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Strong economic logic underpins several events, says Gurumurthi, as ET Now adds new viewer category

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A while ago, the Times Network decided to embark on a mission to provide more to its business viewers of ET Now. Rather than overdose them with business news 24X7, it decided to show them how general news can also be viewed with a business lens.

Tune into the channel after 5pm and you will get to see development related news – both economic and social, that will give a business viewer a better idea of the sector. It can also be seen as an attempt to get evening viewers, who are generally glued to the general news and debates that follow. ET Now also has general news, shows and debates to engage the upwardly mobile audience.

Managing editor Sandeep Gurumurthy is not only behind-the-scenes but also co-hosts the 9 pm primetime debate ‘Rise with India’. In conversation with Indiantelevision.com’s Shekhar Pundir, Gurumurthy sheds light on the channel's intent to change its positioning and what has come out of it.

1) How has this change from pure business to a mix of offerings benefitted you?

We are truly overwhelmed with the response so far. I don't think any news channel has taken the leap of faith that we have. We sensed a clear need to bring intelligent and informed conversations back on news TV and no other channel saw the merit in putting development at the core of its editorial agenda.

2) How successful have you been in discussing India's holistic development and imagery?

While these are early days, I think we have been very successful in establishing India Development Debate as a leading platform to discuss and debate issues relating to the country’s development. We have received great responses from stakeholders, both in the policy and corporate space. Top ministers and bureaucrats from the government such as Piyush Goyal, Jayant Sinha, Rajiv Kumar and Amitabh Kant, have participated in the show and contributed to finding solutions for the issues we raised.

3) What impact do you see on viewers after about 10 weeks of the shift?

To me, this is more than just repositioning. The entire organisation has morphed into a new entity with a new purpose. This is a tectonic shift and I appreciate the fact that it will take a while for people to understand the importance of this change. A year ago, this seemed unimaginable. Having said that, we have only made a beginning and set ourselves on a path, which is unchartered territory.

5) ET Now's new shows promised to uncover the economics behind major news around us. Please comment on the effect and impact of this strategy.

I think with all these stories, what we are trying to demonstrate is that very often, there is a strong economic logic that underpins a lot of events that happen around us. Our endeavour is to bring that out. You can't reduce news events to binary propositions. That's how we want to make Rise with India, the most intelligent debate show.

7) What would you say makes the show different from the other business shows?

To start with, this isn't a business show at all. This is a news debate show that focuses on development issues. Development is not just economic development but also social development. We have debated issues like hunger, sanitation, etc. which are core to India's development agenda. Tell me another channel or show that is even talking about these issues on prime time?

9) What change in viewership have you noticed?

We have not repositioned the channel with an intent to drive viewership. We don't decide topics based on what will get us eyeballs or drive viewership, we decide topics based on what will create impact and make a difference to India's development agenda. With all humility, that is what we are doing at ET Now. Thanks to our strong brand, we are already one of India's most watched English news channels. I am certain that in this new avatar, ET Now will draw a whole new category of viewers, who have so far stayed away from business news.

10) Wouldn’t most leaders cater to similar topics?

We as leaders definitely believe that these issues needed to be done differently. But we don't want to restrict ourselves to just economic issues. Our agenda is development and we will cover every aspect of it. Most other business channels don't discuss the kind of issues that we do. If they now start doing so, I will only be too happy.

11) What would be ET Now's strategy, going forward?

We want to put development at the core of public discourse. We want to make India Development Debate, India's most influential debate show that leads to change. We want to do whatever we can to aid India's development agenda and help every Indian to rise with India.

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