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News channels cash in on Maharashtra polls

October 18, 2004 10:25 IST

Maharashtra elections seem to have been good business for TV news channels. Zee, Aaj Tak, Sahara Samay, Star News and NDTV -- all notched up higher viewership.

Alka Saxena, head-programming of Zee News, said, "We have seen keen interest in the elections not only from Mumbai and rest of Maharashtra but also from the Hindi speaking belt of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

"This may be due to the fact that this is the first state election after the general elections and both Congress and BJP have high stakes in this state election."

Sahara Samay Mumbai claims to have increased its viewership. Although viewership figures are not available, Rajeev Bajaj, head-Sahara Samay Mumbai, said, "We have had an increased viewership of over five and a half lakhs. This, despite the ongoing test match between India and Australia."

Usually, news channels bear the brunt when test matches are on but this time the case seems to be different."

The ad spend during elections are quite significant. Aaj Tak spokesperson Rajesh Sheshadri said, "Most of our advertisers have a long-term commitment of which Maharashtra elections is one part. The ad revenue for Mumbai territory is around Rs 40-50 lakh (Rs 405 million)." Zee News head also agreed that the channel has seen a steady list of advertisers.

Bajaj said, "We have had good advertising run and we have to take commercial breaks every 10-12 minutes." Uday Shanker, head of Star News, Mumbai, said, "We have received additional advertising revenues from title sponsorships. But more than ads, we considered this election as an editorial exercise."

With increasing competition from regional and national channels, the channels are going beyond the conventional broadcast of exit polls and mere election coverage.

Aaj Tak's election coverage was called Maharashtra Ka Mahasangram with segments such as Election Local and Munnabhai MLA. Star News aired a show called Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri with segments such as Kaun Banega Mukhyamantri Raths and Maharashtra Express.

Sahara Samay Mumbai has Kursi chi Kheenchtan -- Samay Bada Balwaan for the poll results and its usual RKB Show regularly featured candidates from different constituencies.
Aparna Krishnakumar in Mumbai