INDIA: New TV channels to cash in on polls

Elections are round the corner and it’s boom time for the media

The Times of India
Sunday, December 28, 2003

By Seban Scaria

HYDERABAD: Elections are round the corner and it’s boom time for the media. To cash in on this glut of news, the city is about to see the launch of three new Telugu TV channels which will beam news 24x7.

How these channels, likely to be floated in the new year,will do after the polls are over, is in the realm of speculation. But for now, the planners are sure they’ll catch the eyeballs and rake in the moolah, especially since the elections are round the bend.

“The plan is to make use of the viewer base we create during the election coverage. There’s no other way, at least in the immediate future, for the channels to garner revenues other than through advertisements. Though some channels would get converted into paid channels in future, their immediate survival will decide their future business model,” an industry source said.

The three new channels from the city — TV9, ETV News and Satya TV — say they’re sure they’ll cater well to the state’s viewership base of 8 lakh or more.

At present, much of the revenue is likely to be advertisement-based and election-related.

“We have to see how the ad flow goes once the assembly polls are over.A TV news channel needs an investment upward of Rs 15 crore to 20 crore, and if ads don’t come, the channels can survive only by including entertainment programmes into their scheme of things and selling slots to private producers,” the source said.

A Krishna Prasad, MD, TV9 is positive that his vernacular news channel can ride out the choppy market conditions. TV9 has also tied up with cable operators for live coverage of locality news. “Such news capsules and updates will always have a market in AP. We have around 200 professionals, who will work on political and development stories round the clock. The viewers’ psyche of surfing channels for updates on stories is the catch here,” Prasad said.

But industry experts claim that once the polls are over, the ads to the vernacular news channel could dry up. In such an eventuality, they might be forced to squeeze in some entertainment programmes.

Whether there is a market here for news channels or not, the players are pinning hopes on the forthcoming elections to gain viewership and the back up of advertisements which will be a key revenue source.