Metro Nation: NDTV corners English city-based news space

NEW DELHI: NDTV today moved into a niche space - an English metro-based channel that is locally focussed in both its content and revenue model.Metro Nation Delhi is the first of the five FTA channels it plans to roll out.

Metro Nation Delhi, which NDTV claims is the the first English, city-based channel in the country, has been on air since 24 September.

Announcing this, Dr Prannoy Roy, chairman, NDTV Ltd, said that this would complement the English newspapers and cater to a so far unaddressed TV viewership of five million.

The value for the money invested is clear: Delhi has a retail and local advertisement kitty that runs into millions of rupees, and has been so far tapped by only small local vernacular newspapers.

Roy said the company‘s research shows that this is a market of sophisticated retailers and other advertisers - from malls to eateries and entertainment hubs that would willingly pay a steep tariff if they can reach out to this TV viewership market.

This is not a ‘pure‘ news channel, Roy explained, but both news and non-news channel that would provide information and localised content, which includes the likes of live shows of college debates (with the one from Miranda College already aired).

Sanjay Nigam, CEO in charge of the channel, said this would be news you can use, which includes road traffic updates, as well as everything that a denizen of Delhi would need to know to be abreast of what‘s around.

NDTV has clearly also sought to take a pinch from the Citizen Journalist concept, but made it radically different, in that colourful taxis, a fully operational studio (OB Van) and a dedicated chopper would feed in news.

The taxis and the bus would move from area to area and bring in local people, take their views and air them Live, Suparna Singh, head of promos and editorial chief at the new channel explained.

Asked whether this is their version of Citizen Journalist, Roy took a snap at rival channel CNN IBN: "This is different, because journalism is a professional thing and just as there cannot be a citizen doctor or a citizen engineer, we are not looking at a citizen journalist.

"We believe that this will make the channel interactive, though the citizen may not be able to talk to the anchor, but his or her views can be aired directly."

Singh stated another of the USPs of the channel: "We believe Delhi is worth fighting for," and explained that the channel will be young, progressive and proactive, and would take up all the problems of the city and fight for the citizen‘s rights.

Asked to how far NDTV would take such fights, Roy stated that the fights about governance would be deadly serious and would be taken to the end.

"The channel is being driven by young people with ‘kinetic energy‘," Singh said, adding that there are 125 people on board.

But there are similar channels in Hindi which have the same formula, so would language be the only differentiator?

Responding to this, Nigam said that the NDTV foray into this arena would be marked by its old track record of credibility and reliability, dismissing the vernacular channels as overtly sensationalised and hardly credible.

In fact, Nigam said that when there is a stress on globalisation, this move towards localisation may seem like an anachronism, but it was not, as today, Delhi is almost like a country.

"The people need info that will navigate the lives of Delhiites," Nigam said, which would be the "unique value proposition" for the channel.

There are many, many Delhis today, and the days of South Delhi ending in Lajpat Nagar are over, and there are many categories of people not from all walks of life but all regions and many countries who need to stay abreast of this city.

This is the specific market the NDTV plans to corner and not just in Delhi; in another few months, there would be four more channels, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore, each with its niche programming and sharp local focus.

Roy parried all questions on financial issues, but insisted that there is enough monetary depth in this market to give them a clear sense of fast-track business.

This is why, at least officially, Metro Nation channel would not slash its advertisement tariff, but would offer competitive prices, Roy said and claimed that already there are people wanting to come on board.

While the channel would be FTA, Roy admitted that it would go on one of the DTH service providers, but refused to divulge the name, stating simply: "We have a commitment on DTH."

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