With Marathi speaking viewers on rise, networks are getting aggressive with channel launches

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Mumbai | Updated: August 26, 2018 6:35 PM

OTT has come in as an encouragement as it has enhanced the distribution option for regional content creators.

marathi television industry, marathi tv viewrship, tv viewership in indiaZee, which commands over 50% of viewership in the Maharashtra market (as per BARC India), operates three regional channels — Zee Marathi and Zee Talkies, followed by Zee Yuva launched in 2016.

With Maharashtra and Goa cornering 14% market share in terms of overall TV viewership, with a growth of 74% in 2017 as per a FICCI-EY report, interest from channels has only gone up. Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), too, has unleashed its plans for the genre by launching its second regional general entertainment channel, Sony Marathi, after Sony Aath in 2008. With Sony Marathi on air, all the four major networks (Zee, Star India, Viacom18 and Sony) now have a presence in the Marathi market.

“If you look at Maharashtra as a market, you will see there are multiple independent urban centres like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Kolhapur, unlike some others where the urban centre is restricted to the capital of that state,” says Ajay Bhalwankar, business head, Sony Marathi. “As much as Rs 800-1,000 crore of advertising money is spent on Marathi television programming — a market where the time spent watching television is 1,400 minutes per week across 23.7 million households. That is a lot of opportunity.”

However, from an advertiser’s point of view, there are other markets that are more indexed, as per a media analyst. This would mean that the SEC A+ audience in Mumbai is less likely to watch Marathi TV while the affluent in Kolkata may prefer to consume content in their regional language. Therefore, the Marathi television comes with its own challenges.

Zee, which commands over 50% of viewership in the Maharashtra market (as per BARC India), operates three regional channels — Zee Marathi and Zee Talkies, followed by Zee Yuva launched in 2016. “Yuva caters to anyone with a youthful mindset. This could be a 60-year-old viewer, but with a progressive mindset,” says Amit Shah, cluster head, regional, Hindi speaking markets, ZEEL.

As per recent media reports, southern broadcaster Sun TV also has plans of launching a Marathi general entertainment channel; this could make Maharashtra the only market with five major broadcasters in operation.

OTT, too, has come in as an encouragement for regional players as it has enhanced the distribution option for regional content creators. “If there are 20 households in Tamil Nadu interested in Marathi content, a cable operator may not carry the channel solely for them, but on OTT, it is possible to consume such content,” Ashish Pherwani, partner, media and entertainment advisory services, EY, adds. With regional content in the spotlight, there is room for segmented offerings as well.

Currently, segmentation exists in the form of GECs, news, music and movie genres across major regional markets, while in niche genres, there are regional feeds. Girish Menon, partner, deal advisory and head, media and entertainment, KPMG India, says, “My sense is broadcasters will not dive further into micro-segmentation for regional TV; for this, they could adopt the digital route.”

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