SMJ, Kolaveri and Firstpost: Media that made news in 2012

As we come to the last week of the year 2012, it’s time to do a wrap of the most memorable developments in media in the past year.

Satyamev Jayate: Without a doubt to both consumers and media watchers, Aamir’s Khan’s small-screen debut, Satyamev Jayate, was the biggest. I watched the entire first episode, ad breaks, warts and all, and wrote these words within 30 minutes of the program ending.

"In a nutshell, here’s the verdict: Satyamev Jayate works. If the shroud of secrecy on the content of the programme intrigued viewers to want to tune in, the show, once we’ve seen it, involves us enough to want to tune in again.
What’s the show about? It’s clear, now, that Satyamev Jayate will highlight problems in India that we are all familiar with. The construct will be along these lines: a) definition of a problem b) demonstration of the impact of the problem c) the reaction of the authorities to dealing with the problem d) Aamir’s suggested action e) call for viewers’ involvement and support." More on this article can be read here.

In three months, as the 13 week run of the show ended, my initial assessment was proven to be way off the mark. "As Satyamev Jayate went out with a whimper with the last episode, We the People, it’s an appropriate time to take stock of the programme. For a show that promised to bring out the truth and to ensure truth prevailed, it’s the ultimate underachiever. Small droplets of truth shone through, but the droplets never threatened to become a fall, let alone a downpour. It’s because TV , and not truth, prevailed.” A detailed analysis is here.


STAR BCCI cricket rights: Sticking to TV, the other stand-out development was the Rs 3850 crore paid by STAR to BCCI for the rights to cricket. "Is STAR’s punt a misplaced one?," we had asked in Firspost.

"STAR’s taken a brave, considered bet. Indeed, Multiscreen Media (MSM), who bid marginally less than STAR did (Rs 3,700 crore vis-à-vis STAR’s Rs 3,851 crore) could be kicking themselves for having missed out by just Rs 150 crores – that’s about Rs 1.5 crore per match. The bedrock of STAR’s bet (and indeed, MSM’s) is the change in the revenue pie for television in India thanks to the TRAI recommendations on digitization,” the article had continued.

Last week, we found ourselves to be almost prescient. “According to a report in The Times of India, ESPN HD and Star Cricket HD have hiked their monthly subscription charges on the eve of the India-Pakistan series from Rs 40 to Rs 142 and Rs 120 respectively,” we reported. "The rate hike is the first demonstration by STAR that it will attempt to rely less on advertisers and more on subscribers for their revenues – especially for premium, original, exclusive content,” we added.

Premium premier for Kamal Hassan: Filmstar Kamal Hassan beat STAR to it when it came to attempting to leverage the power of digital. “Kamal Hassan took a decision to release his upcoming film,Vishwaroopam, on DTH (direct-to-home) platforms eight hours prior to its release in theatres. In fact, Hassan is charging a whopping price of Rs 1,000 on the one-time screening that will be available on DTH networks. What will be interesting to watch is if viewers will barter the theatre experience for the drawing room sit-back. Even if tickets for three often add up to Rs 1,000, one is willing to pay for the big screen and not a small TV experience. The large flat-screen that, perhaps, Kamal is targeting is a luxury that few homes in India enjoy,” Firstpost had reported when Kamal Hassan made the announcement.

Zee-Jindal: The stinger stung: Still on TV, we saw, for the first time, the reverse sting, where a news TV channel was sting by an apparent intended victim, when Naveen Jindal alleged that Zee TV officials were demanding bribes for positive stories – and claims that the entire conversations were captured on video. “If Zee can be stung – as they seem to have been – it’s time for journalists to beware. Journalists will, henceforth, need to be acutely aware of their surroundings, have to have supreme confidence that there is no danger of their becoming victims of stings by people they are talking to or investigating. In a way, the Jindal sting will make Justice Katju a happy man. Willy-nilly, this incident helps the Press Council of India, insofar that it is a check on the possibility of journalists blackmailing citizens or companies into parting with cash or favours in exchange for damaging news being suppressed,” we had said at that time.

The Hindu-Times of India: The meek hit back: Who would have thought it – The Hindu playing eyeball to eyeball with The Times of India – and The Times of India blinks? “Much has been written – and, doubtless, much more will be written, about the new campaign for The Hindu, which takes The Times of India head on.

The overriding sentiment is captured by the editor of The Mint, R Sukumar, who editorialised, “One reason why I like the ads (and I will be honest about this) is editorial hubris. I see The Hindu as a paper that, like Mint, is fighting the good fight. "

Another is the aggression on display. For too long, the Mahavishnu of Mount Road has played safe and it is good to see the paper becoming aggressive about what it does and, more tellingly, what it thinks of The Times of India’s style of journalism,” we had reported in Firstpost.

A month ago, The Hindu moved on, away from The Times of India. “Behave yourself, India. The youth are watching,” says a in a new commercial. Take a look at the commercial here. What is The Hindu trying to say in this commercial – and to whom? Are they warning politicians that this is the state that they have reduced the parliament to, that what we see in the TVC is what India’s youth believe ‘proper parliamentary behaviour’ really is? After all, that is what they see on TV if they had watched clips of parliament in session during the past year or two. Or is The Hindu trying to say that the paper is watching them, on behalf of the youth of the country – and they will report on, analyse and criticise such behaviour?

Whatever the objectives of the pieces of communications, The Hindu has made one strong statement – that it is no longer meek – and is willing to put up a fight.

Bengali newspaper wars. It’s time. The story is repeated in Kolkata, where Bennett, Coleman and Company, publishers of The Times of India, decided to launch a Bengali paper, challenging the domination of Ananda Bazar Patrika. “Now it’s official. It’s war. From the moment there were rumours that Bennett, Coleman and Company Limited (BCCL), the publishers of The Times of India, were planning to launch a Bengali daily, there were counter rumours that ABP Limited, the publishers of Ananda Bazar Patrika and The Telegraph, would launch a second Bengali newspaper, a tabloid, to use as a flanking title."

ABP got off the blocks first, launching Ebela, (translating loosely to ‘this time’ or ‘now’), a tabloid, in mid-September. The paper is not only physically a tabloid, but is tabloid-esque content wise. Firstpost reviewed the paper a few days after it launched. Now BCCL has thrown its hat into the ring, launching a print and TV campaign for their offering – Ei Shomoy (which translates, loosely, to the same as Ebela would: ‘this time’ or ‘now’),” we had reported.

The war is on, it’s fierce, and it’ll be some time before we know who wins and who loses.

NDTV-TAM: Who will judge the judge? "There have been, over the years, a number of instances when broadcasters have been unhappy with the TAM ratings. TAM ratings, to the uninitiated, are the ratings which measure television audiences in India. There have been rumours of broadcasters being able to ‘fix’ the ratings, with the help of corrupt TAM executives. NDTV has filed a suit against The Nielsen Company and other defendants in the US, under New York State laws. According to the suit, the channel had been discussing their unhappiness with various aspects of the viewership data, continuously from 2004 to 2012. Obviously, they do not have any faith that the situation will change, leading to the filing of the suit,” we reported.

As this is written, the merits of the case are scheduled to be heard in February 2013. We’ll wait and watch. Wait impatiently and watch very, very closely.

Why this Kolaveri over Kolaveri? Simply because it’s got – hold your breath – 65 million views on Youtube as this piece is being written. Still haven’t watched it? Watch it here.

Why is this in media? Because it demonstrates the power of Youtube. No media cost, and 65 million people around the world have seen it. What would that audience have cost if they had to be bought on TV channels? Hmmm.

Firstpost is about the future. Finally, we come to ourselves. This was a big year for Firstpost – our first full year as India’s first, largest and most influential digital newspaper. "The news has moved beyond a static newspaper. The idea was to make readers entirely rethink their view of news as-it-happens. Therefore the lines around reading news a day late." More on the campaign we created to put this point across (and a chance to view the campaign) here.

So why am I plugging Firstpost in this review? It’s because it’s no plug. We’re consistently in the top 5 most influential brands on social media as measure by Pinstorm, currently at #3.

Still not convinced of the need for me to write about Firstpost? Here are the ComScore stats for November 2012:

Total Unique Visitors: 5.398 million
Total Visits: 9.445 million
Total time spent: 27 million minutes
Total Page views: 18 million

Now, that’s a digital newspaper.

So what do we look forward to in 2013? That’s another story – and you will see this in the next few days.

Have a great Christmas break.

Disclaimer: Firstpost is a part of Network18, which owns TV channels and websites and other media businesses which compete with media brands named in this article.

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Updated Date: Dec 24, 2012 13:23:15 IST

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