It's been an extraordinary ten years in media in India. When one lives it every day, the changes don't seem extraordinary – but they are.
Imagine if Rip Van Winkle (pictured above) was an Indian media professional who had gone to sleep at the end of 1999, only to wake up on January 1, 2010.
He’d go nuts.
When he nodded off, Zee TV was the unquestioned leader in the Hindi GEC space. There were hardly any game shows to speak of. Old Rip missed all editions of Kaun Banega Crorepati. He had no idea on how one game show forever changed the way TV would interact with viewers and how KBC would change the GEC game.
The turning point for Indian television - Kaun Banega Crorepati
STAR Plus ruled the airwaves from this point on, bludgeoning Zee TV into second place. STAR Plus, propelled by KBC and a slew of Saas-bahu soaps, would rule till new kid on the block Colors (what's that?) launched by Viacom18 (what's that?) came on to the scene with a rash of aggressive, expensive game-changing programming.
'Balika Vadhu' on Colors was vital in changing the GEC rankings.
By the time Rip woke up, Zee was in the number three slot, STAR Plus in second and Colors, the Johnny-come-lately, was the numero uno.
There were huge people changes. Peter Mukerjea left STAR. So did Sameer Nair. Peter and his wife Indrani launched three channels, 9X, NewsX and 9XM, subsequently to be caught in a boardroom spat with investors and handing over charge to the accountants.
STAR trio: Peter Mukerjea, Raj Nayak and Sameer Nair
Sameer launched NDTV Imagine, only to see Dr. Prannoy Roy sell out a few years later to Turner. Raj Nayak left STAR to start NDTV Media in partnership with NDTV.
The trio's departures seemingly left STAR in tatters… so the doomsday prophets said.
STAR carries on, albeit in the uncomfortable #2 slot.
News television changed dramatically. NDTV 24X7 launched in 2003, changing the way consumers absorbed news. Their Hindi offering, NDTV India and their business channel, NDTV Profit, followed immediately.
Rajdeep Sardesai's CNN IBN and Arnab Goswami's Times Now compete for the top slot.
NDTV proved to be the nursery to beat all nurseries, with their star anchors Rajdeep Sardesai launching CNN IBN in the capacity of promoter-founder-superanchor and Arnab Goswami joining the to be launched Times Now; both channels are now jostling for the leadership position.
On the business TV front, it’s plus ca change, plus la meme chose; CNBC TV18, which was launched just before Rip went to sleep in 1999, remained the number one business channel through the entire decade. Their digital offering, www.moneycontrol.com, was even more dominant than the TV channel which is now facing competition from ET Now, and UTVi, now Bloomberg UTV.
Network18, spearheaded by invisible man, aided and abetted by invisible men Sameer Manchanda and Haresh Chawla, changed the face of the media landscape as Rip knew it.
Network18's Haresh Chawla and Sameer Manchanda
Today, the network runs India’s #1 Hindi GEC in Colors, India’s #1 English business channel in CNBC TV18, CNN IBN, CNBC Awaaz, IBN Lokmat, MTV India, Nickleodeon, VH1, moneycontrol.com, in.com, cricketnext.com... and there’s more. Hold on to your hats.
So many channels, so little time, and the impossible cable operator! Hey, Rip, hang on there. Changes galore in this space, and all for the better! Direct-to-home television was introduced to the country by Zee TV when they launched DishTV in 2004, allowing viewers access to a myriad channels with digital quality audio and video, painless installation and fair pricing. Begone, cable operator. DishTV’s launch was quickly followed by the announcement of the DTH offering from the TATA-STAR TV JV, Tata Sky. Airtel, Reliance, Sun TV, Videocon were later entrants.The cable operator, you’ll be pleased to know, Rip, is now an endangered species.
FM Radio was now unrecognizable. At the turn of the century, All India Radio was the only entity allowed to broadcast in FM, with private players such as Times FM and Radio Mid-day allowed to buy ‘slots’ on AIR FM. The government’s private FM policy saw 338 private stations being launched across the country; Phase II of the policy will see a few hundred more. Satellite radio came into India with WorldSpace. The service was shortlived; Rip slept through the entire lifespan. Their website is a telling commentary.
When Rip received the morning dailies, he went nuts. More newspapers, better newspapers, more pages, more supplements – and at virtually the same price for an issue as he had been paying ten years ago. The impetus for change came from the launch of DNA, an offering from the unlikely partnership of Zee TV and Dainik Bhaskar. Pradeep Guha defected from the Times of India with a basketful of editorial and ad sales talent. What would happen to The Times of India? Nothing much. The Times of India still rules!
The daily newspaper space saw several new launches that shook up the print media space.
The Times of India launched India’s first morning compact in the shape of Mumbai Mirror in a flanking move to stymie DNA’s ambitions. Mumbai Mirror took root. The changes in technology and communication saw newspapers in English and regional languages transform to all-colour editions. More pages, more for the reader – and more editions. Hindustan Times finally bit the bullet and foray into Mumbai. The battle rages and the reader gets more from the raddiwallah than ever before. The last big development in the English newspaper space? The launch of The Times of India Crest Edition. Will the pricing of the newspaper force media owners to re-look their business plans?
As Indian literacy grows, so do the number of editions launched by major players. The Times of India entered the bastion of The Hindu by launching their Chennai edition. Deccan Chronicle now has a pan south India footprint. Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran and Rajasthan Patrika are now found all over the Hindi speaking belt – and beyond, in some instances.
Print just refused to die in the decade, notwithstanding the inroads that satellite TV and the Internet made. More titles, more editions and, for magazines, the discovery of the niche and special interest titles.
Starting with Campaign India’s sister title, Autocar India, which completed 10 years, and ending with the launch of Forbes India, the decade saw title after title available on the news stands.
Steve Forbes launched Forbes India in a partnership with Network18.
Conde Nast made their presence felt with the launches of Vogue India and GQ. Bennett Coleman and Company’s magazines were transferred to a JV with the BBC called Worldwide Media bringing Top Gear to Indians at Indian prices (Lonely Planet will be launched shortly). Network18 bought Infomedia and entered the print arena. And these are just the highlights, Rip.
Haymarket Media, the UK –based publisher who puts the food on the dining table, launched Campaign in India, ignoring the fact that the advertising and media trade space was already crowded. Campaign India's portal, www.campaignindia.in, followed six months later. The positive experience with the product and the performance spurred Haymarket to launch another special interest magazine, PrintWeek India last year. There’s more to come.
Almost all major magazines are supported by dotcom products and e-editions, and Rip, it’s wonderful, and they’re all free! Monetization of the web products is an area that is still grey. Perhaps I’ll write about it ten years later.
For Rip, the media landscape is wonderful. More is the mantra, at prices that were cheap even ten years ago. How long will these low prices last, how long before competition starts killing the week, how long before print finds itself unsustainable, how long before advertisers begin to pay more, how long before there is reliable measurement? Lots of questions with few answers. Till then, have a good time, Rip.
Oh. One last question! Who’s going to keep paying for the 'free' lunch?
(Rip Van Winkle image courtesy: ScrapeTV.com)