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Republic Bharat, Hindi news channel, to launch Q1 of 2019

Experts feel Hindi channel will widen audience base & reach of Republic brand

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MUMBAI: Well, it’s finally happening and at an opportune moment too. Ahead of announcement of dates for the general elections or India’s great dance of democracy, Arnab Goswami-helmed Republic TV is getting its Hindi sibling to debut in the first quarter of 2019 with a reliable industry insisting the launch could be sometime in January itself.

Republic TV CEO Vikas Khanchandani, who confirmed to Indiantelevision.com about the Hindi news channel from the family, however, refused to give a firm date for going on air. He deftly side-stepped queries on the Republic Bharat (in short format it would be known as R Bharat) launch date by saying it would be in the first quarter of 2019.

According to the Khanchandani, the Hindi sibling of Republic TV will have Shamsher Singh as its editor. Singh has over 20 years of experience and has worked with leading television news channels, including India News, Zee Hindustan and Aaj Tak.

The Hindi news genre has more than 20 TV channels. Aaj Tak from the India Today Group leads the audience numbers game in all the three markets comprising urban plus rural (U+R), rural and urban.

Why choose a name like Republic Bharat, especially when the company had run into problems on the christening of Republic TV?

 Pointing out that `India’ is equated with `Bharat’, Khanchandani said, “Republic Bharat or R. Bharat resonated with all of us and we were instantly drawn to it. It has stood out as a differentiator and as a name that smashes the clutter. The name is powerful and will connect with the audiences across HSM markets. The audiences will embrace Bharat.”

On its debut last year, Republic TV had not only smashed the audience measurement numbers, but also unsettled some legacy players who had even questioned the way audience data was obtained by the then new entrant. That after several rounds of slug fest all the players kissed and made up was another story altogether.

However, industry observers believe that if the success of the noisy English news channel Republic TV is any indication, the parent is bound to deliver a strong platform in the Hindi space too.

According to media reports, earlier in June this year Republic TV had circulated a note through a financial consultancy firm based out of Gurugram stating that the company was planning to raise capital of around Rs 120 crore (Rs. 1,200 million) to set up a Hindi news channel. The investor note also stated Republic TV had “overachieved” its projected revenue and profitability estimates to close FY18 with Rs 155 cores (Rs. 1550 million) in revenue and planned to close FY19 with close to Rs 2 billion in revenues.

KPMG India partner and head- media and entertainment Girish Menon told Indiantelevision.com, “Hindi news is the largest [segment] when it comes to news channels in terms of audience share. Given the brand value and equity Republic TV has, it makes sense to diversify into the Hindi space too.”

Highlighting that Republic TV’s parent has a “comparable digital channel” and adding Hindi to that platform will give it a wider user base, Menon added, “Brands will obviously get access to a much wider audience base. From an audience perspective, Hindi has a bigger base than English. The success, however, will depend on the content strategy and how it plays out with the viewers.”

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