The channel is being rebranded and named after India Today, its 40-year-old flagship English news magazine, and will be driven by the philosophy that television news can no longer be linear.
Announcing the re-launch of Headlines Today on Wednesday, Kalli Purie, group synergy and creative officer at the India Today Group (ITG), said the new-look channel will be on air in the next few days.
According to her, channels have not kept pace even as the young consumers have moved to a world of seamless news on digital devices.
“Viewers are not waiting for prime time news at 9. It does not work like that any more. They are consuming news throughout the day from other sources even as the television screen has remained linear," she said.
The idea behind the re-launch was to move storytelling from being linear to being non linear as on the web. “You don’t get just one story on the home page. There are a whole host of things to choose from and read or watch," Purie said, adding that India Today was bringing the web philosophy to the television screen.
News is going small-screen and becoming shorter and tighter. People want news boiled down to listicles, quotes and bullets, she said.
ITG CEO Ashish Bagga said India Today will be like a brand new channel with fresh content. “We are moving away from the format where one person is talking down to you for 20 minutes even as you wait for the day’s news. Now you will find it in one of the elements on the screen."
The company is expecting the India Today branding to be a credibility booster and in line with its idea of an integrated newsroom. “We have this mega brand India Today available on the app, web and in print. Television was the missing link so we have closed the loop," Purie said.
A media practice leader at a consulting firm, however, pointed out that the company need not have changed the brand name of the channel to reap the benefits of an integrated newsroom. The news supply from different sources would still have been available to the brand. “Unless Headlines Today was not working for them and they wanted to leverage their flagship India Today branding," the person said, requesting anonymity.
Bagga agreed that the gravitas and authority of the India Today brand name was missing in Headlines Today. “Nobody in the news space has a brand like India Today," he said.
Will rebranding the channel work for advertisers? Shashi Sinha, chief executive officer of IPG Media Brands, India, said that prima facie just a rebranding exercise will not draw viewers. “But the company seems to be doing a lot of new things on the channel in a different way including fresh weekend programming. If that pulls in customers, it will help. Advertising follows eyeballs," he said.
The new-look channel also lends itself to innovative advertising options on the screen, said Purie. “We’re open to unobtrusive native advertising. It will be an advertiser’s delight as well as welcomed by the editorial, which does not want ad breaks during breaking news," she said.
A handful of English news channels and competitors to Headlines Today, including Times NOW, CNN-IBN, NDTV 24X7, among others, pull in an estimated ₹ 400 crore in advertising. The company will start its advertising campaign in the next couple of days. Ogilvy and Mather’s executive chairman and national creative director Piyush Pandey has created the campaign for India Today.
Living Media, the holding company of TV Today Network, holds 57% in the broadcaster.