New Delhi: Rival television journalists scrambled to grab space, sound bytes and talking heads on the lawns of Vijay Chowk near Parliament as the political high drama over Tuesday’s confidence vote reached its climactic moments. News channels drafted their best-known faces and deployed the latest in broadcast equipment to enable studio-like shots from camps pitched on the lawns. Sometimes it became a danger zone for prominent politicians buttonholed by journalists from competing channels who tried to literally drag them to their makeshift studios.
The effort may have paid off, judging from television viewership figures for Monday when the debate started. The average viewership of Hindi news channels went up by 10% on Monday compared with a week ago, according to data from Audience Measurement and Analytics Ltd. The top 13 Hindi news channels registered an average rating of 0.63 on 21 July, against the average rating of 0.57 on 15 July.
Live feed: A makeshift studio of a news channel outside Parliament on Tuesday. (Photo: Rajeev Dabral / Mint)
Lok Sabha TV, which is telecasting the proceedings directly, gained the most, garnering a GRP (gross rating point) of 1.0 on 21 July. GRP is a measure of aggregated viewership during a period of time, in this case over a day.
Tuesday’s bitter debate and vote in the lower house of Parliament are likely to have snared many more viewers. The increase in viewership led to a scramble among advertisers to get on board and according to executives at two news channels and a media buyer, some leading channels jacked up the prices of their ad spots by around 200-300%. “Existing advertisers get the same rates. We are only charging new advertisers a premium,” said the CEO of a leading Hindi news channel. None of the executives wanted to be identified.
A senior executive at TV Today Network Ltd, broadcaster of Aaj Tak and Headlines Today channels, however, said its ad inventory had been sold out early on and no last-minute sales were taking place.
“It’s true we are getting a lot of enquiries. People are offering 50-80% premium, which I’m sure will go up if we were to negotiate. But we are honouring the commitment to advertisers who booked early on and are not entertaining last- minute sales. There is no spot available,” said Rajnish Rikhy, senior vice-president for ad sales at TV Today.
One media buyer said she asked her team to make sure their campaigns that were booked early on were not knocked off and the slots auctioned off to the highest bidder. “We have booked our campaigns early. It was known a long time ago that there would be trust vote today. It is the people who woke up yesterday that are paying a premium,” said Nandini Dias, chief operating officer, Lodestar Universal.
News channels do not have direct access to the Lok Sabha. Lok Sabha TV, a division of the Lok Sabha secretariat, alone has the access to the proceedings inside. This channel, however, accepts ads only from government departments and public sector undertakings.
“Our rates are fixed at Rs500-800 per 10 seconds,” said Sunit Tandon, who was recently named chief executive of the channel. Private news channels are supposed to buy the feed from Lok Sabha TV, for which the channel charges Rs1 lakh during the general budget, rail budget and special occasions such as the trust vote. But this time, only one channel has paid so far, Tandon said. Others are just using the feed without authorization.
“We are monitoring the usage and we shall request them to pay the very nominal rates that have been fixed,” Tandon added.
Live proceedings of the Lok Sabha were also broadcast over the Internet on the Lok Sabha website but by early evening, those who tried to tune in received this message: “Server has reached its capacity and can serve no more streams.Please try again later.”