It’s Re­gional Show­time, Folks!

Re­gional TV chan­nels are no longer func­tion­ing un­der the shadow of Hindi en­ter­tain­ment chan­nels. They are com­ing into their own by im­prov­ing the qual­ity of pro­gram­ming and at­tract­ing the in­ter­ests of ad­ver­tis­ers. Gau­rav Laghate & Tas­mayee Laha Roy re­port

The Economic Times - - Satur­day Fea­ture -

Hindi en­ter­tain­ment chan­nels once used to be the only plat­form for top-qual­ity, glossy, big-bud­get fic­tion and re­al­ity shows in In­dia. No longer so – re­gional chan­nels are catch­ing up with lo­cal ver­sions of in­ter­na­tional pro­grammes such as Big Brother, Who Wants to be a Mil­lion­aire, Minute to Win It, Deal or No Deal and Danc­ing With the Stars.

Whether it is drama, mythol­ogy, mys­tery or hor­ror in fic­tion or quiz and dance shows in the re­al­ity space, re­gional broad­cast­ers are pay­ing top dol­lars to get such pro­grammes on their chan­nels. “There was a time when re­gional TV was like the poor coun­try cousin of the na­tional chan­nels,” said Rav­ish Ku­mar, EVP at Vi­a­com18 and busi­ness head of Colors Kan­nada, Colors Bangla and Colors Odiya. “Bu­tover­time,with­bignet­worksven­tur­ing in the re­gional space, things are chang­ing.”

Re­gional chan­nels have made their pres­ence­felt­na­tion­wide­with­aw­iden­ingview­er­ship, although Hindi chan­nels to­gether still dom­i­nate. Tamil en­ter­tain­ment chan­nel SunTV­topped­view­er­ship­inthe­coun­try­for the week ended April 15, ac­cord­ing to data on the web­site of the Broad­cast Au­di­ence Re­search Coun­cil In­dia, ahead of Hindi chan­nels Star Plus, Colors and Zee TV. The only other re­gional chan­nel in the top 10 by view­er­ship was Zee Tel­ugu.

It’s now the norm for non-fic­tion shows on re­gional chan­nels to be made in the for­mat of glob­ally pop­u­lar pro­grammes. Zee Bangla’s quiz show Dada­giri Un­lim­ited has former In­dian cricket cap­tain Sau­rav Gan­guly as the main host. The Vi­a­com18 group of chan­nels – Colors Kan­nada, Colors Ben­gali and Colors Marathi – is in­vest­ing heav­ily in non-fic­tion.

“Re­gional mar­kets’ ap­petite in high-qual­ity con­tent has man­i­fested in con­tent be­ing im­proved. So we are just re­spond­ing to as­pi­ra­tions, en­sur­ing that re­gional mar­kets are vi­brant and no dif­fer­ent from the na­tional mar­kets,” Ku­mar said.

“We con­tinue to up our con­tent de­liv­er­ies on the re­gional chan­nels. We have been driv­ing high-end re­gional shows in re­gional mar­kets, be it Dada­giri (Zee Bangla) or Chala Hawa Yeu Dya and Saregama (Zee Marathi),” said Sharada Sun­der, EVP – re­gional chan­nels at Zee En­ter­tain­ment En­ter­prises Ltd. “Our con­tent propo­si­tion has al­ways been well fo­cused on re­gional.”

Fic­tion,too,has­seen­bigchanges.Whether it’s West Ben­gal, Kar­nataka, Ma­ha­rash­tra or Andhra Pradesh, ma­jor pro­duc­tion houses are gen­er­at­ing fresh con­tent and ex­per­i­ment­ing with con­cepts be­yond tra­di­tional daily TV soap op­eras. Zee, Star In­dia and Vi­a­com18, which have both Hindi and re­gional chan­nels on their net­works, have

sensed the change and also in­tro­duced such shows.

“The whole idea of tele­vi­sion con­tent has changed. We have moved way be­yond saas bahu sto­ries. My new show is fan­tasy folk­lore and in the 50-plus episodes we have com­pleted, it has been ac­cepted well by the au­di­ence,” said Raj Chakraborty of Raage Anu­raage, a show on Zee Bangla.

And while in­ter­na­tional for­mats are mak­ing in­roads, more chan­nels are still fo­cus­ing on fic­tion, which has higher mar­gins, to drive con­tent.

“Althoughone­may­want­tomatchthe­qual- ity of a re­gional show with that of a na­tional chan­nel, the fact is that the reach of the show – ex­cept for Sun TV – is go­ing to be much lower than the Hindi gen­eral en­ter­tain­ment chan­nel. So the gap will re­main wide,” said a re­gional pro­ducer, who did not wish to be iden­ti­fied.

Sun­der said re­gional chan­nels are grow­ing also be­cause of digi­ti­sa­tion, which fa­cil­i­tates bet­ter qual­ity and a greater view­er­ship. “Digi­ti­sa­tion will pro­pel a lot more TV chan­nels in the re­gional space. In fu­ture, there is go­ing to be a lot of seg­men­ta­tion, clut­ter and can­ni­bal­i­sa­tion. What re­ally will drive a brand will be what it of­fers,” she said.

With broad­cast­ers now look­ing at high­def­i­ni­tion feeds, they will have to en­sure ad­di­tional in­vest­ments in pro­duc­tion qual­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to Nitin Vaidya, co­founder of pro­duc­tion house Dashmi Cre­ations and former head of re­gional chan­nels at Zee En­ter­tain­ment, the re­gional mar­kets have grown and ad­ver­tis­ers are look­ing at these mar­kets for bet­ter reach.

“With in­crease in the ap­petite of re­gional view­ers, along with ad­ver­tis­ers’ will­ing­ness to spend more, it is nat­u­ral that chan­nels will in­vest more in bet­ter qual­ity con­tent,” Vaidya said.

“The re­gional chan­nels have def­i­nitely man­aged to spark ad­ver­tis­ers’ in­ter­est as they fol­low the eye­balls. To­day, re­gional gen­eral en­ter­tain­ment is as big as Hindi gen­eral en­ter­tain­ment, which shows their sig­nif­i­cance. Also, with mul­ti­ple re­gions and mar­kets, ad­ver­tis­ers can se­lect tar­get au­di­ences re­gion wise in a cost-ef­fec­tive man­ner,” a me­dia buyer for a big FMCG com­pany told ET.

Over the past few years, show costs paid by re­gional chan­nels to pro­duc­tion houses have in­creased – from Rs 90,000-1.5 lakh per episode in 2009-10 to Rs 1.5 lakh-2.5 lakh for fic­tion pro­grammes.

“Across the board, across the re­gions, you will see sig­nif­i­cant ex­am­ples of shows that are world class. Ad­ver­tis­ers are also see­ing the view­ers’ pref­er­ences,” said Ku­mar of Vi­a­com18. “We are just re­spond­ing to the chang­ing ecosys­tem and try­ing to make sure that we are sat­is­fy­ing the viewer and ad­ver­tis­ers.”

“What has changed is that ear­lier, Hindi used to get ideas from south. Now, it is the other way, with re­gional mar­kets copy­ing ideas from Hindi,” said Sameer Nair, group CEO at Balaji Tele­films.

Even so, re­gional chan­nels have their lim­i­ta­tions. They still don’t have big enough bud­gets to re­make some pro­grammes. It did not make busi­ness sense for a re­gional ver­sion of the re­al­ity show Kha­tron Ke Khi­ladi (along the lines of Fear Fac­tor), which in­volved high-level stunts per­formed in open spa­ces. The En­de­mol-owned show was dubbed and tele­cast on South In­dian chan­nels.

Things were favourable with Bigg Boss be­cause the same sets in Lon­avala could be used for the Hindi, Kan­nada and Ben­gali ver­sions.

Given the dif­fer­ent cul­tures and dy­nam­ics in each re­gion and their unique chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties, broad­cast­ers have to eval­u­ate sev­eral as­pects when con­sid­er­ing a re­make of a Hindi show.

“Each re­gion has its nu­ances, cul­ture, value sys­tem and dif­fer­ent level of pro­gres­sion that sets a kind of back­drop around which one cre­ates the con­tent. One has to be re­lat­able, and at the same time as­pi­ra­tional. That changes hugely from state to state. Con­tent has to be cog­nizant of this,” said Sun­der.

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