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TRP rat-race is destroying business models, country: ABP's Avinash Pandey

News is completely dependent on ad revenue, which shouldn't be the case, says Pandey.

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NEW DELHI: The business models of how news broadcasting is done in India needs a huge overhaul, opined ABP News Network CEO Avinash Pandey in a virtual fireside discussion with Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari on day two of the News Television Awards Summit. According to him, the two areas that require urgent overhaul are how TRP is measured and the high dependence on advertising revenue for running the business. 

“The news business model in India is very flawed. It is 100 per cent dependent on advertising revenue, which should not be the case. That’s why we are soon going to be a paid platform,” Pandey said. 

He added that going premium entails a lot of investment and the ABP News Network is actively working towards it. “If I give you an example of our Bihar election coverage, Poll Khol, hosted by Shekhar Suman, is a show that demands investment worth the complete election coverage budget of some other channels. Our reporters are doing debates in every tehsil, every district and it is a cost-heavy affair. It’s a very tough call for us to take as we have very limited resources but unless we do that, good content will take a backseat.” 

He said that news channels should take a conscious call of doing good reporting and not just chase the numbers. This leads Pandey to the matter of TRP measurement, stating that he is completely against the ‘minute-by-minute stock market-like analysis of news’ showing what exactly spiked the viewership on a certain channel. 

“Until and unless BARC effectively manages the impact of news, unfortunately, we all will be in the rat-race of chasing the ratings and it will destroy our businesses, people’s lives, and our country,” he warned. 

Pandey insisted that the whole industry – from broadcasters to regulators – should introspect how the measuring systems are working and how the quality of news is impacting the country at large. 

“To give an example, I think the biggest reform that happened in India in the past few months was the education reform. I feel it is going to bring in a lot of changes for the next decade; they have liberalised it greatly. It will also save a lot of foreign exchange. Millions of dollars are otherwise spent globally in educating our kids, which will stop. Now, none of the channels covered this because they were busy covering a certain crime story because the general consensus was that ratings will not come if you talk about anything sensible,” he bluntly stated. 

In regards to how news consumption will be moderated in future, he opined that Indians will watch a lot of content on connected TVs in future and that’s how broadcasters should be preparing their strategies. 

On an additional note, Pandey also talked about his expectations with the advertising revenue in the coming months. He projected that November will be bigger than last year with major high-ticket events like Bihar elections, IPL finals, and Diwali coming together. He is positive that the market will pick up from here as certain categories are already showing signs of revival in terms of sales and that will also reflect in their advertising spends. 

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