October 2011 was far from sweet despite the India-England ODI whitewash. It was an autumn that saw the demise of Steve Jobs, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer, Apple Inc, chief executive officer, Pixar. (5 October 2011)
In less than a week after that, India lost its ghazal maestro, Jagjit Singh. (10 October 2011)
Within the following fortnight, the world witnessed breaking news of the death of Libya's deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi. (20 October 2011)
Owing to their stature in their respective fields (Jobs and Singh) and their significance in geo-political realm (Gaddafi), there were special reports and reviews aired across news channels in the country. So, which reportage did the Indian audience prefer to watch more?
An analysis of the special reports and reviews aired for the respective events was conducted by TAM Media Research, results of which revealed that programmes on Jobs attained the highest cumulative reach of 588,000 on English news channels and English business news channels.
Trailing those numbers by a margin was the cumulative reach of programmes on Gaddafi at 528,000. For the same target market (All India, CS 25+ years), the reportage on Jagjit Singh post his death garnered a cumulative reach of 426,000.
For the Hindi news channels and Hindi business news channels, special programmes on the Libyan deposed leader (Gaddafi) took the lead with a cumulative reach of 2,068,000 (Market: HSM, TG: CS 15+ years), while special reports on Jagjit Singh gathered a cumulative reach of 1,499,000.
Since the analysis was based on special reports that contained the celebrity's name, no special reports could be tracked on Jobs on Hindi news channels and Hindi business news channels. And that reduces the likelihood of special reports on him in Hindi.
These numbers raise a few questions whose answers can shed some light on how electronic media is tuning its programming in order to suit Indian audience's demands and preferences. First off, what explains the low turnout of special reports on Jobs on Hindi news/business news channel? Smeeta Neogi, vice-president, marketing, ET Now, explains, "Steve Jobs was connected to English language and so was his expression in the form of an iPad, iPhone or an iPod. His communication was delivered to you in English as well and hence there was lesser intent for the Hindi news channel's audience to watch reportage on him."
Secondly, in a market where audience is touted as hungry for news on celebrities (Jagjit Singh being one), how did the reportage on Gaddafi manage to outdo Singh's in the final cumulative reach? Neogi answers, "It's not essentially Bollywood news that the audience prefers to watch, rather the Bollywood-isation of news. Gaddafi's gory death brought in a lot of drama with itself. It's the whole drama that got everybody's attention." She added that Singh belonged to a certain generation and though he was popular among youth, he wasn't a youth icon, for that matter. Whereas, the report on Gaddafi's death had a universal appeal to it.
And thirdly, if Gaddafi's death had such potential for higher reach, why did Jobs' reportage surpass his on English news/business news channels, in cumulative reach? She reasons, "As a business channel we have to see what's relevant to our audience. Gaddafi's news didn't have a direct impact on the world of business whereas Jobs' death impacted everybody in the corporate world. Hence, we didn't carry any special programmes on Gaddafi though our sister channel Times Now did. That could have given reports on Jobs a marginal edge over Gaddafi's, since most of the business channels followed the same pattern."
TAM Media Research