Zee News cuts ad air time by 30%, ups rates

MUMBAI: Zee News Ltd (ZNL) has set the pace for other television news broadcasters to follow, cutting the commercial time of its flagship Hindi news channel while upping the ad rates by 40 per cent at a time when the genre is bogged down by a slowdown in the economy.

Zee News has decided to slash its ad air time by 30 per cent, trusting advertisers to pay premium for a channel that has differentiated itself by doing away with trivial content.

"We have taken a bold step. We expect the industry to react positively so that the TV news genre can grow," says ZNL CEO Barun Das.

Zee News‘ ‘Maximum News, Minimum Break‘ journey will start from 2 April. The channel will devote eight minutes towards advertisements for every half-hour slot.

The channel, which had nine per cent viewership share in the Hindi news genre last year as per TAM data, hopes to climb the ratings ladder as it opens up more time for content.

"We are also stepping up our content drive. Research tells us that long commercial breaks tend to disrupt news viewing, forcing people to either switch off or surf other channels," says Das.

Market leader Aaj Tak is also examining ways to up its ad revenues. In an earlier interview with, TV Today Network CEO Joy Chakravorthy had said that the news genre was terribly under-priced and there was a lot of untapped revenue potential.

Zee News‘ hard push to get its effective ad rates up by 40 per cent won‘t be an easy task. Says Aegis Media India chairman and CEO
Ashish Bhasin, "Zee‘s move is most likely to be met with resistance from the advertisers in this present ad scenario where we are
expecting another slowdown. Any increase in rates will be difficult for advertisers to digest. It may be a different case if ratings go up."

Das, however, believes advertisers would see value in a move that is beneficial for viewers.

"I think leadership is not running the TRP rat race. In fact, besides strong business performance, leadership is also about setting precedent and giving direction to the industry you work in," he says.

Star India president ad sales Kevin Vaz agrees that it could be a win-win situation for viewers as well as advertisers. "It makes sense to cut down airtime because shorter ad break means higher recall. Advertisers don‘t mind paying a premium for that. At the end of the day, advertisers prefer a better environment and shorter breaks help."

Lintas Initiative Media CEO Sudha Natrajan does not think that there would be any big impact if the other channels do
 not join hands. "Unless the whole industry or the key leading players take this call together, I think it is going to be difficult for just one channel to make a difference," she says.

Maxus managing partner Ajit Varghese echoes Natrajan‘s sentiment. "One guy doing it will not help drive the genre. From the viewer‘s perspective, it is a relatively good move. As far as the revenue goes, one cannot say as of now. It will depend ultimately on ratings," he avers.

Vivaki Exchange VP Sejal Shah, however, believes Zee‘s strategy to control clutter and, hence, increase viewership could only work in the long run. "In the short term, Zee News will not be able to make revenue out of this. This may work in in the long run," she says.

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