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“India Today TV has become a very strong alternative to the noise that dominated news television:” Ashish Bagga

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May 2015 marked the re-branding of the English news channel Headlines Today as India Today Television. The group cited research conducted by the group, which showed higher brand recall value for India Today than Headlines Today as the reason for the name change. The change immediately showed results as it saw India Today Television toppling market leader Times Now to claim position as the leading English news channel in terms of viewership according to BARC ratings in the first week of its re-launch. 

The journey from there on has been a good one for the channel as it has maintained the number two rank on the ratings chart. The challenge now is to take it to the top and sustain the pole position.   

In an interview to Indiantelevision.com’s Seema Singh, India Today group CEO Ashish Bagga talks about the journey so far and the plans ahead.

Excerpts:

It has been seven weeks since the channel revamped to India Today TV. How has the response been?

Of late, the English news television genre was dominated and characterised by loud debates with little being added to viewers’ usable knowledge. The last seven weeks have witnessed a starkly different product with a clear vision to take forward the 40 year legacy of the India Today brand.

The launch has been amongst the most successful media launches in recent times with the channel showing considerable growth from the launch week itself as per BARC ratings. A lot of the success of the new channel can be credited to the brand strength of India Today along with the new content strategy, dynamic visual format and robust marketing that added to the increased popularity of the channel. The success of the launch has been very promising especially as the channel is built on the same ‘Gold Standard’ of journalism of the India Today brand. This clearly underlines that the brand extension was the right decision and the product has become a very strong alternative to the noise that dominated news television.

What was the channel’s positioning in the ratings chart before the revamp? What is the percentage hike in viewership that you have witnessed after revamping?

On a comparative level with Headlines Today, the average weekly market share for a four week period since the launch of India Today Television has increased from 11 per cent to 23 per cent. (four weeks average of last available data from TAM Week 10 to Week 13, CS 25+ M AB Top 6 Metros and post launch four week ratings as per BARC Week 21 to Week 24, CS 22+ M NCCS AB Top 6 Metros: Table below).

The launch of India Today Television showed the highest growth, of almost 110 per cent in market share over Headlines Today, while most other channels showed negative movement during the same period.

This positive growth clearly establishes the acceptance of the India Today brand among news viewers.

How has the revamp helped the channel in attaining the number two rank? What were the changes that were made in the channel, that worked in favour?

India Today Television was launched on a philosophy of keeping the India Today ethos of journalism at the core, while being relevant to the evolved news audience. This philosophy called for a paradigm change in TV news delivery formats to make the channel the definitive knowledge source. The most radical change was in the form of a pioneering visual format, which integrates digital interactivity and makes it possible for multiple news updates simultaneously on the screen. The digitally inspired screen with innovative elements like the roller deck has redefined the news viewing experience on television.

The immense pull of the India Today brand along with a renewed content strategy designed to be a knowledge source had the viewership of the channel grow from the launch week itself.

Has there been a shift in the positioning and target audience of the channel post the revamp due to which it has started gaining eyeballs?

The content strategy is built on the principle to be the ‘fact factory’ as against an ‘outrage factory.’ Therefore the new positioning builds on the ethos of the India Today mega brand and goes after the viewer that seeks knowledge as against entertainment. The channel is engineered to cater to the viewer’s intelligence and to specifically appeal to a progressive audience that is seamlessly consuming news across platforms.

The focussed promotions around the launch of the channel saw a lot of additional viewers who were drawn to the channel due to its distinct offering. 

What is your strategy now to ensure that you move to the top position or maintain the current position?

India Today Television is slated to become the No. 1 English News channel backed with a journalism that builds on the values that have defined news in the country for around four decades. The convergence has created synergy of content that will see the launch of a series of new shows. In addition, a lot of thought leadership event properties are lined up that are sure to provide the channel with unrivalled content. We will continue with focussed marketing for the brand to keep it ahead in preference.

Though the growth in ratings has been very encouraging, our focus will be to make India Today TV a knowledge source by staying true to the same principles of journalism that had kept the magazine brand an undisputed leader. 

How much of a role has distribution played in the numbers that the channel has achieved?

It was a tactical booster made to facilitate and give the new brand enough sampling. This intervention seems to have done its job.

What has been the response from advertisers?

The consistent ratings of the channel from the launch week itself has created a steady increase in advertising. We are targeting shorter commercial breaks and increased premium. The value that the channel provides to advertisers has led to an increase in advertising and premium has definitely grown manifold for marquee shows led by Rajdeep Sardesai, Karan Thapar and Rahul Kanwal.

What is the channel’s perception on BARC ratings and measurement mechanism?

The channel’s focus towards excellence in journalism is clearly being reflected in the ratings. We are happy that the measurement system by BARC provides a robust and scientific measurement tool for viewership trends. We had in fact used the BARC system very effectively to build on the launch media plan.

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