Posts Tagged ‘moneycontrol.com’

What Raghav Bahl could learn from Samir Jain

12 September 2010

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Some time in the mid-20th century, the legendary New Yorker writer (and foodie) A.J. Liebling famously said, “freedom of the press belongs to those who own one“.

For proof in the early 21st, he might like to take a look at Raghav Bahl.

The founder, editor, controlling shareholder and managing director of Network 18—the company behind CNBC-TV18 and Awaaz; CNN-IBN, IBN7 and IBN Lokmat, Forbes India, in.com and a myriad dotcoms—has just penned his debut book on India and China titled Super Power?: The Amazing Race between China’s Hare and India’s Tortoise.

But judging from the unabashed promotion, further promotion, continuing promotion and continuing further promotion of the book on the Network 18 platform, it would seem as if James Joyce has returned to rework, well, Balika Vadhu.

# For days before the launch of the book on August 17, senior editors across Network 18 channels burnt the midnight oil sending off invitations (and reminders) to assemble a sizeable “power” audience.

# In April, four full months before the launch of the “Superbook on Superpowers”, CNN-IBN featured a 2-minute, 3-second report on the book by the network’s best known voice, Shereen Bhan, with accompanying text helpfully reminding viewers that the “brilliantly written, superbly documented, rich and comprehensive account” is already being called as “one most definitive books on the subject.”

# On moneycontrol.com, the financial portal owned by Network 18, an announcement of the book’s launch by Penguin said the book offered “telling insights”.

# By a happy coincidence in April, Bahl received a nice little plug on CNN-IBN‘s breakfast show following his inclusion in a book by an Australian lawyer of corporate India’s bigwigs: “Raghav Bahl among top 30 Indian businessmen.”

# In May, Forbes ran a piece by Bahl titled 2050, An economic odyssey on how India and China would reclaim their positions as economic giants, with the author intro saying the book “is forthcoming from Penguin Allen Lane.”

# In July, Bahl took part in a discussion on Karan Thapar‘s CNBC show India Tonight, with Pranab Bardhan, whose book on the India-China theme ‘Awakening giants of clay‘ was published around the same, as co-panelist.

# In August, all the network’s channels carried the book’s grand launch in Delhi, with their websites carrying Bahl’s opening remarks and the panel discussion moderated by CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai.

# Promotional advertisements on the book have crawled on screens of the network’s channels for months now. On the group’s portal in.com, an anonymous guest posted a discussion urging readers to “Kindly promote this book in institutes“.

# On the CNN-IBN website, a 4,876-word extract of the book was posted on the day after the book’s launch in August.

# Using the group’s portal in.com, a dedicated channel called superpower.in.com was created to showcase the book (along with a Hindi section titled superpowerhindi.in.com).

# Readers of the August 13 issue of the Indian edition of Forbes magazine, received a free 48-page booklet containing an “exclusive excerpt” from Bahl’s book.

# The following issue of Forbes contained a four-page debate between Bahl and Yasheng Huang, an MIT professor of Chinese origin, on the India vs China issue.

# The day after the launch, CNN-IBN declared on its website that “the book was drawing praise from the stalwarts of India Inc and the government,” with a 1-minute, 41-second news report even exhorting viewers to get their copy in “English or Hindi”.

# Readers of the September issue of Entrepreneur, published by Network 18,  received a free 48-page booklet of Bahl’s book containing another “exclusive excerpt”.

# On the network’s Hindi business channel, CNBC Awaaz, Bahl featured in a debate with Congress and BJP leaders moderated by the channel’s editor, Sanjay Pugalia.

# In early September, Bahl gave an interview to Shereen Bhan on CNBC-TV18 again, on the “amazing race between India and China“.

# In early September, as the issue of land acquisition for infrastructure projects gathered steam, Bahl popped up on CNBC-TV18‘s special show Fixing India’s Governance, offering the Chinese example.

# At last week’s broadcasters’ association awards fete, all participants of panel discussions received a complimentary copy of Superpower, and so on.

To be fair, Bahl’s debut book has received plenty of press outside the Network18 platform.

The launch was widely reported by The Indian Express, The Asian Age, DNA, Zee News, Financial Express, Hindustan Times (Delhi 1) and (Delhi 2), and  Hindustan Times (Bombay), and assorted industry publications like exchange4media, afaqs!, and Indian Television,

And the book has (so far) been reviewed by The Hindu, Businessworld, and India Today, and more are forthcoming.

Nevertheless, the issue at hand is one of Bahl, Network 18 and Superpower?.

The boilerplate excuse is, if an owner cannot push his own book on his own network, what use is his ownership? A good counter question is, would any other debutant author get so much play and promotion across so many media vehicles over so many months?

It can aslo be argued that Bahl is not the first media personality to use his baby is for self-promotion.

The Hindu routinely carries news items of its editor-in-chief N.Ram‘s speeches. The Times of India is full of promotions of its various “brands”, including pictures from Vineet Jain‘s annual Holi parties. India Today and Outlook routinely sneak in pictures of this or that group event on its pages.

Yet, there is such a thing as overdose when it involves the bossman. As a first-generation media mogul, Bahl might like to pick up a lesson from ToI‘s Samir Jain or Anand Bazar Patrika‘s Aveek Sarkar, both of whom maintain a very low profile in their publications.

Or, maybe, Bahl will take comfort from A.J. Liebling’s other famous line: “The function of the press in society is to inform but its role is to make money.”

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Photo-illustration: courtesy Forbes

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Also read: Is this man the new media mogul of India?

How serious is the trouble at CNBC and CNN-IBN?

The end-game is near for both TV18 and NDTV

26% of India’s most powerful are media barons

The 11 habits of India’s most powerful media pros

How serious is the trouble at CNBC & CNN-IBN?

12 July 2010

Raghav Bahl‘s Network 18 group has restructured its business plan. Again.

All the loss-making broadcast businesses—CNBC TV18, CNN-IBN, IBN7, etc—are under one roof, and the digital and publishing initiatives—moneycontrol.com, Infomedia, etc—under another.

Debashis Basu writes in the personal finance magazine Moneylife that this is an old trick aimed at buying time and raising money by spinning a new story:

“The problem starts with the fact that 40% of TV18’s business is broadcasting that helps pull in revenues for other businesses. And there, revenues show not traction.

“Revenues were actually down in the March quarter even over the terrible quarter that was March 2009, despite the fact that this year’s March quarter revenues should have been buoyed by the big event of the Union Budget.

“The silver lining is that one part of IBN18’s business-entertainment channel Colors, is making money. But other broadcasting businesses of IBN18 (CNN-IBN, IBN Lokmat and IBN7) are in deep losses again and have no real growth traction.

“Competition is intense because others can also play the same game as Network18 can.

“Their operational costs are high too, mainly because salaries are exorbitant, relative to quality and quantity of output. Most importantly, these news operations have no real edge; they are indistinguishable from the others. The 50% profit from Colors will be eaten up by losses from the news channels.”

MoneyLife‘s continuing series of stories on the state of the TV players is indicative of the code of omerta that seems to be in play in the Indian media on matters affecting the Indian media. Although TV18 is a listed entity, which means ordinary citizens have their money invested in it, other media houses do not devote the same space on the financials.

Read the full article: Restructuring won’t mend cracks

Also read: The endgame is near for TV18 and NDTV

The barbs that resulted in a Rs 500 crore lawsuit

Is this man the new media mogul of India?

‘The endgame is near for both TV 18 and NDTV’

31 July 2009

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Indian media houses, generally speaking, have been cagey in reporting the economic downturn and what it is doing to the man (and woman) on the street. They haven’t ignored it, of course, but they have been, let’s say, less boisterous than they were when reporting the boom.

At one level, this is because of the widely held belief that gloom doesn’t sell. “Let us report what is happening, but let us not amplify it too much,” one top Hindi publisher wrote in an email to several co-publishers a few months ago. At another level, this is because of the belief that the blip was temporary and the good times would soon be back.

The good times may soon be here, so help me god, but will they be for India’s most glamourous television houses?

Moneylife, the personal financial magazine run by India’s pioneering business investigative journalist Sucheta Dalal and her husband Debashis Basu, has a special report on the state of of TV18, the BSE-listed company of Raghav Bahl (in picture), which runs CNBC-TV18 and the Hindi business channel CNBC Awaaz, among other businesses.

It is nothing short of eye-popping.

“Bleeding to Death?” reads the headline.

The story, authored by Debashis Basu, talks of the “horrifying story of cyclical revenues and non-cyclical costs,” and it warns that “things may only get worse”.

It compares TV 18’s current plight with NDTV’s.

“Both are losing profusely. Losses were a little lower when the [Indian] economy grew by 9% and the market euphoria fetched the two groups newer dumb investors and more money to keep going. But now, both are nearing this endgame.”

In broadcasting (CNBC TV18 and CNBC Awaaz), Basu writes that revenues are down and profits have collapsed due to higher costs. In web (moneycontrol.com, in.com, etc) revnues of Rs 65 crore have been overtaken by losses of Rs 66 crore. The newswire and printing businesses are not doing too well either.

Basu writes that TV18’s financial situation today is the result of accumulated sins of the past couple of years: the expansion of web-based businesses with no profitability in sight, huge expenses on staff and stock options, to finance which the company stares at a mountain of debt close to Rs 850 crore.

Even with the stock markets clawing back, Basu concludes that “the problems of TV18 have just started” because the economics of the business has changed with the entry of new players like ET Now, and with rumours of heightened competition in the form of Bloomberg.

“The big issue for TV18 is exactly what hit NDTV a few quarters earlier: how to keep funding the losses? One way out is taking on more debt hoping that the businesses would reviee…. Or get foreign media companies to buy your story….

“Even if there is value in some parts of the group, Raghav Bahl has locked up that value in a complicated group structure that got created when he funded these businesses as a network of entities, not independent businesses. So squeezed between competition on one side and cash crunch on the other, the endgame for TV18 begins.”

IBN18, which runs CNN-IBN, IBN Lokmat, IBN7, have always been losing money.

Read the full TV18 article: Bleeding to death?

Read the full NDTV article: Reality show

Also read: How the Indian media dream went sour

Is this man the new media mogul of India?

26% of India’s most powerful are media barons

The 11 habits of India’s most powerful media pros

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