These are the happy days for the English News Genre as it has witnessed a phenomenal growth of 45 per cent in its viewership from 1.6 million impressions in Week 7 (February 11-17, 2016) to 2.4 million impressions in Week 10 (March 4 – 10, 2017) according to ratings from BARC India. In fact all the channels in this genre witnessed a viewership spike going as high as 118 per cent for the same time period.
The growth trajectory
Media experts attribute this spurt in growth to the expansion of BARC universe, BARC’s Broadcast India study recorded a 19 per cent increase from 153 million TV households in 2015 to 183 million TV households. Also with BARC’s revised Universe Estimate, Week 8 (February 18-24) has seen a significant increase of 18 per cent in Total TV viewership in the country. Total TV impressions have grown from 22.7 billion in week 7 to 26.7 billion impressions in week 8.
Harish Shriyan, COO, Omnicom Media Group India shares his view, “Given an expansion of the universe, the share of news genre too increased and there is a huge potential for this genre to grow. Also, a lot of political and election news/results have led to an increase in the genre share.”
Vikas Khanchandani, CEO, Republic, credits it to the ‘English Users.’ He explains, “English has always co-existed in the Indian subcontinent alongside thousands of local languages. So for most of the population, it has only ever been a second language. It is estimated that there are over 340 million ‘English Users’ in India. English Users by definition mean individuals that have some understanding of English and ‘use’ English to read the occasional message, seek help and instructions etc. The numbers that speak the language is estimated at 90 million and the numbers that can read is small. Hence the numbers consuming English video content is far higher than those reading in English.”
He further adds, “The Broadcast India (BI 2016) study by BARC also captures the key changes vis-a-vis IRS 13, i.e. Growth in SEC A, B & C and decline in D & E which indicates the growth in standard of living. Also, there is a key trend line highlighting the growth in nuclear families, which is also expanding the market.”
Khanchandani refers to the fact that the study highlights that TV HHs have grown faster in NCCS B and C, thus increasing the share of the middle class. While NCCS A has dropped from 22 to 21 per cent, NCCS B and C have gone up from 24 to 27 per cent and 31 to 32 per cent respectively. NCCS D/E on the other hand has de-grown from 23 to 20 per cent. These trends are in line with fragmentation of family sizes (leading to lower average family sizes) and rising economic growth and rising prosperity. It also shows that India has more nuclear families without elders than ever before, and it is also the dominant family group among TV owning homes. While composition of joint families in the universe has come down from 26 to 22 per cent, nuclear families with elders have grown from 53 to 58 per cent.
Sam Balsara, Chairman and Managing Director of Madison World, feels positive about the growth but cautions the industry not to get carried away by it, “The Indian market is expected to move gradually from a pyramid shape to a diamond shape and therefore this movement is in line with that expectation. As this happens it is good news for all consumer products as the market will expand rapidly. English is an aspirational language in India and signals the ‘arrival’ of a common man. For niche genres in particular any viewership data should be seen as a rough guideline and not the absolute truth since sampling errors will be high.”
A good time for a new player?
“Going forward across genres there will be a consolidation, there will be no more than three players in each genre. We have been hearing of new channels and Republic is an eminent launch,” opines Ashish Bhasin, Chairman and CEO South Asia Dentsu Aegis Network.
A 45 per cent spike in the recent weeks in the English news genre viewership maybe indicative of growth in this genre in time to come.
All eyes seems to be on the much spoken about Republic, slated to launch in the near future, while industry insiders confirm that Arnab Goswami’s Republic has got its license and is slated to be launched in the next few weeks, only time will tell how the much touted and spoken about new channel is able to cash on and sustain viewership growth.
Khanchandani says, “The growth in English News viewership is good for the entire genre. This will expand the revenue pie for the genre. Republic will continue to innovate on formats, make the content more inclusive in the way news is delivered which will help expand the genre. Our content attracts more youth than the youth-focused channels which is yet another key differentiator compared to all others. The same will reflect in our strategic business partnerships and advertisers. Team Republic will work with brands and agency partners to create solutions and impact. I am seeing greater traction for English News in newer and under-leveraged categories of business including FMCG. I am confident of what team Republic will deliver on both content and its monetisation.”
Balsara is also confident that Republic will be able to make the most of the increase in English News viewership given ‘Arnab’s brand of content.’ He says, “Arnab has a good equity and a good following, so irrespective of the growth of the genre, his channel will do well, if he gets the other elements of his marketing mix, especially distribution, right.”
Challenges set ahead
However also Balsara points out that ‘distribution and a fat bank balance’ are the challenges for a new channel in the current market.
Bhasin agrees with an emphasis on good revenue model, “It is not easy to launch a new channel in today’s time as there are high costs. Plus, extensive brand building is needed and, very importantly, a good revenue model. Above all what will make a channel succeed is content and in this case who give better news.”
Shriyan adds, “I strongly believe there seems to be a huge vacuum of a strong leading anchor personality in the news space today. The challenge for a news channel is to ensure the viewer is clued on to it. News is a serious business and it should be treated that way.”
Khanchandani lists out, “There are several challenges for any new media in a fragmented market. There are challenges in distribution, marketing, talent and monetization. In my view it’s a phenomenal time for media in general as technology is reducing the entry barrier and truly good content is winning.” He is confident that Republic is all geared up to weather all form of challenges as they are here ‘for the marathon and not a sprint.’