A New Channel Is Born: ET Now Goes On Air With ‘The Economic Times Advantage’

After a rather long wait, ET Now, the fourth English business news channel in India, went on air this morning as part of a phased rollout and is available on some of the major cable networks. ET Now is broadcast by Times Global Broadcasting Co. Ltd, a subsidiary of Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd, which publishes The Economic Times, India’s largest business daily. ET Now will be up against CNBC TV18, the incumbent market leader in the space, which has defined and dominated the segment for several years now. The other players in the market are NDTV Ltd’s NDTV Profit and UTVi from UTV Software Communications Ltd. According to audience research firm TAM Media Research, in April, CNBC TV18 had a 66% market share in the business news segment, while NDTV Profit had 25% and UTVi, 9%.

ET Now’s biggest ally in this battle will be its access to the newsroom of The Economic Times, which is the foremost business news brand in India and also a formidable act to beat when it comes to access and breaking news. What will make this segment interesting is that CNBC TV18 is just as formidable when it comes to business news on TV. Ahead of the ET Now launch, CNBC TV18 forged a content alliance with HT Media’s business daily Mint.

The company was not forthcoming on the project–BCCL CEO Ravi Dhariwal said he could comment only once the channel is fully rolled out. Times Global Broadcasting CEO Chintamani Rao said is an emailed response to a questionnaire: “As its advertising says, ET NOW is The Economic Times advantage on television! The Economic Times is India’s premier source of news for and about business, and now it’s on television.”

The business news segment attracts advertising spends of Rs350 crore annually, said Nandini Dias, COO, Lodestar Universal, a media buying agency. She estimates that of this, CNBC TV18 corners about Rs250 crore. The entrance of ET Now will expand this market, she said. “There is definitely scope for ET to expand its equity on TV, I’m sure the channel will do extremely well. It will expand the market rather than cannibalising the competition.” She doesn’t expect a rapid viewer migration, however. “CNBC TV18 has been around for a long time. Media consumption habits don’t change very quickly.”

ET Now Day One Review

The channel looks slick, the promos, the packaging and graphics are top notch and there were relatively few glitches for a newly on-air channel. Cuts to the ET newsroom and live press conferences, co-anchoring from multiple broadcasting centres–all worked smoothly. The production quality of the feature programming on the evening band was good, if not spectacular. During the crucial market hours, the channel was very competitive, even though, for better or for worse, it didn’t have the range of external commentators TV18 features regularly. It will also be a while before the anchors assume the same level of confidence as the veterans on TV18.

What pleased us the most: The integrated newsroom is more than a buzz word for the channel. The degree of integration was impressive, with ET reporters coming on through the day. At least on day one, it seemed like the ET Newsroom was available on call. It remains to be seen how sustainable this is. If an ET reporter comes on air many times in a day on a developing story, she will be squeezed for time for the print duties and also to do the actual, time consuming reporting. If anybody can pull off an integrated TV-print newsroom, however, it will be ET, with more reporters than its competitors by a huge margin. And if there’s anything TV18 must worry about immediately, it will be this–the combined might of ET and ET Now, in news gathering as well as advertising offers. TV18’s plans for a business daily may be revived sooner than later.

There were minor glitches–anchors looking into the wrong camera, gesturing without realizing they are on air, wrong visuals with some stories and a two-second-too-long lag when Mumbai and Delhi broadcasting centres were communicating with each other. But we were impressed with how much went right, compared with the little that went wrong.

In all, a competitive news channel has been delivered. Is the offering compelling enough for you to switch from TV18 during market hours? Not as of today, but it’s too early to pass that judgment. If the channel consistently breaks stories in real time while serving up competitive market hours coverage, that might soon become a serious question.