Television

High on expectations, NDTV 24x7 mostly up to speed

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The 15-day gap between the expiry of its contract with Star and the launch of its English and Hindi channels could have been a boon in disguise or a carefully calculated strategy. NDTV got a chance to study its rivals and determine exactly what to do and what not to do.

After all expectation levels were understandably running very high and the NDTV team had to deliver on its promise that Credibility has many faces; Experience the truth first.

Look, Logo: At the outset it must be said that the Los Angeles-based TAG Creative Brands Solutions have done a decent job in designing the on-air look. The logo has the words NDTV and 24x7 constantly morph into one another at the bottom left hand side of the screen. The dual colours - red alternating with gray add to its distinct flavour.

Prannoy Roy

While it is yet another way for Prannoy Roy to be different from the pack, one has to search for the logo at times, especially during the business and stock updates. The graphics used between the breaks are eye catching and include a globe, different backgrounds like dark red, lemon or green.

Depending on the show you are watching the colour changes to suit that mood. So for Sports 24x7 the background features what looks like a tennis ball. There is also a clock along with a ticker running underneath. In addition to having headlines scrolling it also urges viewer interaction by sending an SMS to 6388 or by visiting the website ndtv.com for further news. Temperatures are also given for the different cities. This does make the lower portion of the TV screen look a tad crowded.

Another innovation comes in the form of News At a Glance. The interstitial sees the news item first appear on the middle of the screen in big letters and so is easy to read. In fact it hits you immediately. After the initial scroll it goes to the top in normal type and then the second headline follows.

The signature music composed by David Lowe is a nice complement. The tabla playing gives the feeling of an uninterrupted flow. Also background music sometimes used at the intro of a light story like the channel speaking to Sanjay Narang the brain behind Tendulkar?s is catchy. Since the names of a few of the shows have the tag 24x7 there is no doubt in your mind as to what you are watching.

Rajdeep Sardesai

Anchors: It is a relief to see the familiar faces - Rajdeep Sardesai, Sonali Verma, Srinivasan Jain, Barkha Dutt - back on the small screen. The breezy professionalism that Rajdeep and the gang showed at Star News has made a smooth transition. Having a channel where everyone has a wealth of experience makes a huge difference. The tone of the voice changes depending on the nature of the story. The anchors have a confident look about them as they face the camera. They also convey the impression that they are fulfilling an important purpose.

The only glitch that seen was on a night show Nightlife. There was a certain amount of confusion between the studio and the young anchors and at one point even heard someone say, "One moment. I am not yet ready." Also the sound for one of NDTV?s promos disappeared for several seconds.

Testimonial route

Shahrukh Khan

The channel has used actors like Sunny Deol and Shah Rukh Khan for brand endorsement. Khan cleverly uses the 24x7 concept saying, "I will watch NDTV 20 hours a day. The other four hours I need for sleep." While the statement in itself is ridiculous, it does convey the point.

Coverage: There is a constant attempt not just to provide news but also to give a balanced perspective from the parties involved. Having said that, criticism has been voiced that the anchors tend to be opinionated and come to the table with conclusions already drawn.

Also news updates on important items not only happen regularly but also when you do not quite expect it. For instance last week after reporting on the killings in Kashmir, correspondent Barkha Dutt without being overly aggressive managed to prod Sharad Pawar and Dr. Farooq Abdullah on Friday night as to the reaction that the Prime Minister was likely to give to their proposal.

Analyses also extends to other areas like business, sport. As far as the latter is concerned it is good to see the channel speaking to experts in other sports besides the one featuring the ubiquitous men in blue. For instance you would have an official talking about the plus and minus points of having foreign players play for football clubs like East Bengal.

On the down side, constant repetition of a few items for different times of the day is noticeable - be it the Ian Botham interview or the Sangh Parivar meet.

Among the other minor aberrations was an instance of Prannoy asking his western region bureau chief Shai Venkatraman to put on the mask and sterilise the NDTV mike she was holding while speaking to the residents of the society where Pune?s SARS victim resided. That was rather insensitive one thought, and would only have added to the paranoia surrounding this disease.

The smooth manner in which reports were being filed from different parts of the country whether Mumbai, Coimbatore, the farmers? unfortunate plight in UP or from the Southern cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, is impressive. Obviously the studio infrastructure is first rate.

The pace of the news while at times fairly brisk never gives the impression of running off and leaving the viewer behind. The quality of transmission, like the other channels that have launched recently like Star News (relaunched) and Sahara Samay, is crystal clear.

Kind of news covered

Most of it deals with important economic, political, social issues. The morning news fare is comparatively lighter compared to later on in the day. Political news is the most mentioned at that time.

Over the weekend the channel airs shows that focus on a prominent public personality. So you have a surprisingly disarming LK Advani walking the talk on a Saturday evening.

Advertising:

The ad breaks are not long and one could sit through them without feeling bored. Companies that advertise include Hitachi, Reid and Taylor. In one break did not see more than two brands being advertised.

More than the television commercials, it was the innovative spots through which NDTV pushes its own product, that was engrossing. For instance, Rajdeep threw darts in an appropriately menacing manner while saying that if you have to get involved in a fight then better make it a big one. Another in your face promo has Prannoy saying, "When you are challenged so are we" with the Parliament attack forming a suitable backdrop.

For this due credit should be given Discreet?s high-end visual effects, editing and finishing systems - inferno and smoke. Discreet?s top-of-the-line systems enabled NDTV to create the above-mentioned innovative promos and packaging for its content as well as channel branding in-house and the exceptional on-air quality.

Reactions of the media community:

Madison Media COO (West and South) Punitha Arumugam: made three points

1. - Packaging of both the channels extremely good , meets the quality standards on would expect from NDTV

2. - Distribution however seems to be a major concern

3. - Discussions are on with the channel for our clients

Situations Advertising client services director Vijay Kastoori: added, "Data for the latest week (starting 13 April NDTV launched on 14 April) shows zero for 24x7 and fractional for India. which is a bit surprising considering that they are on One Alliance One bouquet. We have asked our clients to wait and watch for a couple of weeks, NDTV India should pick up."

Optimum Media Solutions executive vice president Amit Ray said, "I haven?t seen the English version as I don?t get it and therefore I can?t make any comment. The Hindi one is good but too much of Tricolour. It is still below expectation. I am yet to see the NDTV magic that one has grown up with."

Finally, despite the best efforts of Indiantelevision.com, we were unable to get a response from NDTV as to what they believed were the highlights since launch.

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