MUMBAI: With elections looming large, television networks are prepping to launch news channels in different parts of the country so as to get a decent share of the viewership pie. One such is Network18, which, after completely acquiring all ETV channels (save for Telugu channels) in January this year, decided to launch news channels in states where its GECs were present and not news.
Recent launches include ETV News Bangla, ETV News Kannada, ETV News Himachal Pradesh/Haryana, ETV News Gujarat and ETV News Odiya, with Gujarati and Odiya news channels launching in the next two to three months. What’s more, another set of news channels is being planned for 2015.
ETV news channels under TV18 are looking to get sister channels in ETV News Jammu and Kashmir, ETV News Assam, ETV News Tamil Nadu, and ETV News Kerala. “If everything goes well, we may launch these channels by the end of 2015,” says ETV News group editor Rajesh Raina.
ETV news channels under TV18 are looking to introduce news channels in Jammu & Kashmir, north east (Assam), south (Tamil Nadu and Kerala). “There's a strong feeling that we should expand our news services into these regions as there is great deal of potential. We would like to expand and spread nationally. However, decisions of when and why to foray in these areas will be taken by the management of the Network18 group,” says ETV News group editor Rajesh Raina.
As to how ETV will compete in Tamil Nadu and Kerala where current networks have a stronghold, Raina says: “In these states, most of the channels are affiliated to different political parties except a few. ETV is known for its credibility and is the ‘people’s channel’. Wherever we operate our channels, we give priority to ‘people’s issues’ and that is the reason we have the highest viewership in all regions.”
In Jammu and Kashmir, ETV Urdu has been running two news bulletins every day for the past six years, which the channel claims has become very popular in the region. This in turn will help them create a niche for a 24X7 news channel in the state.
Whereas in Assam, Raina says, “In a strife-torn state like Assam, we can be a bridge for government schemes to reach the masses and this will work to generate good revenue from both the state and central governments if ads given to TV channels are at par with newspapers, for which our network head Jagdish Chandra has been fighting hard.”
The network wants to be the ‘voice of the people’ in the country, and “So far, we have been successful and we hope to sustain this success in future also. No channel can match our quality of coverage. We have some distribution issues in some places but they are being sorted out,” Raina adds.
The focus will be more on rural, less on urban areas. “Quality coverage means raising the issues of the common man. But some channels are focused totally on urban centres and try to attract eyeballs in some selective centres only. But our channel is the common man’s channel and not the channel for the elite class only,” says Raina.
According to him, no changes have come about in the ETV channels after acquisition. There are investments being made to upgrade the technology. Sources say nearly Rs 10 to 12 crore is being pumped into each channel for this purpose. Recently, Network18 had announced the launch of its regional news website news18.com that provides state-wise news.
A Ministry of Information and Broadcasting document ‘permitted satellite TV channels as on ‘10 March 2014’ shows that the network already has licences for the channels. However, folks close to Network18 are quick to clarify, that these licences have been given to the Ramoji Rao group. "The Ramoji Rao group had applied for about 28 licences which they have got," says the source. "The Network18 management has to start the process of applying for the new channel licences afresh."
Currently, ETV runs news channels including Bangla, Kannada, Urdu (news and infotainment), Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh/Chattisgarh, Bihar/Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Haryana/Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Odia. ETV2 News is not under the ownership of TV18.