NDTV: A glimpse into Indian news media

On Tuesday morning we got a glimpse into the pioneer station of private television news in India. NDTV was the first non-state media outlet that was allowed to report the news. P1030383We got a behind the scenes tour of many of the different departments and sets. First we stopped into the post-production editing area and spoke with an editor about how he cuts the film for different stories to slice together the images that are seen as the anchor speaks. Usually, he only has twenty minutes or less to create the final product.

Next we spoke to a reporter about his job chasing down stories nationwide. He travels with just one cameraman and has to fight the intense traffic to reach a scene in time to report back. We then got a view into the main control room, where staff pieces together the different shots and stories in real time. There is one for each of the channels that NDTV runs, an English and a Hindi news channel, a business channel and a lifestyle channel. We got to peek in on a live set and watch an anchor conduct an interview with the head of Indian sports commission about a recent scandal. Next we were introduced to the team who runs a political satire show with huge, life-like puppets- think Sesame Street meets The Daily Show.

Finally, we had an hour with Prannoy Roy, the CEO, founder and founding anchor of NDTV, who was described to me by an Indian friend as India’s Tom Brokaw. Mr. Roy discussed his views on the tabloidization of India’s news media, ethics in reporting and the future of news in the internet age. It was fascinating to hear from someone who had been in the business since its inception and had seen the TV news media market grow from one channel to hundreds of channels nationwide. What was particularly striking to me was that the challenges were in some ways extremely similar to the American market, the diversity of channel offerings, a shortening attention of viewers and the rise of sensationalist tabloid style journalism. But one of the major differences lies in the proliferation of internet access, which we heard numerous times would rise quickly by huge multiples in the coming years. NDTV has an opportunity to remain at the forefront of Indian news media by figuring out how to convert their programming to the mobile web, which before long, will be the main way that hundreds of millions of Indians consume their news.

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Categories: Company Visits, Delhi | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “NDTV: A glimpse into Indian news media

  1. One of the interesting things that Prannoy Roy also mentioned is digitization of analogue cable subscribers. A legislation requires cable TV subscribers to shift from analogue wire
    connections to digital set top boxes by 2014, and it will change the business model of NDTV according to Prannoy Roy. Currently NDTV spends a lot of money on carragie fees because there are only about 80 channel spaces under analogue cable, and companies like NDTV have to compete for the limited space; however, digitization will allow more capacity, meaning hundreds of channels. I think digitization can bring two different effects on NDTV’s business. First, NDTV’s revenue stream will expand as the company can collect subscription fee while it reduces carragie fees. Second, NDTV will face more fierce competition as barriers of entry, limited channel capacity of cable, is lowered due to digitization. It will be interesting to see if NDTV keep refraining from tabloidization under even tougher competition after digitization.

  2. Prannoy also spoke about an advertising base that discriminates between English and Hindi channels. Even though the demographics suggest a 1.5x premium for English channels, the advertiser pay 7x. This discrimination against Hindi channels most likely stems from the issue that advertisers watch English and don’t watch Hindi. This causes a subsequent issue that on Hindi channels, the advertisers don’t discrimination ad spend between real news and tabloids. Tabloids have higher viewership (4-5x). In US, advertisers pay more for reputable news outlets because of brand association (8-9x). In India, this doesn’t happen, so those with the most viewers (tabloids) get the most ad dollars. NDTV hasn’t turned tabloid, so has lower viewership and lower ad spend. Slowly is has been starting to change, however it has been hard to sell the branding case to advertisers. I found this difference disheartening, as it shows an underlying assumption by advertisers that those that watch Hindi aren’t as valuable and that the Hindi market is simple and something they shouldn’t spend time understanding.

  3. kareneolsontu13

    Expanding upon Anne’s commentary, many of us had picked up independently on the tabloid-ization of the print news media, even in the major Indian dailies (The Hindu, The Times of India) delivered to our hotel rooms. Initially we were eager to read the paper during bus rides in order to further our Indian immersion, but quickly found that the stories tended to be superficial, focused on the latest Bollywood and Cricket gossip for many of the lead articles. Only by digging would we find more robust coverage of national news, let alone international stories.

    While we spoke to people from both radio and television outlets, we did not dig into the world of print journalism in India. But it would be interesting to better understand how advertisers view the “value” of subscribers to English vs. Hindi (or other local language) newspapers.

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