TV broadcasting and video-on-demand services have changed a lot in last two years, when the industry witnessed exponential growth in regional language TV channels and OTT offerings. Going regional is a boon for broadcasters and OTT players not only because it increases TRPs of the shows in a particular state in India, the Indian immigrants across the globe too extensively follow the local news and entertainment content. People living in Saudi Arabia and Dubai watch content of their states in their own languages instead of watching something in English or Hindi.
Language binds people like nothing. It advances cultural values and keep people united. Regional languages have played a key role and were of paramount importance to Television audiences in India.
A decade ago or so, broadcasters usually adopted ‘dub and broadcast’ strategy. But now they have realized there is more to regional viewership than soaps and dubbed shows. Hence, they started to launch separate channels in niche areas as they understood that the TV market cannot be treated as a package of translated content.
According to the recent ICCI-KPMG report, the regional viewership share is over 33 per cent, that's a substantial share of audience in regional demographics. The report adds that Tamil channels have the biggest share of 25.7 per cent in local viewership, followed by Telugu (24.4 per cent), Kannada (11.6 per cent), Malayalam (9.2), Bengali (6.6), Marathi (4.6), and Oriya (2.6).
Doordarshan’s free-to-air (FTA) direct-to-home (DTH) platform DD Free Dish is also fuelling the growth of regional languages channels as top broadcasters are desperately buying slots for a hefty sum to reach the maximum audiences which they also do because of BARC’s inclusion of rural measurement.
Big launches in regional languages:
The year of 2016 witnessed a flurry of regional channel launches. In 2015, Star India acquired Maa TV network for Rs 2,500 crore to grow the regional pie within its bouquet. In 2017, Star India launched its first ever regional language sports channel marking a growing realisation among media networks and broadcasters about the rising power of the Indian language market.
After Star launched Star Sports 1 Tamil (SS1 Tamil), it was quickly followed by Colors which launched the second Kannada GEC (general entertainment channel) with HD variants of its portfolio in Kannada, Bangla and Oriya earlier. Zee could not be behind in the race; it too launched its youth-focused Zee Yuva Marathi and a Tamil movie channel. Even local players joined the race and launched regional language channels like Madhimugam TV, a news and entertainment channel in Tamil and Saral Jeevan, the first Kannada infotainment channel.
South India; the biggest market
Tamil Nadu is one of the top 5 BARC markets (in terms of viewership), with 90 per cent regional content consumption. The state also has multiple franchisees across sports in cricket, football (Chennaiyin FC), badminton and kabaddi.
As per BARC India, viewers in the South have a larger appetite for GEC and news as compared to the Hindi speaking market. The BARC report also revealed that South Indian viewers prefer GEC and movie channels in their own languages. Hence, broadcasters have started to turn to South first.
Role of BARC measurement:
TV measurement in regional areas has changed the game in favour of regional language channels. To impress advertisers, broadcasters started to go regional, as that is the only way to keep ahead on the measurement chart and woo advertisers.
Low cost of content creation & High Return:
Content production in regional languages is nearly 5-7 times low in comparison to content in English and Hindi. Actors and crew charge less and the production cost also remains comparatively low. Broadcasters know they will get a good return.
The FICCI KPMG Media and Entertainment Report 2017 said that the advertising potential of the four southern markets is estimated at around Rs 45-50 billion; Tamil market could be at Rs 17-18 billion, followed by Andhra at Rs 12-16 billion and Karnataka and Kerala at Rs 7-8 billion.
According to Anuj Poddar, head of rural business at Viacom18, “Regional language content is far more relatable. Differentiated, mass- based drama series work well in Marathi and Gujarati, with the market not having much inclination towards dubbed series."
Not only films, reality shows and TV serials are also getting very popular in regional languages, and broadcasters are spending good money to create good quality content. The role of demography based ad agents like Amagi is also a key factor in bringing advertisers to regional content broadcast.
Reality shows fuelling growth:
Star telecasts Big Boss Telugu which is hugely popular. It is one of the biggest shows launches in Telugu market, watched by almost all viewers in that language.
Kaun Banega Crorepati too was customized into Malayalam on Asianet with the name ‘Ningalkum Akam Kodeeshvaran,’ ‘Kannadada Kotyadhipati’ in Kannada on Suvarna channel and in Tamil by Sun TV under the name ‘Ningalam Velalam Oru Koti.’ The show became huge hit.
These reality shows from international and national formats are aggressively being remade in local languages in the south to attract the larger group of viewers. Increased TRP helps in bringing onboard a lot of advertisers. Even international brands sponsor such programmes in local languages.
Digital & OTT in regional languages growing fast:
The OTT platform has tremendous reaching power as anyone with an internet enabled Smartphone can consume content in their own languages at their own convenience. It caters to diversified needs of a population that speaks multiple language and experience life differently.
All leading OTT platforms like Hotstar, Amazon Prime, ALTBalaji, Arre, and Culture Machine are actively chalking out their regional strategy.
Google owned YouTube has become a king in offering video content in local languages. YouTube has claimed the growth of regional viewership has tripled over the past two years, helping to make content creation in languages ranging from Haryanvi to Tamil and Telugu a profitable business.
According to Satya Raghavan, head of entertainment at YouTube India, "Apart from Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam are seeing massive growth in watch time, with other languages including Haryanvi, Marathi, Bengali and others following closely behind.“
As per YouTube, the top 10 regional YouTube channels in the country have subscriber bases ranging from 3,00,000 to over 8,00,000. Haryanvi comedy channel Nazar Battu Productions has a following of over 6,00,000 and earns $3,000-4,000 a month from sponsors and advertisers.
Satya added, “Brands now realise they can reach consumers in different pockets of India by partnering with these content creators. For instance, Hindustan Unilever would show only Hindi ads and now they have the opportunity to make advertisements in diverse Indian languages."
As per YouTube India’s estimates, Indian language partner content viewership is doubling annually and it also has a global audience, with 40% of the subscribers outside India. Punjabi content is a hit among the Indian diaspora in the US, the UK and Canada, while south Indian language content is popular in the Middle East.
B. Sai Kumar, Co-Founder, Arre (OTT platform), said: "I want to take Arre to five regional markets - Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi and I want to do it in two years. Each of these markets should have about 10-15 fictional shows by the end of three years.”
According to Sameer Pitalwalla, CEO, and Co-Founder, Culture Machine,” If we don’t have regional content to offer then scaling-up would be a challenge. We already have Put Chutney, a Tamil web channel, and the idea is to offer content in other vernacular languages.”
SVF, one of Bengal's leading entertainment companies, owns Bengali OTT platform, Hoichoi, which offers attractive Bengali content, and is very hit amongst the audience which speak that language.
The OTT platform by Balaji Telefilms, ALTBalaji has also launched regional stand-up comedy in Marathi, Punjabi, Gujarati and more Hindi videos to hook maximum audiences from various demographies.
Manav Sethi, CMO of ALTBalaji, said, “If we go by consumer insight, we understood that the stand-up available to viewers is mostly English or Hindi, neglecting the regional language demand and so we have identified local talents from these regions and got them on board. The highly talented, witty and humorous artistes bring in the flavour of their language and culture on stage, which is immensely liked by our targeted viewers.”
Star India, which has bought broadcasting and digital rights of the Indian Premier League (IPL 2018), is targeting 700 million cricket fans across TV and Digital platforms. The matches will be broadcast in six different languages, Hindi, English, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.