One of the biggest advertisers on television, LG Electronics India Pvt. Ltd, which has an annual budget of around Rs200 crore, plans to direct a significant share of its spends to regional channels, especially Marathi channels.
“Maharashtra is a prosperous state. The consumers in this market are first movers in grabbing technology. So it is crucial to have content and advertising targeted at this market,” says Sandeep Tiwari, marketing head, LG India.
Television broadcasters seem to have figured this out already. A host of mainstream, national broadcasters are taking the plunge into the Marathi broadcast market. TV18 Group said Thursday it will launch a 24-hour Marathi news and current affairs channel. The new channel will be launched by Global Broadcast News Ltd (GBN), one of the group companies, which broadcasts CNN-IBN, a 24-hour English language news and current affairs channel and IBN7, a leading Hindi news channel.
In keeping with the tradition of entering new businesses with strategic partners, the company has signed a 50:50 joint ventrue (JV) with the Lokmat Group, one of the biggest publishing groups from Maharashtra, for the new channel. Lokmat Group owns newspapers including Lokmat, the largest circulated newspaper in the state, Lokmat Times (English) and Lokmat Samachar (Hindi). Nikhil Wagle, the owner and editor of Mahanagar, a Marathi daily, will run the channel.
Last month, Media Content & Communications Services (MCCS), a 74-26 JV between Ananda Bazar Patrika Ltd and Star India Pvt. Ltd, also announced plans to launch a Marathi news channel, the third offering from its stable. The Essel Group, meanwhile, has already been present in the market for some time. “The Marathi market is quite hot,” says Nitin Vaidya, business head, Zee Marathi, an entertainment channel. In February this year, Zee News Ltd launched Zee 24 Tas, a dedicated news channel. Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, a sister company, will soon begin broadcasting Zee Talkies, a Marathi movie channel. And with that, the company will have a presence in Marathi movies, news, and general entertainment space.
“Having served the English and Hindi markets, broadcasters are now looking at linguistic audience seriously. And the audience in Maharashtra has shown a good appetite for local content,” says Harish Doraiswamy, CEO, Zee News. Another media executive, who doesn’t wish to be identified citing company policies, says that among the regional markets in India, south has already been captured by strong players such as Sun TV, Raj TV and Jaya TV, among others. After south, Maharashtra is the most lucrative market to get into.
According to these players the reason for the push into Marathi lies in the region’s prosperity as well as the penetration of cable and satellite television. A senior official at Zee Marathi, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “Unlike other states, you have a high number of urban centres in Maharashtra. In terms of cable and satellite penetration, Maharashtra ranks highest, with around 5 to 5.5 million homes.”
The promise a Marathi channel holds for broadcasters is immense, say channel executives. Zee Marathi’s Vaidya says that the advertising potential of the market stands at around Rs150 crore as of now and with new players getting into it and advertisers taking more interest in it, it will only grow in future. “I expect it to cross Rs200 crore next year” Vaidya adds. The regional language segment is already the biggest on television.
According to industry estimates, the share of regional channels, at around 30-35%, in the overall national viewership, is equivalent to general entertainment channels. However, on the advertising front, regional channels lag (20-25% share in the total TV ads spends of around Rs6,600 crore) behind the general entertainment channels (40-45%). The scenario, however, might change, with advertisers taking note of prosperous markets such as Maharashtra. “Television’s future lies in general entertainment and regional television,” says LG’s Tiwari.