Interview: Hyper-local news ecosystem is burgeoning in COVID-19 era, says Avinash Pandey, ABP Network

Avinash Pandey ABP network

Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network, takes us through the state of the news network in reaching out to people, their current content, communication, and marketing strategy.

In an exclusive conversation with Media Samosa, Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP Network shares a glimpse of the endeavors of the news channel to keep its audience engaged amidst the ongoing pandemic.

As unlock 2.0 forays into people’s lives in the new normal, Pandey sheds light on how the ABP network will continue to deliver content, inspire people & transition into a new phase.

Edited Excerpts:

ABP News is revamped to the ABP network. Please take us through the idea behind it.

The rechristening of our group marks a larger rebranding exercise that will allow us to metamorphose into an all-encompassing media & content innovation company, embracing the future. From technological advancements to content creation, the idea of expanding our group was to acquire a leading edge in this hyper-competitive landscape and give ourselves leeway to be more than just ‘news’.

With the ongoing pandemic, what has been the impact on the ratings & viewership for the shows on the channel? 

Viewership graphs continue to soar all across the network. With work-from-home becoming the new norm, home-bound Indians are now spending more time watching the news.

Our Bengali channel – ABP Ananda, was the No.1 channel in the entire West Bengal TV Universe in terms of reach, for 13 consecutive weeks. (Source: BARC, TG – NCCS 2+, Mkt- WB, Wk 12-24’2020, Cume. Reach in Cr.)

During the first four weeks of the COVID outbreak i.e Week 12-15’20, our leading Marathi Channel, ABP Majha surpassed all channels in Maharashtra & Goa in terms of reach.
(Source: BARC, TG –NCCS 15+, Mkt – Mah/ Goa, Reach)

To retain this viewership, we are constantly trying to innovate & update our content portfolios. Recently, all channels of ABP Network refreshed their programming by giving a new lease of life to erstwhile shows and instituting new shows like ‘ABP Reporter’ on ABP News – a reporter-led show wherein they set the agenda of every-day news; ‘Majha Vaari’ on ABP Majha and a special ‘Travelogue’ hosted by Suman De on ABP Ananda.

A campaign called ‘Shahar Vahi Zindagi Nayi’ was also initiated especially for the viewers on the unlocking of the city, to help them navigate and venture into the new normal.

 

 

As per BARC data, ABP network is amongst the top 5 channels for Hindi News Rural, Bangla, and Marathi news. Why do you think it has higher viewership in these markets? What will the channel do to continue to sustain its position in these places?

The hyper-local news ecosystem is burgeoning in the COVID-19 era, as viewers are constantly on the look for the latest developments in their districts/townships about the ever-evolving situation.

They have not only attempted to keep the viewers engaged and updated 24×7 but have also been like a close ally of the people during tumultuous times. For instance, the calamity that struck Bengal during the Cyclone Amphan, ABP Ananda’s Live TV garnered 6.2 million views in one day (20th May 2020), despite a major breakdown in communication networks.

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How is the marketing strategy like for the channel at this time? With so many brands & channels, alike, going digital, what has been the role of social media for ABP Network.

Our key strategy right now is collaborative marketing. We are working in unison with other leading media companies like Big FM, Fever FM, Hindustan, and Star Plus to expand our audience base and ensure a powerful cross-promotion for our unique offerings. ABP News recently collaborated with Hindustan for their event Shikhar Samagam.

This co-promotion strategy has provided tremendous outreach and an incremental audience to both the brands involved.

Please take us through the ad spends and revenue for the channel. How has the ad programming been on the ABP network? Which have been the categories in the market, that have the highest advertising spends on the channel? 

Since July, ad inventory volumes have been increasing at full tilt. In fact, the inventory is now over-booked with top news channels, as the new-genre continues to grab the lion’s share of viewership on TV.

However, many advertisers have been adding on to the industry’s woes by demanding steep discounts. Ad rates are still considerably low, compared to pre-COVID times.

At ABP, we have witnessed a resurgence of advertisements on all our news channels this month.

Premium categories or high-spenders on television (particularly news channels) such as FMCG, automobile, and pharma have made a noticeable comeback.

Our viewership numbers have been consistently high even after the ‘unlock phase’. Bearing in mind that viewership is the true currency of broadcast, we will not be reducing our ad rates. Moreover, in the next few quarters, we expect outlays per advertiser to rise, as our channels offer an exceptional level of reach.

How do you see the industry shaping up in the post-COVID-19 world? Moving forward, what would be the road to recovery and strategy for the ABP network?

With COVID-19 continuing to hold people hostage to its ever-evolving threats, viewers will continue seeking the latest news updates. We are certain that moving forward, the news genre will not see a dull day. Viewers are still heavily reliant on news channels to know about the aftermath of the pandemic, the progress on the vaccine, the upcoming elections, and other socio-political issues of the country. So, the onus is on us to cater to their rising needs through responsible reporting.

Apart from broadcast, our new business divisions are still in the pilot stage. But as we huddle into the new normal, our goal is to accelerate this transition by establishing our newer brands in the market. We will take calculated baby steps, with one core purpose in mind – to inspire people, spark imaginations, and enlighten the lives of our audiences.

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Aishwarrya Chakraverty
A storyteller and a narrator by heart, vocalist by genes and a thesaurus-bee. Also, an explorer, traveler, and trekker, Aishwarrya has myriads of interests with love for music and movies. Writing is not just a hobby but her first love with a Facebook page on perspectives, channelizing the passion. Got her research paper published with IGI Global US on music. A maverick by nature and a feminist by choice, to challenge stereotypes.

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