Home >industry >News channels expect surge in viewership in election run-up

New Delhi: TV news channels expect to make a killing in April and May as their viewership increases in the run-up to the 16th Lok Sabha election.

According to estimates by media buyers, advertising on news channels could spike by 250 crore in the two months; the annual advertising revenue of news channels is currently around 2000 crore. The viewership of these channels could increase by as much as 25-30% in this period, said Naveen Khemka, managing partner Zenith Optimedia, a media buying agency of the Omnicom Publicis Group. Indeed, on 16 May—counting day—as many as six out every 10 people watching TV in India will be glued to a news channel (or switching between news channels).

The Lok Sabha election commences on 7 April and will go on till 12 May, in nine phases.

Dabur India Ltd, the maker of Real juices and Vatika hair oil, will leverage the politically charged environment in the country over the next one-and-a-half months, said an executive. “Given the fact that consumer interest in the news genre is growing and people are keenly following news during the election time, Dabur is strengthening its presence across news channels this election," said Devender Garg, senior executive director (consumer care business) at Dabur. Garg did not specify the amount the company would spend during the period.

Network18, which runs CNN-IBN, IBN and CNBC-TV18, has signed deals with Hero MotoCorp Ltd, oral care brand Sensodyne, real estate firm Ajnara Real Estate, Greenlam Laminates and Japanese consumer durable maker Panasonic.

“Everybody is looking at the elections as a media opportunity. It is sort of like a festival of democracy. This is one election where the outcome will impact the lives of people; there is so much curiosity," said Sanjay Dua, chief executive officer (CEO) at Network18 News Media.

One of the sponsors on Network18 has locked in half its annual marketing budget for the election, he added, declining to name the brand or specify the amount.

The story is similar at New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) which has signed deals with Hero MotoCorp, the Muthoot Group, Luminous Power Technologies Pvt. Ltd and Kent RO Systems Ltd.

Rates for ad spots have increased as much as 15 times, claimed Smeeta Chakravarty, president, revenue, NDTV Group.

Competing with news channels is sports channel Sony SIX, the official broadcaster of the popular Twenty20 league, the Indian Premier League (IPL). Several of the matches have been shifted to the United Arab Emirates on account of the forthcoming election.

“With political conversations now being amplified across digital and print, and with social conversations around politics peaking, total volume of advertising time on media will be split," said Mallikarjun Das, CEO, India, Starcom MediaVest Group.

Indeed, some brands seem to have made up their mind—in favour of the election.

Kent RO, the company that manufacturers water purifiers, has booked advertising spots on various news channels. “We will continue to air our regular campaigns albeit across news channels and general entertainment channels (GECs)," said Mahesh Gupta, chairman, Kent RO. Although Kent RO was a regular on IPL, Gupta said the company will take a call on IPL advertising by the end of this week.

News channels have always done well during elections, admit experts, but one adds that this year is still different because several brands are trying to enter the conversation themselves.

“Election related brand advertising is not new but there is definitely a spurt this year compared to previous elections," said C.V.L. Srinivas, CEO (South Asia), GroupM, one of the largest media-buying agencies of WPP Inc. Srinivas added that there is a heightened awareness about the importance of elections leading to a lot more intense following in media than ever before. Media—both television and print—have maximized their coverage of election-related news, he said.

“To add to the excitement we have over 200 million citizens on digital media today. They are talking, sharing, listening and posting comments every minute. All this adds up to elections becoming a high impact platform for brands to leverage."

Vikram Grover, vice-president and head marketing, India and South Asia, Tata Global Beverages Ltd, said brands will make a choice between elections and IPL depending on their target audience.

For “Jago Re", Tata Tea’s perennial campaign (focused on voter awareness), these elections win hands down, he added. Tata Tea ads will be seen on general entertainment channels and across news channels both national and regional. “Since our campaign and idea is centred around the theme of voting, we will definitely be more visible on news channels both in Hindi and English," added Grover.

That’s not surprising, said an expert.

Elections are a “tactical opportunity" for “male-centric and mass-market brands", said Satyajit Sen, CEO, Zenith Optimedia, the media-buying agency of the Publicis Omnicom Group.

Still, said one media executive, the spike in advertising revenue of news channels would have been sharper if the economy had been in better shape.

“If the economy and all other indicators were right we would have seen a bigger media and economic opportunity in the elections," said Avinash Kaul, CEO at Times Now, ET Now and Zoom operated by the Times Television Network. He believes this is not a staggering number.

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