News channels building ammo for D-day

MUMBAI: As the mother of all elections draws to a close, news channels are working themselves to a frenzy to feed the hungry electorate byte-by-byte updates of the poll results.

Speaking of Times Now, the channel has stretched itself to the limit, promising 250 hours of non-stop election coverage, starting with the poll of polls and culminating in a grand finale.

News Nation, on the other hand, will showcase poll results using innovative graphics between 6am and 3pm on 16 May, followed by expert analyses and later, special shows around formation of the new government.

CNN-IBN and IBN7, with their shows A Billion Votes – Post Poll Survey and Mera Vote Meri Sarkar – Post-Poll Survey, respectively, have promised 100 hours of poll coverage, beginning 12 May and ending 16 May. The last phase will be complete with insights into the world’s largest electoral exercise.

CNN-IBN, IBN7 and IBN-Lokmat editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai said in a statement, “With the results of the biggest elections of our times round the corner, the entire nation is keeping a close eye on the outcome. The IBN Network has been a front runner in election programming. Through our 100 hours of extensive coverage, we look forward to continuing our leadership and delivering on the expectations of our viewers of being the most accurate and most trusted network for elections.”

Sardesai along with his formidable team will lead the network’s election coverage, with help from political experts including Swapan Dasgupta, Ramachandra Guha, Surjit Bhalla, Manini Chatterjee, Sandeep Shastri, Kumar Ketkar, Dipankar Gupta and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

For ABP News, counting day will start at the crack of dawn at 6am with live interviews of the key faces of this election and a summary of the trends and results using state-of-the-art election software and graphics that the channel has come to be synonymous with. Helping viewers understand the poll results and their implications will be ABP News’ experienced anchors including Kishore Ajwani, Abhisar Sharma, Sumaira Khan as also Neha Pant from the National News Centre, Noida.

Prannoy Roy will once again step into the role he started off with all those years ago. The ace journalist will anchor NDTV’s show-stopper, India Decides – The Final Countdown. The channel is hoping to ensure the fastest national projection, based on early numbers and Roy’s expertise. Counting day will see Roy and Dorab Sopariwala joined by some of the country’s finest anchors, including Barkha Dutt, Vikram Chandra and Srinivasan Jain among others.

Similarly, prominent faces associated with various news channels will lead the channel coverage for the day. For instance, Ajay Kumar, Ramesh Bhatt and Pinaj Tyagi will be the main anchors on News Nation on 16 May.

As for ET Now, election coverage will commence at 7:00 am. The channel will have a panel of experts comprising Swaminathan Aiyar, Bibek Debroy, Sadanand Dhume and Sanjeev Aga who will decode the election results and give comprehensive analysis of how the economy and markets will shape up post elections. ET Now also has a lineup of industry captains like Godrej Group chairman Adi Godrej, Hero MotoCorp joint MD Sunil Munjal, Ashok Leyland vice chairman R.Seshasayee, HDFC vice chairman & CEO Keki Mistry, CII president Ajay Shriram, and FICCI president Siddharth Birla to represent the industry’s viewpoint on the election results and the likely agenda for the new government.

Realizing the kind of viewership these channels are all set to garner on the counting day, a multitude of brands have latched onto the exercise. For example, IBN network has roped in, ACC Cement, Renault, Asian Paints and Principal Mutual Funds while Microsoft is its technology partner. News Nation has got onboard Ghadi Detergent, Pepsi, LG, SBI, Hitachi, Airtel, Spice Mobile, TVS Motors and J.K. Cement while ABP News has tied up with Hero, Luminous, and Kent Water Purifiers.

Consequently, news channels have hiked their ad rates for a 10 second spot. According to News Nation CEO Shailesh Kumar, the channel has hiked ad rates 15 times the normal rates for prime time for a 10 second spot. However, media planners and buyers beg to differ.

A prominent media planner on condition of anonymity revealed that many such figures are floating around. Like it is being said that Times Now, which used to charge Rs 3,000 for a 10 second spot, has now hiked ad rates to Rs 7,500 or even Rs 9,000. Or for that matter, Hindi news channel Aaj Tak has doubled its ad rate from the previous Rs 4,500 to Rs 9000 approx.

The media planner went on to say that news channels are in fact still trying to get advertisers on board. And though the ad rate may be the same on paper for any single news channel, new brands may have to pay a steep price as compared to old timers who might even be offered a discount.

Not to be left behind in the online space, immediate trends and results from all counting centres will be relayed to NDTV in Delhi, which will reach viewers with state-of-the-art graphics almost as soon as they are released. ABP News has deployed personnel at various counting centres across the country to digitally deliver real-time data to the servers so that viewers get the results at a fast pace. Separate teams will also work right through the day for delivering results on Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, BBM or SMS, wherever a viewer is, on the device of his choice. Times Now has already launched an app called Election HQ app, which is also available on i-tunes to provide information to its viewers on the go. To make the incoming information simpler for the audience to understand, IBN has created the Microsoft Election Analytics Centre. The CNN-IBN - Microsoft Election Analytics Centre uses a range of Microsoft devices and services, and leverages analysis of current and historical data to provide people with intelligent election insights.

With almost all news channels ready to bombard viewers with wide-ranging news and analyses related to the poll results, it remains to be seen which one manages to grab the highest number of eyeballs, along with of course, the new government.

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