NDTV India piggybacks legacy to outdo competition

MUMBAI: Political parties and their prime ministerial picks aren’t the only protagonists of the unfolding election drama; news channels of all hues have joined the fray.

However, when it comes to election coverage and analysis, certain channels seem to have an edge simply because they’ve been there, done that, long before the others.

Undoubtedly, New Delhi Television or NDTV is one such, with veteran journalists – Prannoy Roy and Vinod Dua – having co-anchored the first-ever election programme on Doordarshan back in the eighties.

Leveraging this legacy even as it enters the heat and grime of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls is NDTV’s Hindi news channel, NDTV India.

The channel has re-jigged its entire schedule to exclusively focus on the battle for the prime ministerial position. From 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm, viewers will be treated to Badi Khabar with Nidhi Kulpati followed by a new show titled National Highway 2014 at 7:00 pm that will feature ground reports from key constituencies and will be anchored by Manoranjan Bharati.

Newspoint with Abhigyan Prakash aired at 8:00 pm will become Newspoint: Target 272 till the election results are announced.

Primetime at 9:00 pm will be the same with Ravish Kumar while Rann-neeti at 10:00 pm will have Sikta Deo tracking the changing political strategies of the key players. The last show, Mission 2014, will be aired 10:30 pm onward and will see Kadambini Sharma’s 360-degree coverage of the day’s top election stories.

Bhuwan Bhatt

“We will track personalities in the manner in which the US Presidential elections are covered. Our focus this time is to look at the strategies of individual parties and their key leaders. Our objective will be to track the path available to different political formations on their way to the magic 272 mark. This is also one of the most personality-driven elections in recent history,” explains NDTV India managing editor Aunindyo Chakravarty.

More than the south, the channel will keep a watch out for the Hindi heartland while being in close contact with the Election Commission for real-time turnout figures across states. “While we will be covering the entire country, our focus will be on Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which could hold the key to these elections,” says Chakravarty.

With the channel’s market share having risen by a significant 25 per cent in the last LS elections, NDTV India is betting big on its poll coverage and hopes to do even better. So much so, the channel has integrated its website with its overall strategy. A special Hindi election microsite is on the cards and so are several interactive initiatives on social media.

NDTV India is also in talks to use the services of nearly 200 stringers across the country to complement its existing network of correspondents.

While correspondents will be posted at headquarters, stringers will handle election coverage at the district level. Of the stringers, some will be exclusive to NDTV India while others will be a shared resource between NDTV India and NDTV 24X7. To up its technology quotient, the channel plans to backpack live broadcasting equipment rather than hiring expensive OB vans.

Isn’t Chakravarty concerned about advertisers, given that NDTV does not subscribe to TAM ratings? “We don’t need to know ratings. We have a better brand and credibility and we also earn better revenues,” dismisses Chakravarty. Hero MotorCorp is already on board as presenting sponsor while Kent-RO and Prateek group are the powered-by sponsors.

To promote its new shows, the channel will conduct a campaign across Hindi speaking markets closer to elections, the creative for which will be done in-house. “India has a lot of new voters - nearly 12 crore. It is important to reach out to these people and let them know about our shows,” says NDTV senior VP for sales Bhuwan Bhatt.

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