MUMBAI: The old TV news warhorse is back. After selling his Network18 business to Reliance's Mukesh Ambani a couple of years ago, Raghav Bahl burst back on to the scene with a new digital venture Quintillion Media. Now the firm has got into bed with the global business information power house Bloomberg Media. The result of the union will take birth in the next three months as BloombergQuint India which will deliver business and financial news over traditional broadcast, digital and live events in the subcontinent.
Bahl says journalism will be at the core of BloombergQuint India. Bloomberg recently dissolved its partnership in a company that included Reliance, UTV’s Ronnie Screwvala and had been operational in India as a TV channel for about eight years as UTV Bloomberg.
Bahl believes that the entry of BloombergQuint in the hypercompetitive news space heralds challenges for both the partners, but they are up for the task. Says he: “It is a great sense of dejavu for us. We created this space which is now very powerful. We have created brands that are powerful. And now we are getting back in this space with a new offering and a new brand. There is a need for disruption and that’s where BloombergQuint stands which you will see with the service being rolled out. We have money…. and we are hoping to get good advertisers on board.”
Bloomberg Media International managing director Parry Ravindranath explains that the Quintillion marks a first for his company.
“We have been in India for around 20 years, “ he says. “But this is the first Bloomberg cross platform partnership. We continue to break new ground in news and deliver the best content in Asia’s fastest growing market.”
And the decision to partner with Raghav was a natural one. “This is a second coming for Raghav and he has pioneered the business news genre in broadcast and digital in India. And he was my first boss,” adds Ravindranath with a smile.
Adds his boss in the US Bloomberg Media CEO Justin Smith: " It was clear when we met Raghav that we shared a common vision to create India's premier digitally-led multi-platform business media company. And that met with our global vision. Currently, almost half of our digital traffic comes from outside the US and this figure continues to grow. Partnering with Quintillion Media in India is a game-changer for the country's digital and broadcast media industries, and for Bloomberg Media globally as we take our investment to an exciting new phase.”
"As the fastest growing major economy in the world, India is one of the most important stories we are covering in Asia. I'm glad we are partnering with Raghav and his team who have deep experience reporting on India for the past two decades," chips in Bloomberg News APAC executive editor David Merritt.
With the joint venture signed just a few days back, a gaggle of news professionals are being hired and it looks like its homecoming for them. The company has roped in former CNBC TV18 CEO Anil Uniyal and former CNBC-TV18 executive editor Menaka Doshi to serve as BloombergQuint's CEO and managing editor respectively. Harsha Subramaniam, a Bloomberg executive producer will oversee the partnership for Bloomberg across platforms.
“We have a set of robust colleagues on board joined by solid associates which we had in Network 18. I am delighted to have them with us. We also have Ritu Kapur with us and we are very confident about our product. They also bring a fantastic news structure. We are very proud that a global company has partnered with us,” says Bahl.
It might be recalled that back in 2014, Bahl left a void in his own Network 18 group which was taken over by the Reliance Group. After Bahl moved out, the group also witnessed resignations from Sai Kumar, Ajay Chacko, RDS Bawa, Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose. Wishing Bahl luck for his new joint venture, India Today Group consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai said, “I wish him very well. I have had enjoyable years with him and have shared an excellent relationship with Raghav.”
“There is enormous potential in the English news genre and it’s only expanding. For now, they will have to follow the ad driven revenue model, but in the long run, every channel will love to follow a subscription revenue model,” says media analyst and IIM Calcutta professor Chandradeep (CD) Mitra. “A new channel can be successful if it has compelling content, great market presence and on-ground action. As advertisers are reluctant about going on new platforms, the channel can either give attractive rates or start with one well-known brand on board. Creating an impression helps a channel irrespective of whether it is earning profits or incurring losses.”
The two properties - one, a linear product (television) and the other non-linear (online and digital), will completely be integrated. “There is no specific strategy for either of the products. The strategy will depend on the nature of the platform. On digital, social virality and distribution are important, while on TV distribution and breaking news play a vital role. We want to provide good quality content to the maximum number of households and also hope to bring advertisers on board,” says Bahl.
With English news focused on six metros, the genre is often considered to be niche. And Bahl agrees that this is what BloombergQuint will concentrate on. “In India, the majority of our audience is there. But I think the audience will increase outside this catchment in sometime quickly,” he says. “But we are seeing audiences coming from tier two and three cities. We will provide content to wherever audiences are. We are a nationwide distributed TV property and on the digital front, we want to leave a global footprint.”
“We have a huge source of content at Bloomberg and only hope to cater to a much larger audience in India and globally. Business is not niche; everyone gets affected by it,” adds Ravindranath.
Both he and Bahl pooh-pooh the thought that digital and online is killing linear television. “TV will definitely survive as the core ethos remains the same. No. The commercials have caught up,” says Ravindranath.
“The entire debate is incorrect. It’s not digital versus TV, its linear and nonlinear, static and mobile, family to individualistic”, adds Bahl.
The launches will be heavily promoted on social media and will also see newsroom anchors indulging in social interactive services like Instagram and Whatsapp. "The intention is to push the traffic. Digital promotion is a big thing. We have a full business plan for everything. You just have to wait and watch,” says Ravindranath.
And indeed everyone will be waiting and watching how messrs Bahl and Bloomberg fare in their second innings.