Why international news still matters

The business of traditional television news has never been stronger, says Liz Nunn, UK sales director at CNN International.

Liz Nunn: argues that television is thriving in the digital age
Liz Nunn: argues that television is thriving in the digital age
An evolving medium

The box in the corner of the living room has evolved beyond all recognition since the first mass-produced TV sets in 1940s and 1950s.

The people who first enjoyed this new entertainment and information experience in flickery black and white simply wouldn’t believe the change in the way it looks, the level of choice and how we interact with TV in 2014.

The experience has been transformed by flat screens, HD, 3D, 4D TV, hundreds of channels, on-demand, connectivity to seemingly infinite content on the internet, and instant social sharing and conversations with people the world over via our second screens.

But despite this continued innovation, some commentators continue to say that the TV is on the way out and online rivals will steal a march on TV and other traditional media in attracting bigger audiences and more advertisers.

Working in pan-regional TV myself for the last 15 years, I’m delighted that the latest independent research continues to debunk the "TV is dead" myth.

New global research

This month, Ipsos has released the second instalment of its Global Affluent survey, analysing the media trends of the 13%-20% most affluent people in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific.

The independent findings are an important currency in pan-regional media buying.

Among the findings in this comprehensive survey, the broad message that stands out for me is that TV remains a platform of unparalleled reach and impact, and is stronger for the rise of digital platforms and content.

Ipsos found that every month, more than three out of four of the international affluent audience watch an international TV channel. International news brands are particularly popular amongst the high income, opinion former and business leader audience surveyed.

CNN is in the lead, with our TV channels watched by 34% of the elite audience across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific. Behind CNN, the BBC has a 23% reach, Sky 21%, CNBC 19%, Al Jazeera 9% and Bloomberg 8%.

Underpinning the statistics is one important point: international TV channels remain the most popular way that the world gets its news. In a remarkable cycle of global news, audiences from all corners of the globe are looking to trusted brands for impartial and on-location reporting.

Embracing digital

We would be ostriches burying our heads in the sand if we ignored the fact that digital is having an effect on our business.

The too-easily accepted narrative is that digital is decimating TV, but this generalisation couldn’t be further from the truth for TV companies who use digital in the right way.

Just about all of the content that CNN commissions has digital components, and almost all of our advertising and sponsorship deals are integrated across TV, digital, mobile and social platforms.

From an audience perspective, the Ipsos Global Affluent survey shows that international news companies are right to embrace digital rather than fight it.

When digital and mobile platforms are combined with TV, Ipsos found that CNN’s monthly reach rises from 34% to 40% amongst the world’s affluents. A similar, if not as pronounced, rise is seen across other international news brands.

Within the survey are some fascinating findings that point to even greater digital penetration and opportunities. It states 98% of affluents in Africa and the Middle East own a smartphone, with one in ten of all African affluents accessing CNN on mobile every month. This is our digital future.

Far from killing the TV star, technology and digital is giving us new life in digital, mobile and social platforms in addition to the mass reach of our almost three-decades-old TV channel. 

An integrated future

The Ipsos findings show media owners and advertisers that the audience thirst for TV news isn’t abating in a world of evolving consumption patterns.

The challenge for international news brands is to maintain relevance, reach and audience interest at a time of unprecedented choice.

For my part, the continued expansion into digital is critical – both in terms of reaching audiences in new ways and in offering integrated solutions for advertisers.

For both international audiences and the premium advertisers that most benefit from a pan-regional proposition, companies like CNN need to be platform agnostic and have multiple touchpoints for our content.

International news companies’ output needs to, of course, focus on powerful news coverage, but we must supplement this with contextual programming, especially in the field of business where the global conversation requires greater explanation and analysis.

Ironically, in the week that Ipsos released the Global Affluent survey, Vice Media – the digital brand often cited as the bête noire of established news organisations – announced that its next strategic move would be to expand its TV news channel into a greater number of countries.

When the digital natives are moving into traditional media as the next big opportunity, the established international news brands should be assured that TV news is in rude health.

However our medium has evolved and regardless of whatever platform viewers connect with us on, the latest Ipsos findings are another indicator of a media landscape that is making, not breaking, traditional news models.  

Liz Nunn is the UK sales director at CNN International.

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