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NEW DELHI : News networks are adding new regional channels, expanding coverage, and hiring reporters to capitalize on growing viewer interest in the West Bengal Assembly elections scheduled for later this month.

Republic World and TV9 have launched Bengali channels in the run-up to the elections, while other news channels are looking at bolstering on-ground reportage, preparing for exit and opinion polls, and other programmes involving hundreds of reporters to help cash in on viewer interest.

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Several networks have set up studios outside Kolkata to add the local flavour and ensure that programming is not limited to the newsroom but travels the entire state.

“Our focus shall remain on providing a 360-degree view of elections to viewers, from educating them about leaders, political parties and agendas, to helping them make an informed choice," said Avinash Pandey, chief executive officer (CEO) of ABP Network. Its Bengali news channel, ABP Ananda, has launched a programming line-up for the elections under the umbrella branding “Banglar Bidhan 2021", which has a bouquet of 15 programming segments with 2,500 hours of content delivered by more than 100 reporters and 12 anchors.

To add cultural and local elements to its coverage, it has set up seven district studios in Tamluk, Durgapur, Barrackpore, Siliguri, Midnapore City, Baharampur, and Cooch Behar for the latest updates. The network’s national channel, meanwhile, will carry flagship programming under the title “Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri".

This election is massive nationally and from a regional perspective, a Republic TV spokesperson said. “We are here not just to become a household habit for Bengali-speaking homes in Bengal and across the world, but also to ensure the voice of the people is heard," he said.

News channels are anticipating significant advertiser interest. Media buyers said that advertising spending on news channels rise by 25-40%, depending on the reach of the channel during elections.

“Election season is the most conducive time to launch regional news channels. There is high interest and curiosity that pulls viewers, which benefits channels in terms of ad revenues. Counting day, in particular, witnesses significantly higher viewership and ad spend," said Dinesh Rathore, CEO of media agency Madison Media Omega.

Big events such as elections motivate advertisers to spend on news platforms, said Ashish Bhasin, CEO, Asia-Pacific, and chairman India, Dentsu. “These events are usually announced much in advance. Therefore, brands tend to plan their budgets accordingly, factoring these big events in their media mix," he said.

Karan Abhishek Singh, CEO, language cluster, News18 Network admitted the elections and the high decibel programming are bringing in eyeballs, as they are being closely watched by viewers not just in the state but across India. “Advertisers naturally follow the viewership," he said adding that he can see huge advertiser interest in in not just Bengal elections but all states that are election bound.

Advertisers across large corporates and local retail are coming on board with elections providing high visibility entry points to new players as well. ABP’s Pandey added that the network has a bunch of sponsors on-board for Banglar Bidhan such as Toptech TMT, Rashmi Cement, Dabur Red Paste, Ajanta Shoes and energy health drink Glucon-D.

Advertiser interest in news genre has remained intact despite absence of viewership data which was paused after the alleged TRP manipulation controversy.

“With ratings being absent for the better part of the year, advertisers are choosing channels on the basis of their content. This offers a unique and wonderful opportunity for channels that are bringing in content that is informative, factual and comprehensive. There is a lot of value for channels which have invested in tech and better-quality content," Singh said adding that ultimately viewers are smart enough to differentiate and go with channels that are factual and neutral.

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