevant, useful manner.

Awaaz, in this space does it effectively. Viewers' habits are changing so fast that sometimes media is not able to keep pace with it. But Awaaz is a product of the future and it will only grow as the economy makes new stride and goes global.

How will all of the emerging 'viewer-in-command' technologies -- like IPTV -- impact traditional broadcasting?

New technologies will only grow opportunities and expand the market for us. They will add value to our services. Mind you, those who would be using technology like IPTV, will be in the homes with more than one TV set and more importantly millions of Indians are yet to buy a TV set. Traditional broadcasting will continue to remain 2/3rds of the pyramid and the remaining 1/3rd will consume the new offerings.

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