While most channels run websites with stories in text, video clips on news and cover softer lifestyle subjects such as film, food and fashion floating on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, some others are going beyond it. For instance, the India Today Group has digital-first new-age brands like The Lallantop, its YouTube channel collating both opinion and news, and digital channels such as News Tak, Sports Tak, Food Tak and others that cover topics across sports, movies, politics, astrology, food, technology, humour, fashion and news, available across YouTube and Twitter. It has also ensured live broadcast feed is available for digital audiences through snippets and videos on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
ABP Network that has seen threefold growth for its digital platform like the ABP Live app between January 2020 and 2021, has recently launched ABP Nadu, an online news platform for Tamil Nadu. Broadcasters said they increasingly want to create more content for YouTube and Facebook which deliver maximum eyeballs, close to 30 million subscribers in case of some YouTube channels.
According to the Ficci-EY media and entertainment report of March 2021, the online news audience grew to 450 million in 2020. India has the second largest digital population in the world at 468 million and time spent online increased 32% in 2020.
“Along with continuously bolstering and consolidating leadership on our legacy brands, we are also focusing on digital-first new-age brands that resonate with millennials and Gen Z,” said Salil Kumar, chief executive officer, India Today Group Digital referring to The Lallantop as well as the digital Tak Channels covering various genres.
On the audio front, the network has Aaj Tak Radio, its online platform for news, music and podcasts.
“Creating content for digital platforms and broadcast is like multi-tasking because the two are very different media and you can’t just air your live feed online,” said a senior executive at a news channel declining to be named. Digital platforms owned by news channels can see engagement from more than 150 million people per month on one platform, including and especially if they offer regional language content, he said.
An ABP Network spokesperson agreed that the business of digital content is going vernacular, making Tamil Nadu and the launch of its news platform ABP Nadu, an attractive opportunity for audiences and advertisers alike. The network that has witnessed 250% growth on digital between 2019 and 2022, added that ABP Nadu has managed to appeal to Tamil audiences within two months and notched up 3.2 million users.
“Currently, we are not putting our digital content behind paywall but it is a promising model and we will be exploring the same in the near future,” the person said.
A Republic TV spokesperson said value growth for the company is coming from video and content marketing whereas volume is driven by text content. Republic operates a website with both videos and text and the television feed can also be viewed online.
“Our online linear content consumption (from TV) has scaled up tremendously over the last three years as we do partnerships across OTTs and Telcos,” he said. Last year, Republic partnered with Flipkart Video, for its live news coverage to be available round-the-clock on the app. The channel is also present on streaming platforms and news aggregators such as DailyHunt, Hotstar, Jio, Vodafone Play, Ola Play, Justdial, Paytm, Zee5, Airtel TV, Tata Sky, among others.
“Our focus on text publishing has been largely concentrated in the English space and limited in Hindi. Our focus in FY 21-22 is to invest in and scale up (content in) languages especially Hindi, Bengali and a few others,” the person said.
He added that the global content distribution landscape is changing rapidly and there is opportunity for the network to go behind paywall in certain international markets with video. “In the Indian market, the focus will be on growing the base and making the content easily accessible. There could be pockets for subscription within long form and audio over time,” he said.
To be sure, nine months without ratings by BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) India post the alleged TRP scam, news channels across languages have managed to sustain both viewership and advertising on the TV front, said channel owners and media experts. However, it is not entirely a smooth sail.
“In the Indian TV ecosystem, the news genre clocks in 8-12% of overall channel share. During the first lockdown, when there was an overall increase, news viewership too had grown by two times. The big challenge for news channels is sustaining this level of interest from the advertisers in the long run,” said Mansi Datta, chief client officer and head – north and east at media agency Wavemaker India. “While the lack of data has not affected news channels at large in the short run, advertisers have started demanding output measures on them. Smaller channels, long tail channels have a hard time getting inventory demands. Surrogate parameters like YouTube views can be seen but they are not an alternate form of measurement,” Datta pointed out.
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