Focus Odisha seeks to be a differentiator

BHUBANESWAR: The times are tough, especially for news channels to survive but that doesn’t deter some from entering the space. One such is the Focus network, which is now venturing into Odisha with Focus Odisha after having forged its presence with Focus north east, Focus Haryana, Focus Bangla, Focus Hi Fi and the upcoming Focus News.

The channel was officially launched on 13 June by the Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, and has been on air for the past fortnight.

Headquartered in Bhubaneswar, Focus Odisha has nine bureaus located in places like Cuttack and Puri, each having a journalist, a video journalist and few technical staff. Apart from this, 65 stringers have been employed to cover the entire state, making it a nearly 150 strong team of permanent staff.

Only the main office is equipped with an OB van while four main bureaus have 3G live-U backpacks along with two at the headquarters.

In terms of distribution, the channel is present on Ortel, Videocon d2h, Manthan, Hathway and Variety, giving it a nearly 60 per cent reach in Odisha. The promoters want the channel to be a “credible and honest” one, for which Studio design by Prateek Resolutions is one of few first steps. Nearly Rs 10 crore has been pumped into setting up the channel.

DN Singh, who worked for many years with Zee News, is Focus Odisha’s channel editor while Jaganath Das is the sales head. Sanjeev Srivastav is the group editor while Neeraj Sanan is the group business head.

Focus Odisha will stress on “fair, credible and honest” journalism. “News content on channels cannot be totally different but its treatment can be. Suppose a personality makes a statement, it can be used in exactly the same way. But if you add a line that the same person did not mention something, it makes the viewer think,” says Singh who is the ‘go-to guy’ for practically everything at the channel. He is quite proud that his young journalists have already cracked two scams in the state and one is just getting prepared.

On the day of launch, Focus Odisha was showing the much awaited Jagganath yatra that was taking place in Purifor which the channel had got live broadcast rights. The same is being shared with five other entertainment channels. “Odisha we are watching you in a way that is honest, unscrupulous and with a lot of editorial integrity,” says Sanan.

The first few years may go in investment mode but the channel is confident that it will break even in about three to four years. However, Sanan is totally unconcerned about cash flow. “Our main aim is to have an honest channel. If the news has facts, then we will put it on air. Don’t worry about the money,” says Sanan.

The biggest challenge for Focus Odisha will be to tackle competition from existing strongholds such as OTV, Kanak TV and Naxatra News. The Rs 30 crore ads market for news channels is primarily dominated by OTV that sources say commands ad rates up to Rs 1800 for 10 seconds during prime time while the second in line gets Rs 500 per 10-seconder. This is due to the huge gap in TAM ratings. Major advertisers are retail, PSUs, corporate and government and the channel already has five brands on board.

Yet, how does the channel plan to make its presence felt in an already cluttered market? “There is no field in the world now that isn’t cluttered. But there is always space for new people to come and make a mark. We want to give audiences what we think they aren’t getting now and be a differentiator. Why do we treat our audiences as dumb? We really need to engage with the people and find out their interest. Doing so, we will want to make Focus Odisha the voice of Odisha,” says Srivastav. “Odisha is a crucial state going forward in the development of India. It has the richest natural wealth but is also one of the poorest states in the country that needs media attention.”

Focus group is currently promoted by a trust called Ethical Media Trust with Matang Singh of Positiv TV owning majority of the network with other shareholders also pumping money in the trust. When questioned about the involvement of former Congress MP Naveen Jindal in the network, most people dismissed it as a rumour.

While the mystery around ownership of the network continues, the channel has flagged off Focus Odisha and will be making its presence felt in the state.

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