is not just war clouds that have inexorably been gathering across
the world as America readies its response to the 11 September
terrorist attacks that hit the World Trade Centre in New York
and the Pentagon. Every news channel (as well as newspaper,
magazine, news portal) worth its salt pulled out all the possible
stops as blanket coverage acquired a whole new meaning on the
tube. When the most powerful nation in the history of the human
race sneezes how can it be anything but that. How objective
this coverage remains highly suspect though but that requires
another article and another forum.
Coming back to the news coverage, major US broadcasters NBC,
CBS, ABC and Fox dropped commercials and all regular programming
on the Tuesday and Wednesday post attack to provide non-stop
coverage of the crisis. Even channels like ESPN and MTV picked
up the news feeds of their sister broadcast networks for the
first time ever. There has been no let-up since as the US prepares
its people and the world for a coming attack.
The fallout of this in revenue terms for the US networks
has been enormous what with the advertising industry having
literally ground to a halt in America. With nonstop coverage
across all networks, advertisers are postponing new ad campaigns
and ad agencies themselves are finding that the market is
in paralysis. Reports say media outlets have lost hundreds
of million dollars in advertising. According to analysts,
the crisis could extend the advertising downturn even further.
Television broadcasters alone are losing nearly $40 million
a day in local and national advertising because of the extended
news coverage. Cable networks are losing money as well.
Some news reports mark up the losses even higher, putting
the total losses to the industry as high as $100 million
a day. The second figure seems a tad exaggerated (like some
of the exaggerations that are being readily bandied around
in the name of news reports?)
India, however, the situation is markedly different. Though
no channel executive expects any significant increases in revenues
no one is talking losses. That is if war doesn't break out.
Then there will be a total hit across the industry as a whole
because of the expected deep fall that the economy as a whole
is expected to go into. The fears of that happening are already
being witnessed on the stock exchanges with both the Bombay
Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange plummeting on
the last day of trading for the week last Friday.
MAKES ITS MARK
viewership terms however, the story is completely different.
Market research agency TAM Media Research's TAM data on the
kind of viewership figures obtained on the four days (11 September
through to 14 September) after the attack show certain clear
trends coming through.
viewership preferences do differ region to region there are
also common trends observed:
On an average there has been a 14-fold increase in viewership
for all news channels after the attacks took place. Some centres
have seen a smaller jump and others a bigger one. The lowest
jump is seen in Bangalore and Delhi where viewership saw an
average 6-fold increase in viewership compared to the prior
super-literate state of Kerala's Cochin city saw the highest
jump of all - 47-fold - on Tuesday which gradually fell off
as the week progressed to reach roughly 7 times that of the
previous week by Friday. But the kind of jump in viewership
seen in the Cochin figures is also because people in the state
hardly accessed the regular news channels. The general entertainment
channels Asianet and Surya (part of the Sun bouquet), which
carry regular news bulletins throughout the day, in normal circumstances
suffice as far as newsworthy information goes. This is clearly
borne out by the data which show TVRs of 0.06 for all news channels
put together in the prior week catapulting to 2.84 TVRs on Tuesday.
And it was BBC (1.49) and CNN (0.74) which carved up most of
the viewership on Tuesday with Star News coming in third (0.47).
an overall picture, the first two days saw viewers switching
to the foreign channels but as the week wore on the language
channels saw ever increasing numbers. This clearly indicates
that when it comes to spot news reportage of international events,
local channels really can't compete. And when we talk foreign
channels it is the BBC which is the clear leader and not CNN.
If one channel amongst the news channels stood out it was old
Beeb. Across all days and across all cities it is very much
up there in the viewerscope. The exceptions were Ahmedabad and
Calcutta, where it was CNN that garnered significant viewership
outside that of the Hindi news channels.
There was one centre however, where CNN actually led all other
news channels and that was in the West Bengal capital Calcutta.
Strangely the viewership trends for Day 1 were reversed here.
On Tuesday Star News was the leader followed by the BBC and
then CNN. But Wednesday onwards it was CNN that led with Star
News coming in second. By Friday, however, Star had again managed
to push itself to the top slot with CNN following. However,
average viewership for all the four days puts Star in the driver's
THE NORTH AAJ TAK RULES
5) Regionwise there are clear trends. In the north (Delhi) and
west (Ahmedabad), Hindi news channels led with Aaj Tak the clear
leader. This clearly shows that amongst the predominantly Hindi
speaking viewers Aaj Tak is the preferred choice amongst all
news channels, with its prime time viewership, channel share,
time spent per channel overtaking that of Zee News and Star
News. As per TAM figures (this is for data culled before the
strikes) the maximum viewership of Aaj Tak was 3,07,000 in comparison
to 1,89,000 of Zee News and 85,000 of Star News. These figures
must have significantly increased for all the news channels.
In the Tamil language citadel of Chennai it was Sun News which
led the way from Day 1 with BBC second. However, on Friday,
there was a switch seen with BBC nudging ahead. Will somebody
please explain this as it doesn't appear to follow any pattern.
In the southern cities of Bangalore, Hyderabad and Cochin it
was the Beeb that was the leader (possibly also because there
are no language news channels specific to these centres).
NEWS FRONTRUNNER IN MUMBAI
Mumbai is Mumbai and has to be different. This was shown in
the ratings figures as well which didn't follow any other city.
On Day 1 it was the Beeb that got in the numbers, but Day 2
onwards Zee News was the leader with the BBC gradually getting
pushed down the ladder.
And where was national broadcaster Doordarshan's news channel
in all this? Nowhere in the reckoning. Which explains why the
mandarins in Mandi House have taken the decision to put DD News
out of its misery and phase out the channel.
AD REVENUE FRONT STAR NEWS STILL THE LEADER
projected ad revenues for all the news channels this year is
roughly between Rs 1000 million and Rs 1200 million of a total
of RS 30,000 million ad spend that flows into television. All
these figures may well go haywire though so it should be borne
in mind that these are estimates based on a semblance of normalcy
returning to the market.
of the RS 1200 million, RS 400 to RS 500 million is what Star
News mops up, RS 250 million to RS 300 million goes to Aaj Tak
while Zee News gets RS 250 million of the ad pie.
the international news channels, CNBC India and BBC together
generate roughly RS 250 million out of India. The numbers for
CNN are difficult to assess but are quite poor, according to
there is certainly going to be an increased interest in news
channels and current affairs programmes in general, there is
a viewpoint that says if this were to be sustained over a long
period, the way people look at general entertainment channels
may also see changes. Saas-bahu tales set in more realistic
HERE FOR CHART OF 'THE TOP 4 NEWS CHANNELS ACROSS INDIA AFTER
THE TERROR ATTACK ON THE US'
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