Do you recall the last time a news anchor leaving his job raising sound bytes, digital space reporting it and newspaper column space being devoted to it? Times Now anchor leaving his job, a normal step that most employees take, has become a talking point for the nation. Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief of Times Now, is a brand of his own and his absence will be reflected in the 'low' Television Rating Points (TRPs).
According to a report by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), Goswami, commands nearly 76 percent of the English news viewership in the time band between 9 pm to 11 pm, when he hosts his show 'Newshour'.
Goswami, the enfant terrible of Indian news media, elicits extreme reactions from viewers. They either love his style of journalism or dislike his in-your-face insults and jibes. However, his triumph is: No one can ignore the news anchor and his style of opinionated news.
How will Goswami's change of employer or entrepreneurship affect him? Will Times Now, the channel suffer on account of his departure? Will he be able to recreate the magic with another channel?
The extreme reactions that Goswami provokes with his channel leaves a bank of mixed viewership, not surprising given his forceful arguments, his lack of a patience hearing on the show and his defensiveness counted in sheer decibels. Brand specialists see him as a brand that evokes extreme reactions but these qualities have worked for him and the channel. Experts rule out chances of his persona being impacted because he leaves a familiar territory such as Times Now where he has worked for a decade.
The 'Brand Arnab'
'Brand Arnab' is a bigger part of Newshour, says Harish Bijoor, Chief Executive Officer of brand and business strategy firm Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. He says many brands are ensconced in 'Brand Arnab' like the channel - Times Now, Newshour Live and Newshour. "However, the anchor is the biggest portfolio among them all. The program is associated with the anchor," says Bijoor.
What has worked for Brand Arnab are a mix of factors. The change in society from Doordarshan (DD) days of yore is one of them. Some of DD anchors were brands too. For instance, Tejeshwar Singh was known for his baritone or Minu Talwar for her impeccable reading of the news. Bijoor says that Arnab's face with the boy-next-door image and an earnestness to get to the nitty gritties is what has endeared him to his audience. "At the end of the day, you want an anchor you can identify with and Arnab fits that bill. When a news anchor talks to his audience, he looks into the eyes of the audience and then the voice and tenor takes over. Arnab has succeeded on all counts," believes Bijoor.
Goswami is credited for making Newshour less about news and more about opinions which is often explained in his now-famous catch phrase, "The Nation Wants To Know". He verbally pummels his way through discussions, swats off the ones who have contradictory views and try hard to be heard in the din that the Newshour program is. "That was the gap in news programs in India that Arnab filled and got the audience with him," says Bijoor, adding that his absence on Newshour was reflected in low TRPs.
The loyalty that 'Brand Arnab' commands is reflective of his popularity, say experts. He fulfills the expectations from a brand such as loyalty and brand recall. "However, what stands out is his commitment," says Bijoor. "His passion is unwavering," he says.
Would 'Brand Arnab' work in another setting with this same format? Not unless he reinvents himself. "Times Now and 'Brand Arnab' are the yin and yang that worked with each other and both will have to reinvent themselves as they leave this partnership," says Alpana Parida, Managing Director, DY Works, a Mumbai-based brand strategy and brand design.
When stand-up comedian Kapil Sharma decided to leave channel Colours and move his show to Sony TV, the audience took time to accept the change, says Bijoor. He says that this is a possibility as audience association with the anchor and the channel is as one entity.
The fact that Goswami is being talked about in the media is a victory in itself, says Parida. She cites the example of RK Laxman and his pocket cartoons that were eagerly awaited by his fans. "I know the reference is a bit stretched but Arnab like Laxman's Common Man focuses on the issues that affect people but unlike him is bold enough to ask questions till he gets the answers."
Parida feels Goswami is a bigger brand than the channel and will have no issues attracting an audience and viewership whichever channel he moves to. "Arnab's loyal audience will follow him. His news program is more about opinions and analysis of facts. But he scored over the other channels because he asked the uncomfortable questions to his guests that people wanted to know and were afraid to ask. He has been teased, many have taken potshots at him but the fact is he managed to catch the 'pulse of the nation', as he would term it. And he is right," says Parida.
The channel and the anchor will be closely watched in the future to monitor how they fare without each other. "As long as there are people who want to know what is happening in the country and want people in power to be questioned relentlessly, there will be an audience for Arnab," says Parida.
Will it still be 'The Nation Wants To Know' or a new coinage? The verdict will be soon out as Goswami makes his views felt from a different channel.
(Firstpost is from the same stable as CNN-News18 which competes with Times Now.)