CNN News18, India’s largest English News channel, was the only channel in India to cover all the counting centers during the 2019 election season. Making its general election counting broadcast the fastest and most reliable. To enable this feat, CNN News 18 had teamed with Haloocom as their official communication partner, acting as their communication provider during the Central election counting day on 23rd May 2019. We were promptly able to provide them with a solution which would facilitate instant communication between reporters at the polling booth and live reporting happening at their central hub at Hyderabad.
About CNN News18
CNN-News18 is India’s top English news channel. In the latest Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) report, CNN-NEWS18 was shown to have the highest viewership all over the country, topping the charts in most of the urban, rural and metro regions. The media conglomerate has nearly 40% market share of television viewership time of age group of 22+, and has consistently won multiple awards for best news channel over many years. The awards include ITA Award for Best News Channel in 2012, 2013 and 2016, and Indian Telly Award for Best news channel in 2007.
- Had to connect 100s of journalists across the polling booths at 16 Indian states at the same time.
- Communication must be quick, precise and without any scope of error during the whole (live) election results campaign.
- The information collected must be displayed in an easily digestive manner for millions of viewers across India.
Acknowledging the challenges, our engineers had come up with a network design solution which had the following key components:
- Extremely low network latency (time taken for the data to reach from one point to another in a network). A high network latency will lead to delayed information in live reporting.
- Phone setup capable of handling multiple simultaneous calls, and immediately identifying the caller. Due to the fast paced nature of live news, the information must be immediately passed on from election booth to the reporting office. Without spending any time on identifying the caller.
- Backup system that acts as a fail proof in case anything happened to the primary phone setup. In such a case, the backup system had to automatically start without any manual intervention.
- Designing an intuitive and information rich dashboard that conveyed live updates. With millions viewing the live election updates, they should be able to instantly grasp election counting updates.
CNN News18 had more than 100 reporters at all the polling booths in the 16 states to report real time election counting. To accommodate such large numbers on a temporary basis, we had set up a unique Direct Inward Dialling (DID) for each state through which journalists will be able to report to the live hub. DID is a block of telephone connections in a Private Branch Exchange (PBX). A DID helps in quick setup and removal of telephone connections, perfect for temporary setups such as a counting booths.
Our setup consisted of 2 Xchanges, one primary and the other to be used as a backup. In the case of the primary Xchange failing to send or receive calls due to hardware or network issues, the calls will automatically switch over to secondary Xchange. Each Xchange were connected with 3 lines from two different service providers. This setup was optimal since if there is any issue with the primary Xchange or service provider. The secondary setup, with very different connections, can immediately start acting as the backup, without the same issue which might be hindering the primary Xchange.
An automatic health checkup was performed between the Xchanges on a regular basis, and the call recordings were also copied from primary to secondary Xchange after the dialling hours. To our engineers’ credit, no incidents with the primary Xchange appeared during the whole live reporting period.
To identify the caller immediately, an address book of phone numbers with their respective Journalist’s names and details were stored in the database. Reducing the time for identification and verification, in turn, enabling the information to reach the live hub on a real time basis.
CNN News18 had set up a live hub in Hyderabad to receive news input from all the poll counting locations. The hub acts as a center point for the national news coverage, where a display dashboard reflecting the real time counting numbers was put up. To make it intuitive and viewer friendly, our team had designed the dashboard with an Indian map, in which a particular state was highlighted indicating an update in counting numbers. The dashboard was central to CNN News18’s reporting on the election counting day.
“As expected, News18 India saw unprecedented viewership on the Counting Day. The channel was able to break the first trends as well as the first results. News18 India was able to achieve this because of a dedicated Live Results Hub that was set up and was receiving data from every single counting centre across the country – it was this that allowed the channel to stay far ahead of competition through the day.“
– Mayank Jain, CEO, News18
The CNN News18 Exit Poll Result Coverage on May 23rd was a resounding success. There were no glitches or issues during the whole reporting period. The channel recorded almost 6.01 crore impressions during the coverage period, making CNN News18 one of the most viewed news channels during the prime time of the counting day. In it’s Hindi channel, CNN News18 emerged as 2nd most watched channel with 12.4% market share. The whole campaign was a resounding success for CNN News18 as well as Haloocom team.
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