‘In 2 years, I see Times Now and Movies Now con­tribut­ing to 30% of our rev­enues’

Impact - - [IMPACT] FEATURE - @ FEED­BACK sim­[email protected]­change4­me­dia.com

A sense of ur­gency is in the air at the new cor­po­rate of­fices of Times Net­work at Equinox Busi­ness Park near Ban­dra Kurla Com­plex, per­haps to catch up on lost time since they va­cated their over decade-old of­fice at Ka­mala Mills af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing fire. MK Anand, CEO and MD, Times Net­work is proud that when it came to man­ag­ing that cri­sis, ev­ery em­ployee put up his/her hand, be­cause of which the net­work’s work did not suf­fer at all. In a can­did chat, Anand talks of up­ping the growth rate af­ter a rather flat year, the launch of Repub­lic TV, the re­cent TRAI tar­iff or­der and more… Q] What were the pos­i­tive take-aways from last year?

On the News side, we started last year in a state of pre­pared­ness as we were look­ing at com­pe­ti­tion for the first time in the genre. The way Times Now has been able to keep its Num­ber 1 po­si­tion is a tes­ti­mony to all that prepa­ra­tion and the strength of the brand, not to for­get the ef­fort Rahul (Shivshankar) and team put in. Then, there is the launch of Mir­ror Now and fan­tas­tic suc­cess. It’s a prod­uct that is show­ing the way for­ward to the genre in more ways than one - Con­tent, Pur­pose, In­fra­struc­ture, Cost, all ar­eas. ETNow’s new pur­pose ‘Rise with In­dia’ res­onated very strongly with our con­stituents, both on air and on ground. Our Dig­i­tal plat­form took off spec­tac­u­larly. In just one year, we have now be­come one of the top 5 news plat­forms. We have also come out of FY18, with a lot of pos­i­tive vibes, a new of­fice, con­sol­i­dated News ops, op­ti­mized costs. All in all, I think FY18 was our best year till date.

Q] What has been the im­pact of Repub­lic TV on Times Now?

The over­all reach of English News has sub­stan­tially in­creased due to the vig­or­ous com­pe­ti­tion. Be­sides that, there has been no other sig­nif­i­cant im­pact to the genre. We didn’t find any con­tent in­no­va­tion. It was to­tal du­pli­ca­tion of ex­ist­ing for­mat. I had ex­pected more. In fact, English News con­tent has been im­pacted by Mir­ror Now and not the other new chan­nel. From the busi­ness point of view, over­all the in­dus­try has dipped due to the gen­eral drop in TV adex in the last 18 months post de­mon­e­ti­za­tion. The new en­trant was quite ac­tive from a rev­enue stand-point, there were more peo­ple drink­ing from the same pond, so the monies for other play­ers has come down. Times Now, how­ever, did not suf­fer. Prime-time spon­sor­ships are an­nual deals and we have not lost a sin­gle spon­sor, nor did we drop our ad rates. Cur­rently, we are at our pre-de­mon­e­ti­za­tion run rate.

Q] How did Times Net­work’s growth pan out in the year gone by? What are the tar­gets you are look­ing to achieve for the year ahead?

Last year, rev­enue was flat and in low sin­gle-dig­its. Our five-year plan since FY15, was to grow at an av­er­age CAGR of 20%. In the first 2 years we grew at an av­er­age of 20%-22%. In the last 2 years, due to macro-eco­nomic rea­sons, Adex has been slug­gish. We were able to grow be­cause we con­tin­ued to launch chan­nels – MNX+, Mir­ror Now, Times Now HD - . On the distribution side we grew at our usual 15%-16%. This year we are set­ting a 20% + growth rate tar­get again.

Q] You have been very vo­cal about other news chan­nels adopt­ing dual and mul­ti­ple fre­quency feeds...

Dual and mul­ti­ple fre­quency are il­le­gal. We don’t sub­scribe to that. We have ac­tively cam­paigned against it; when­ever we have found ev­i­dence of it, we have re­ported it. In fact, if you re­mem­ber the orig­i­nal rea­son that we de­cided to keep out of the BARC mea­sure­ment of Times Now - in the ini­tial week of Repub­lic’s launch - was be­cause of mul­ti­ple fre­quency. Mul­ti­ple fre­quency is still there. There are two net­works who con­tinue to do it. Mean­while, we are op­ti­miz­ing and spend­ing a lot on EPG (Elec­tronic Pro­gram­ming Guide) mar­ket­ing. I ex­pect this to con­tinue. I be­lieve that true busi­ness can be built only when you have the real con­sumer fully with you, and that is why in the last four years we have upped our distribution game.

Q] What is your take on the re­cent Madras High Court judg­ment on TRAI tar­iff or­der?

Per­son­ally, I am against any price reg­u­la­tion. Why should some­one tell at what price should we be pric­ing a chan­nel? The tar­iff or­der by na­ture is a price con­trol, and price con­trol is anti- busi­ness. How­ever, with ref­er­ence to this par­tic­u­lar or­der, I don’t think it’s go­ing to make such a big dif­fer­ence. I think in any case our tar­iff struc­ture re­quires a change as we are stuck at the same price-point for over 15 years.

Q] What do you see to be the fu­ture growth ar­eas for Times Net­work?

Dig­i­tal is ex­tremely im­por­tant. In ad­di­tion, News and the re­vamped Zoom styled by Myn­tra will be an im­por­tant piece. This year we would be look­ing at the con­sol­i­da­tion of rev­enue po­si­tions of MNX and Mir­ror Now. Cur­rently Times Now and Movies Now are our lead horses; look­ing ahead we see both of these chan­nels con­tribut­ing about 30% of the rev­enue in about two years. Then, our net­work will have dou­ble en­gines with these four chan­nels lead­ing the rev­enue share and the rest of the chan­nels pitch­ing in.

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