Ahmedabad: Two of Gujarat’s leading regional news dailies—Gujarat Samachar and Sandesh—plan to start regional news channels in the next month or so to take advantage of a gap in the market ahead of assembly elections to be held in December.
Sandesh Ltd announced its intention to start a TV channel in a newspaper advertisement last month, having decided on this course in
The Gujarat Samachar group has been readying its plans for two years, although, pending a full-fledged entry into the business, it ran a cable news channel in Ahmedabad that was discontinued a few months ago.
Promoter Shreyans Shah and his family have set up Aas Paas Multi Media Ltd for the new venture. The media house wants to start a Hindi news channel once the Gujarati channel is up and running, said a senior group executive.
Unlike other regional languages, there aren’t too many Gujarati news channels, with most of the audience preferring to watch the Hindi national networks, rather than incumbents such as TV9 Gujarati and VTV Gujarati.
Gujarat Samachar and Sandesh expect to bring their experience in print to bear on the TV business.
“There is a lack of quality content in existing Gujarati news channels,” said Parthiv Patel, managing director of Sandesh. “This forces viewers to switch to Hindi or English news channels. The national channels can’t go local, but we can do that given our 80 years of strong presence in news.”
He said the assembly elections offer the right platform to establish a news channel, given the rise in viewership traditionally seen during such an event. Meanwhile, the state’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is also planning a channel, Namo Gujarat, named after chief minister Narendra Modi, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday.
According to a TAM media research, the television rating point (TRP) share of existing Gujarati news channels rose to 1.45 from 1.27 in the six months ended June from the year earlier. The new entrants see scope for this to increase further.
The current market for television advertisements in Gujarat is at least Rs.400-500 crore, a majority of which goes to the national channels, said Rahul Sharma, manager (planning and buying), DDB Mudra Group, a leading advertising agency.
“The cost of advertisement in regional channels is very low compared with national channels,” Sharma said. “Reputed media houses like Gujarat Samachar and Sandesh can make a mark here with their new channels. The existing channels are not rich in terms of content and presentation. Elections also have a major role to play as the political parties would like to focus on regional advertisements.”
The cost of reaching one person through a television commercial is about 80 paise to Rs.1, five-six times lower than print, he said. The new Gujarat-based channels could see this price coming down.
Sandesh has entered into an arrangement with a Mumbai-based company for the new channel, which will be called Sandesh Samachar. Recruitment of the TV team is almost complete and the operation will use part of the existing infrastructure at Sandesh House in Ahmedabad.
Gujarat Samachar is the most popular newspaper in the state with an average readership of 4.5 million, followed by DB Corp Ltd’s Divya Bhaskar with 3.6 million and Sandesh with 3.3 million, according to Indian Readership Survey data for the second quarter of 2012.
The GSTV Aas Paas channel that Shreyans Shah heads will operate out of a new 12,000 sq. ft facility in western Ahmedabad. The group, which made an unsuccessful attempt at starting a news channel in 2001-2002, has spent about Rs.20 crore on the latest TV bid.
“We will have a staff of over 100 people. Besides regular news, we will also focus on areas like education, skill-based programmes and documentaries,” said Dhiren Avashia, media adviser, Vanguard, which is advising Aas Paas Multi-media.
India’s largest media house, Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd (publisher of The Times of India), holds a 12.16% stake in Sandesh and the two have signed an agreement in 2006 for cooperation in advertising sales, marketing and printing.
“It remains to be seen if Sandesh explores this agreement for their news channel,” Sharma said.
Patel of Sandesh declined to comment on the issue.
(The products of HT Media Ltd, the publisher of Mint, compete in some markets with those of Bennett, Coleman and Co.)