Network18

Network18 Media owned English news channel CNN-IBN will be losing its prefix as it ends its 10-year brand licensing deal with Turner Broadcasting System. In a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange, TV 18 said the company and CNN “will be successfully concluding their ten-year brand licensing and news services arrangement for use of the CNN brand and CNN news content in January 2016”.

Both the companies mention this is not a breakup but instead a mutual agreement to not renew the brand licensing agreement. The initial deal was signed between CNN and TV18 group company Global Broadcast News (GBN). GBN was later rebranded to IBN18 Broadcast, then TV18 Broadcast, and currently operates CNN-IBN which was launched in 2005, Hindi news channel IBN7 and Marathi news channel IBN Lokmat.

A Mint report had earlier reported that CNN is in talks with the Zee Group to set up a new English news channel in India, citing sources. The publication also added that it wasn’t clear whether it will be a similar branding agreement or a deal which will involve equity. The move takes prominence at a time when the Indian government is examining the possibility of raising the cap on foreign direct investment in news media from 26% to 49%.

The Zee Group operates its TV channels through its subsidiary Zee Media Corp. The company operates two national channels—Zee News, a general news channel in Hindi, and Zee Business, a Hindi business news channel. Other channels include Zee 24 Taas (Maharashtra), Zee Sangam (Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand), Zee Madhya Pradesh Chhattisgarh, Zee Marudhara (Rajasthan), Zee Punjab Haryana Himachal, and Zee Kalinga (Odisha).

Founded by Raghav Bahl in 1993, Network18 Media was acquired by Reliance Industries in May 2014 on an open offer of Rs 2295 crores, of which Rs 943.7 crore was paid for 21.96% stake in Network18, Rs 1347 crore for 26% in TV18, and Rs 3.92 crore for 26% in Infomedia18 Press. The process of acquisition of Network18 began in January 2012.

Note that, in January 2014, TV18 itself had completed the purchase of ETV Channels for Rs 2,053 crore. Following this, the company owned 100% stake in ETV News channels for Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Urdu, Bangla, Kannada & Haryana; 50% stake in ETV Marathi, ETV Kannada, ETV Bangla, ETV Gujarati & ETV Oriya and 24.5% stake in ETV Telugu and ETV Telugu News.

Network18 financials: RIL owned Network18 reported a net profit of Rs 10.58 crore for the quarter ended March 31, 2015 (Q4-FY15), up from Rs 4.12 crore loss in the same quarter last year and from Rs 12.15 crore loss in the previous quarter. For the financial year ended March 31, 2015 (FY15), Network18 reported operational revenue of Rs 3,126.6 crore, up 16% year-on-year (YoY) from Rs 2,692.4 crore in FY14.

Headlines Today rebranding: Last month, English news channel Headlines Today changed its brand name to India Today, the name of its flagship English news magazine. The TV Today Network had said then it was expecting the India Today branding to be a credibility booster.

Brewing TRP war

It’s worth noting shortly after Headlines Today’s rebranding it briefly overtook Times Group-owned Times Now in terms of viewership. For the week from May 24 to 31,  its viewership touched 354 (000’s sum), a metric used to assess a channels’ reach, while Times Now, was pushed to the second slot with 264 (000’s sum) after it broke the Lalit Modi controversy. Rahul Kanwal, managing editor of the India Today TV took to Twitter to say that Times Now was trying to bolster TV ratings by rehashing a Sunday Times report.

It’s also worth noting that Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami was also given charge of its business news channel ET Now in a top-level shakeup, as reported by VCCircle. The English business news channels is dominated by CNBC TV 18 followed by ET Now and NDTV Profit. For the week June 13-19, CNBC TV 18’s viewership was 186 (000’s sum) and ET Now’s viewership was at 154 (000’s sum). The report added that Goswami will primarily take care of the ‘look and feel’ of ET Now, and will not be deeply involved in the daily news production.

It will be interesting to see how TV18 and the Zee Group will react to the race to grab eyeballs.

(With inputs from Shashidhar KJ)