With financial backing from Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, Network18 has decided to move in for the kill. Shedding the over a decade old IBN brand, the network is adopting News18 across its portfolio of channels starting with English news channel CNN-IBN being rebranded as CNN-News18, with the tagline, On Your Side.
The channel now encompasses a new packaging, logo, newer show formats and a revamped studio to make news more relevant to its viewers. The digital destination of the channel, IBNLive.com has also changed to News18.com.
Avinash Kaul, CEO, IBN News Network, says that the emphasis will be on news gathering. “The focus earlier was more on width, but with digitisation, there is no point competing with hyper-local channels. We are now putting more depth on the field and debates will become the least common denominator.”
In the last decade, news has seen a lot of action on television and Kaul states that as the network transcends to the second screen, it is a good time for a makeover.
“We are significantly ramping-up our digital presence to ensure that viewers are seamlessly able to interact and engage with our content,” he says.
Guiding them on this path are digital experts coming in from CNN to help in training and upgradation. While the present IBN Live mobile application will undergo a refresh, there are also plans to launch a new app with a different user interface. The network has roped in Manish Maheshwari as CEO of Web18 to drive its digital play.
News channels have had to face several issues due to lack of resources in news gathering which has led to a decrease in feature based content. CNN-News18 will have a lot more feature content and in-depth analysis.
New formats of programming include panellists Vir Sanghvi, Swapan Dasgupta, Ayaz Memon and Ajoy Bose. Primetime 2.0 from 8pm to 11pm, has a blend of on-ground reporting, opinions, debates and even a daily dose of humour. The weekend comprises several new shows including Virtuosity —an exclusive show on the week’s key issues with Vir Sanghvi. Feature content includes CNN’s foreign affairs show Fareed Zakaria GPS hosted by Fareed Zakaria.
Going ahead, the network has similar brand refresh plans for its Hindi news channel, IBN7 and Marathi news channel, IBN Lokmat. Each of the channels will have a ‘News18’ element to it.
“Every phase of digitisation brings a reduction in carriage fee and increase in subscription revenues for news channels. But unlike a GEC, it is difficult to revamp a news channel and is a lot more tedious,” Kaul says. The re-branding exercise is likely to help CNN-News18 rope in more viewers and move up the charts to take on the leader in the genre — Times Now. CNN-IBN had, in recent times, been flip-flopping between the second and third slots on the English news genre chart, as per BARC India. While Times Now is driven by Arnab Goswami’s aggressive debates, Kaul says that the faces for CNN-News18 are Bhupendra Chaubey and Arunoday Mukharji among others.