India is known for its cultural diversity and the pluralism is clearly reflected in the media and entertainment industry and its content. The love for diverse content among Indians has helped regional channels to register 3x ad volumes as compared to national channels.
In the last three to four years, the regional television entertainment industry has witnessed notable growth and now the pandemic has also fuelled it up significantly. Experts feel that the dominant reason for this growth is the variety in content offered by the regional channels.
The growth of regional GECs
According to a BARC India report of 2020, Regional language content has emerged as a key growth driver for TV viewership over the past four years. Similarly, BARC’s ‘What India Watched 2019’ report said that many regional channels almost doubled their viewership in four years.
There has also been an increase in the volume of television advertising post-lockdown. The share of most regional channels and volumes has also increased, experts say.
Amarpreet Singh Saini, Senior Vice-President, Bhojpuri Cluster, ZEEL, said, regional viewership is continuously and assertively growing across markets and we are ready to meet the expectations of viewers and to offer lucrative opportunities to advertisers.
While sharing insights on the Bhojpuri region, Saini told that in FY22, Bhojpuri category has seen 13.3% quarterly growth led by Zee Ganga and Zee Biskope commanding leadership with 35.0% share.
“This growth is largely driven by continuous innovation and deepening of authenticity in regional content,” highlighted Saini.
He feels that with the unlocking of the economy the market, across categories, is on an upswing. There is a thrust to rejuvenate and refresh brand rapport and stance in the post-pandemic mindset of the consumers. Overall there is a significant movement towards returning to pre-Covid levels both in terms of viewership as well as ad sales.
Sun TV network, which is a strong player in the South Indian market, recently entered the Marathi market with Sun Marathi.
According to a top executive of Sun TV, the regional market is recording a surge in viewership. Interestingly, the viewers for regional content are not just from the concerned region but from metro cities too.
“In FY 2023, if Hindi channels grow by 8 to 10%, the growth of the regional channel will be 15%. Pricing will be the most important metric in it,” he emphasized.
Ad-volumes growing than ever-before
Deepening regional viewership is providing a more customised and emotionally anchored rapport, for the brands, to strike with their viewers. Saini said that over the years, the Bhojpuri category has seen a significant increase in presence of established national brands along with regional ones.
Despite a lull in the advertising industry in 2020, regional channels recorded 3X ad volumes than national channels, he asserted.
“Regional channels account for 77% share in overall volumes with big brands present on board. Along with local brands, national brands from across the categories are showing great interest in the regional content in recent times.”
On being asked what types of brands are more interested in advertising on regional entertainment channels, Saini shared, that Zee Ganga created co-branded integration avenues through Chhath Vignette, Munch Dilayega Manch, crunchy moments etc. Chhath Online Aarag for Nestle Munch, off-air special drive like Ek Kadam Swabhiman Ki Aor witnessed brands like Emami (Zandu), Goldie Masala, Bunge (Dalda), Ultratech and Yamaha etc. showcasing their interest in the regional market.
Recently Zee Ganga original content was also launched with partners like Adani Fortune, Eyetex Dazler, Fashnear technologies-Meesho and Ultratech, Saini added.
Viraj Raje, Head of programming, Colors Marathi, said Colors Marathi has advertisers like Brooke Bond Red Label on-board as the Presenting Sponsor of their leading reality show Big Boss, while TRESemme, HAIER & A23 have joined as Special Partners.
He said that FMCG is dominating the regional advertising, followed by categories like auto, e-commerce, durable goods etc.
Fresh regional programming
Whether it is Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujrat or Andhra Pradesh, all studios have fresh content lined-up for the festive season.
Taking a look at the content line-up, from Zee Ganga revamping itself to Colors Marathi’s new content line and Sun TV’s new Marathi channel launch to Star India’s festive content, regional GECs are all set to take this growth to new heights with innovative content.
Zee Ganga, which has recently revamped itself to go ‘vocal for local’, is coming up with fresh content comprising over 14 hours of originals, including 10 hours of four fictional shows and four hours of one non-fiction show, 500+ titles featuring Bhojpuri movies, and others.
To counter viewers’ fatigue and saturation during the pandemic, Zee Ganga brought innovative content and marketing initiatives like, Yoga Future Fit, Kajri Utsava, Saregamapa 25 years celebration, Sawaan Video campaign, Saini shared.
Similarly, Viacom 18’s regional channels like Colors Gujrati and Colors Marathi are also bringing in new content to engage viewers and attract more advertisers.
Raje of Colors Marathi said, “Since the pandemic, the world as one community, is facing a very challenging time and the Bigg Boss Marathi is all about showcasing the contestants’ determination in the face of challenges and living with a positive frame of mind.”
Television network Star India network has a range of content charted out across channels and languages to add cheer to the festive season. The network’s distinctive content line-up promises to add joy to the festive season with an eclectic mix of movies and fiction and non-fiction shows, including Bigg Boss Telugu and Tamil and more.
Star’s regional entertainment offering will include a special talent show ‘Me Honar Superstar Chote Ustaad’ on Star Pravah, ‘Cook with Comali Season 3’ on Star Vijay, ‘Bigg Boss Diwali Special’ on Star Maa and more. In addition to this, multiple new fiction shows will be launched across the television network.
Cultural representation: An emerging trend during pandemic
As pandemic forced people to stay confined within four walls, viewers turned to their favourite mode of entertainment i.e. TV. Consequently, TV viewership soared ever since the first lockdown.
With people locked inside their homes, a lot of behavioural changes have also happened, leading to new trends in the television industry. Sharing how things changed for regional GECs during the pandemic, Saini said, since March 2020, regional viewership is steadily growing both in terms of interest and drivers towards it.
As pandemic has evolved the viewers to seek out more variety than ever before and have widened their consumption palate as well, Zee Ganga has offered four original Bhojpuri shows catering to a range of viewer needs and aspirations, said Saini.
After the lockdown, viewers' expectations of innovation, curation, and quality have also evolved notably, he highlighted.
Saini told that in the present times, viewers are seeking more authentic and aspirational indulgence and representation of their rich and unique ethos and culture.
Similarly, Colors Marathi is also targeting the audience by giving them a taste of ‘Marathipan’. “Our overall approach with Bigg Boss Marathi Season 3 is to celebrate the ‘Marathipan’ by displaying the various cultural nuances of Maharashtra. Be it the design elements inside the house, the tasks, and even naming Weekend ka Daav as Chavadi, we have tried to bring in the true essence of Maharashtra’s rich culture into the show,” said Raje.
Sun TV, which has recently debuted in Marathi region with the tagline ‘Sohala Natyancha’, brings stories that take place in different regions of Maharashtra. By virtue of this diversity, our content reflects the lifestyle and culture of both urban and rural Maharashtra, said the SUN TV executive.