Interview with Vikram Das, TV Today Network

Vikram Das
Vikram Das

Aaj Tak was one of the first Indian news channels in the UK, how has the market changed since you first debuted in this market?
The market has become very dynamic and there is a marked shift from limited subscription led income to bigger advertising led revenue. The viewership base has considerably grown and can now command a strong advertising outlay. From the time Aaj Tak was launched in UK, the market has changed drastically, with many more news channel launches from India. In a way this is good as there is high focus on creating good content and it is encouraging to see that we are the preferred platform by a substantial margin.

In the UK, Aaj Tak timeshares with the newly re-launched Headlines Today, now known as India Today, what was behind the rebranding of your English channel?
India today is a legacy brand known to almost every household in India and internationally with a heritage of 40 years. News consumption patterns have evolved with people consuming news across platforms and mediums; however TV channels have not aligned and reinvented to service this audience well. With India Today, News will no longer be linear, with viewers getting multiple news updates on the TV screen and a seamless digital integration. It�۪s a newsplex vs. single screen news channel. India Today is sure to have instant acceptance as the brand is strong among Asians Internationally.

Beside the on-air presentation, will there be a change in content on India Today?
The prime team led by Rajdeep Sardesai, Karan Thapar and Rahul Kanwal along with top experts across business, defense, strategic affairs, entertainment and politics will ensure prime news through the day. A series of marquee shows from lifestyle, automobiles, entertainment and international news will reinvent this space. Keep tuned into channel 818 for more.

[quote]While the women audience moves to GEC channels the male audience would want to catch up with the news.[end_quote]

Have you not considered launching Aaj Tak and India Today as two separate channels in UK?
For now, we are in a comfortable position with a hybrid channel, which allows us to showcase the best of both English and Hindi news.

Do you not feel viewers find the switch between English and Hindi bulletins on one channel confusing?
We had done a test run on BARB that showed data that made us confident in this move. The Indian audience which consumes news in both Hindi and English is quite vast and defined. The NRI audience in UK is very unique as the news channels are not just competing with news alternatives but also with other genres like movies, entertainment and sports channels. Our strategy is based on the viewing pattern of the TG, which is doing wonders for us in terms of numbers and keeps us ahead of the competition. We have had no complaints as such from the viewer of English and Hindi; in fact they all like it and appreciate it. For eg. It makes more sense to have English news in the prime time 7-11 UK time as all the working class are back home. While the women audience moves to GEC channels the male audience would want to catch up with the news. As per our findings, this TG prefers to see the news in English, while most business class and first generation NRIs prefer to consume news in Hindi so we shift back to Hindi news accordingly.

While its important for the channel to take ad breaks, it is more noticeable on Aaj Tak that you take ad breaks during big breaking stories (in UK), how do you plan to change this?
This is not true at all. Aaj Tak keeps content on priority in case of all major breaking news stories. The channel only goes into ad breaks once the story has been developed with enough perspective given to viewers.

Like other news channels, Aaj Tak faces much more of a challenge than general entertainment channels for advertising, how would you describe your clients through Sky Media and ethnic via Mans Media?
Our deliveries to mainstream through Sky Media has been good and our local ethnic air time sales through Mans Media has been brilliant, so much so that at times we have to refuse ads on certain time bands due to inventory crunch. Aaj Tak provides the advertiser with a well defined premium audience that makes advertisers come back.

What’s your take on the existing profile of Indian news channels in the UK and chance of survival in the future?
The market is surely getting more competitive but there is no problem for the players that dare to innovate and to offer the best. We were the first ones to go FTA in the market while others followed; we were also the first to have local reporting from UK which again was followed by others. The pioneering content will help us to not just sustain and leap in the UK market but to keep defining this space.

[quote]Aaj Tak has its heritage way back since 2000 and people know us from India and abroad, that�۪s the power of the brand.[end_quote]

Aaj Tak had started as a pay TV channel with Max Mix, since then you went free-to-air, what do you think of the handful of Asian TV channels that continue to broadcast behind the pay wall?
Yes, the market has changed and many channels are FTA today, but I am sure, the ones which are not happy being that way, still see business potential by being a paid channel. We will have to wait and watch.

Aaj Tak has not promoted itself so vastly in the UK recently but still remains as one of the most watched South Asian news channels, are you planning to market the newly branded India Today in UK shores in anyway?
Aaj Tak and India Today are both among the most respected brands for their journalism rooted in credibility and trust. Aaj Tak has its heritage way back since 2000 and people know us from India and abroad, that�۪s the power of the brand. However, we have done our share of promotions, but yes not round the year, as being a news channel we need to promote basis key events like elections, show launches, news conclaves etc. With the launch of India Today Television, we will be doing lot of activities in the months to come.

Where do you see Aaj Tak / India Today in the next 12 months?
To maintain and consolidate our position as a clear no 1 in the market. We aim to build a stronger connect and to bring focus on local issues relating to the NRI audience. The best, we believe is yet to come.

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