Large TV broadcast networks in India are synonymous with their flagship Hindi General Entertainment Channels (GEC). Although the likes of Zee Entertainment, Star India and Viacom 18 have multiple channels under their umbrella, ZEE TV, Star Plus or Colors are what instantly come to mind. It seems soon these entertainment networks will have to change their definition of flagship channel as their regional bouquet is getting them the much-needed advertising moolah.
Star India Chairman Uday Shankar, at a recent press conference, admitted that the language market is where the growth is coming from and will continue in the future. Meanwhile, Punit Misra, CEO (Domestic Broadcast Business), ZEE Entertainment, says that the viewership for its regional entertainment and regional movie channels has been 20 per cent higher than its flagship Hindi GEC and Hindi movie channels since 2016. "The trend has swapped. 80 per cent of our portfolio has gained share, out of which regional has contributed 70 per cent," says Misra.
Indian audiences are more than willing to consume content in their respective vernacular languages. "Earlier there were not too many options, hence, consumers watched Hindi entertainment channels," he further explains.
Zee Entertainment has launched four new regional channels, three of which are regional movie channels - Zee Pichar (Kannada), Zee Thirai (Tamil) and Zee Biscope. Regional movie channels, according to Misra, are growing 2X of the market. The entertainment network has also launched Zee Punjabi, a Punjabi general entertainment channel.
While regional TV channels are increasingly beginning to have more takers, even advertisers are beginning to show more interest. In fact, Nestle India MD & Chairman, Suresh Narayanan, in a recent interview with Business Today had mentioned that in order to reach out to consumers in nooks and corners of the country, the regional media has become an important part of its media mix. Gone are the days when brands used only Hindi general entertainment channels because it gave them reach.
Misra of Zee Entertainment says that brands are reaching out to regional channels for specific solutions. He cites the example of L'Oreal which used Zee Marathi to address the concern of brand trust in certain markets of Maharashtra. "We created an ad with our lead characters endorsing the brand. We also urged L'Oreal not to do any other communication in these markets. The campaign significantly improved their brand score," claims Misra.
There are talks of Sony Pictures Network in discussion with Reliance Industries to buy its stake in Viacom 18. If the deal sees the light of the day, one of the biggest advantages for Sony would be Viacom's regional portfolio. Sony's regional strategy has been a non-starter. On the other hand, the new Country Manager of Star and Disney India is K. Madhavan, who was earlier MD of the company's South business. If it is a coincidence or well thought-out strategy where the regional business will be one of the front-runners is for one to wait and watch.