Joy Chakraborthy: The TV news executive who loves a slugfest

Chakraborthy would like to see changes in the way the news industry is functioning.

Mumbai: At first sight, you would probably assume that Zee Media chief business officer Joy Chakraborthy has been a pugilist at some time in his life. With hefty arms, a broad stocky physique, he normally strides across the room like a man with a mission, with a purpose.

Always ready for a good scrap, he has got into it by jumping back into the highly competitive TV news business at the invitation of media innovator and promoter Subhash Chandra when he joined the Zee news network six weeks ago to get its cash coffers overflowing once again.

“I’ve spent a large part of my working life being in the news business. I was on the founding team of Star News, I worked in TV Today, Network18,” says the dimpled Chakraborthy with a huge smile. “There is no better place than Zee to work at. To come back to Zee which is like home to me and to work with a boss who gives me so much freedom to work, it’s a delight.”

With his revenue portfolio covering digital, linear, marketing, and distribution (international & domestic), Chakraborthy has since joining been making whistle stop visits to advertising agencies, marketing clients, digital outfit and distribution partners across India.

“I like to lead from the front, meet everyone and tell them about what we plan to do on our FPC, programming, advertising packaging, and branded solutions. I have been to Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Delhi,” he says. “My meetings have also led me getting a lot of feedback.”

Chakraborthy says the agencies and brands are telling him that the TV news industry is in a bit of a mess as far as their perception of it is concerned.

“The news genre is under stress in terms of evaluation. The marketer is beginning to wonder who is really No 1 as every channel is claiming it is No 1,” reveals Chakraborthy. “Brand custodians don’t slice and dice viewership for news as we are doing. Yes, they put in some numbers like the affinity index but they buy the genre differently as it is bought for frequency/OTS and for a B2B connect.”

According to him, this No 1 claiming syndrome has led to confusion amongst brands leading to most of the news channels filling up their advertising inventory to the tune of only 65-70 per cent as recently as a few weeks ago. “In all the years I have been in the industry, news channels have been overflowing with inventory, unlike today. We as an industry have to get together to put a halt to this ‘I’m No 1’ claiming itch,” he emphasises.

He adds that even as certain players are claiming the numero uno status, they are still selling airtime at very low prices compared to the legacy players. “This phenomenon is dragging the news genre down instead of increasing the yield to delivery ratio. I’d like to see their No 1 claims being reflected in their airtime rates and revenues.”

Additionally, what’s irking him is the rampant misuse of landing pages on cable TV and DTH platforms by TV news broadcasters, and the measurement and reporting of this “rogue” viewership by Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc).  

“There’s a lot of load shedding in places in the Hindi speaking heartlands of India. If a viewer is watching say X channel and the power goes off and when it comes back, he or she is forced to watch the landing page channel before switching to his or her favorite news channel. Now if this process takes 10 or 35 seconds, his viewing is measured and reported because of Barc’s basic rules that anyone watching for within a minute is considered a viewer, is what I understand,” explains Chakraborthy. “The agency needs to increase the viewing time to two to three minutes for a person to be considered a viewer. Otherwise all the landing page viewing adds up to significant numbers and skews the ratings.”

Another disturbing trend that has developed amongst news channels is the fact that some of them are running break-free content and news to gain viewership, he says. “The irony is that the advertiser is buying spots on the channel based on the ratings derived from break-free content,” he elucidates.

He believes that Zee News has a great portfolio of offerings in terms of languages and regional channels serving as a great outreach platform for brands.

“Zee is a very strong brand name,” he highlights. “Almost every famous face who is on other news channels has worked for some time at Zee. We lead in certain markets. We have great teams in place. What I have created is the Zee News Plus offering wherein the sales people are selling us as a network. They can package national with other regional channels to present a better solution to agencies and brands. Nobody has a network like we do. For me as a revenue leader, I have always taken the targets. However, success is my team’s and failure is mine.”

With that kind of an attitude, Joy is sure to bring a lot of glee to the Zee News bottom line.

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