com Branding the News Channels in India With close to 30 channels dotting the Indian skies and a few more in the offing, news is without doubt the most happening segment in the television industry. As per a recent study by TAM Media Research, the category witnessed a whopping 74 per cent growth in viewer-ship in 2004, and is slated to grow further this year. However, the entry of more news channels has also made for a lot of clutter in the market, making channels realise the need for brand building. While channels such as Aaj Tak (Sabse Tez) and Star News (Aapko Rakhe Aage) have positioned themselves on the speed and high impact plank, Zee News claims to offer the most in-depth coverage. NDTV has positioned itself on the truth platform, while Channel 7 claims to bring to its viewers everything that revolves around life, with its Zindagi Live tagline. The new entrant in the news space market CNN-IBN is banking on hardcore journalism aspect. It is quite easy to break loyalty on television as all one needs to do is switch channels. Therefore, it is essential for the news channels to tell the viewers where their core competence lies - whether their channel's strength lies in delivering news faster than the rest, or whether it specializes in providing the most in-depth information. The Branding Exercise The first and the most important component of branding is to have an appealing logo, which reflects the strengths as well as the characteristics of the news channel. A lot of news companies prefer to use bright colours like red and orange as they are very appealing to the eye. To ensure greater brand recall, channels are investing in redoing their logos, which are designed to be in sync with their brand message. The Star News logo, for instance, underwent a major face-lift recently, with the help of BBC Broadcast Design, which, according to a spokesperson from the channel, has been designed to reflect the channel's promise to impact the lives of its viewers. In order to enable people to sample its channel, Star News has tied up with the Mumbai and Delhi airports to play the channel in their lounges. Channels such as Aaj Tak are trying to expand their viewership through cross-promotions on other channels such as Sony and MTV. A recent trend has emerged in branding the new news channels. New or soonto-be-launched news companies, to bring more credibility in their news, are tying-up with global news companies. Take for example, CNN-IBN. It is a joint venture between TV 18 Group, GBN (promoted by Radeep Sardesai, former Managing Editor of NDTV) and Turner International. Similarly, Times Now, an English news channel from BCCL, owners of popular newspapers like The Times of India, The Economic Times, Femina, etc., has collaborated with Reuters.

Such tie-ups and partnerships not only manage to add to the content and infrastructure of news channels, but also help in bringing in credibility to the news channels, thereby helping them in brand building. However, the biggest brand building for a news channel happens when its journalists (or Reporters) become brand in themselves. Lets discuss a few journalists that have become Brands, and thereby, helped (in some cases) build the brand of that news channel: 1. Prannoy Roy Talk of NDTV, and the first name that you think of is Dr. Prannoy Roy. The two are synonymous. Dr. Roy attended The Doon School, Dehradun, and went to Haileybury (UK) for his A-levels. He graduated in Economics from London University's Queen Mary College in 1973. Then, he got his Ph.D. from the Delhi School of Economics where he also taught for a year. He worked as Chartered Accountant for sometime and later joined PWC, India, before moving over to television. He rose to fame with the program The World This Week and the election coverage with Vinod Dua on Doordarshan. He has also worked for the Star TV. He specializes in covering elections. . Rajdeep Sardeasai He was the host of the award-winning talk show The Big Fight on NDTV 24x7, India's leading English news channel. He has also won numerous awards for media journalism. Rajdeep is the son of the former Indian Test cricketer Dilip Sardesai and Nandini Sardesai, an activist in Mumbai and Head of the Dept of Sociology, St Xavier's College. He started his career with TOI, and thereafter, moved to NDTV for a long stint. He was the Managing Editor of NDTV when he quit. He has formed Global Broadcast News (GBN), and with Turner International has launched CNN-IBN. Rajdeep Sardesai can be credited of bringing the initial eyeballs to CNN-IBN after its launch in December, 2005. If CNN-IBN were to be a big brand name in the future, it would largely be because of Rajdeep Sardesai, who today is a bigger brand than his own channel. 3. Barkha Dutt Barkha Dutt is a popular television journalist with NDTV, India. She rose to fame due to her excellent coverage of the Kargil War in 1999. She is hailed as the "Indian Christiane Amanpour". She hosts popular talkshow We The People in NDTV. Barkha is currently the Managing Editor of NDTV, a place she took over from Rajddep when the latter left the organization. The list is long. The reason for the same is that most of the Indian English News Channels have followed the popular American Concept of building brands out of their journalists. This in the long-run has hurt NDTV as the rival companies have poached its popular brands like Rajdeep Sardesai, Arnab Goswami, Anubha Bhosale and others.

"In the long run, it is the product that speaks - Nothings gonna beat the content" Krishnan of TV Today says there is only one way to break the clutter and that can be done by delivering a great product to the viewer. "He is bound to choose it among the rest. Hence, it's very important to have one's ear to the ground and gauge the pulse of the viewer." The biggest challenge for news channels today, says M. G. Parameswaran, Executive Director, FCB-Ulka, is delivering the brand promise through their content. "News has to become conceptually and fundamentally different, something that is not yet happening," says Shankar of Star News. He says it is high time news channels sit up and think about what the viewer wants. Customised news bulletins, focus on local news and news with more impact and a varied range of features, among others, could be a key differentiator, he says. As news channels begin to experiment with new programme formats, industry experts foresee immense fragmentation of categories and specialization in the coming years. The industry has seen two specialized Business news channels: CNBC TV 18 and NDTV Profit. The market is abuzz with rumors about a fourth channel by NDTV on Lifestyle and Leisure news. The 'War for News' is not only limited to the Idiotbox alone. Another battlefield and a weapon for brand building for the news channels are their respective websites. The news companies have begun to see them as a separate business model and not only as a logical extension to their news on their news channels. NDTV in its quarterly report in December claimed that NDTV.com had been a successful brand in itself and it would like to bring further utility to the viewers through e-commerce transactions and other related stuff. Competing with the same are the likes of Moneycontrol and IBNLive. The space of news is just hotting up...

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