TV18 to rebrand news channels, refresh content

For starters, CNN-IBN will be rebranded as CNN News18, complete with a new logo

New Delhi: TV18 Broadcast Ltd, the news network that is part of the billionaire Mukesh Ambani-controlled Network18 Media and Investments Ltd, is in the middle of a rebranding and content-refreshing exercise. The company, which operates English news channel CNN-IBN, Hindi news channel IBN7 and Marathi news channel IBN Lokmat, will unveil the new look on 18 April.

For starters, CNN-IBN will be rebranded as CNN News18, complete with a new logo. The news channel is not only getting a new studio designed by US-based Broadcast Design International Inc., but is also rebranding its news website ibnlive.com as news18.com.

The company is refreshing its content as well. The English news channel will leverage its content partnership with American broadcaster Cable News Network (CNN) Inc. and use the latter’s programmes, including its flagship foreign affairs show hosted by Fareed Zakaria.

Once that is done, TV18 Broadcast will do the same with IBN7 and IBN Lokmat.

To be sure, the rebranding was first discussed by Reliance Industries Ltd and its subsidiary TV18 Broadcast in December 2015 when TV18 renewed its branding and content tie-up with CNN for the long term.

“When we revisited the CNN partnership... the view was to create a channel that meets global standards. Directionally, we are all working towards this, which is why investments are being made in the business," said Avinash Kaul, chief executive at TV18 Broadcast Ltd.

But Kaul declined to reveal the size of the investments.

The investments aren’t just in marketing or production. Kaul said the company is investing in news-gathering staff as well as the revamp of the entire infrastructure across channels, beginning with general news.

“The plan includes building a new studio, hiring more people, sending camera crews/reporters to ground zero. It’s getting back to the basics," Kaul said.

From being a leader in the news broadcast sector, CNN-IBN has, over the past two years, seen its ratings slip.

As per the latest data from TV ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc), CNN-IBN was ranked third after Times Now and India Today in the 2-8 April period, while IBN7 did not make it to the top five in the Hindi news category.

Although the relaunch is not just about ratings, “you will see things improve", Kaul said.

To aggressively grow its digital business, Network18 appointed Manish Maheshwari as the chief executive officer of Web18 last month. Maheshwari was previously the head of e-commerce company Flipkart’s seller marketplace and ecosystem division.

“It’s a shift in thinking in terms of how to best leverage digital media," Kaul said, adding that more such appointments will be announced in the coming months.

According to brand expert Santosh Desai, chief executive and managing director at Future Brands, TV18 seems to be in the middle of a harmonization exercise.

“It is trying to aggregate everything it has under one brand with News18. This is probably the first step in a larger game plan. By itself, it’s not very meaningful, but over a period of time, if it builds and invests in the brand, it could give it dividends. For a news network, it makes sense to put everything under one larger brand," he said.

TV18 Broadcast posted a net profit of 45.5 crore in the three months to December, an increase of 35% from 33.51 crore in the year-ago period.

On Wednesday, TV18 Broadcast shares rose 0.81% to 37.30, while the benchmark Sensex gained 1.9% to 25,626.75 points.

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