New Delhi: Even as the high-profile launches of general entertainment channels from large media houses dominate the headlines, the battle for the regional broadcasting space, hitherto dominated by regional players, is hotting up.
Many national networks, including Network18 Media and Investments Ltd, UTV Global Broadcasting Ltd, INX Media Pvt. Ltd, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd and Star India Pvt. Ltd will launch at least a dozen regional channels this year across markets such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal, among others. Besides, regional players such as Chennai-based Sun TV Ltd, Hyderabad-based Ushodaya Enterprises Ltd that runs the ETV Network and Associated Broadcasting Co. Pvt. Ltd, which runs a broadcast network under the TV9 brand name, also plan to launch new local channels in several states.
“There is too much fragmentation in the national viewership and there is intense competition for advertising revenue. In comparison with national broadcast market, the regional markets are hugely underserved in terms of total number of channels and variety of content. There is huge untapped advertising potential as well which will unleash when competition hots up. So it’s a sensible strategy to go regional,” says Shashi Sinha, chief executive officer (CEO), Lodestar Universal.
New play: Indrani Mukerjea, CEO of INX Media. Companies want to keep viewers within a broadcast family, offer an entire services bouquet. (Photo: Kedar Bhat/ Mint)
Star India, through its joint venture with TV content and film producer Balaji Telefilms Ltd, will launch a Telugu general entertainment channel this year. “Others are in the planning stage and it is too early to talk about them,” said Yash Khanna, spokesperson for the network. The two partners said last year they will launch a network of regional entertainment channels.
INX Media has planned nine regional channels—three each in general entertainment, music and news. “Local content is an attractive proposition for viewers. We wanted to have a bouquet with good regional penetration,” says Indrani Mukerjea, CEO, INX Media. At least two music channels are likely to be on air this year.
Global Broadcast News Ltd (GBN), a majority-owned subsidiary of Network 18, will launch three regional news channels this year, with at least seven to nine more in the works. “Regional is the future. There is a lot of advertisement revenue to be tapped from regional markets, be it in real estate or retail,” said Sameer Manchanda, joint managing director, GBN.
Zee Entertainment, which currently runs 12 regional channels, plans to add one more in Telugu this year. UTV will also take the regional route once it consolidates the viewership of its recently launched channels Bindass and Bindass Movies, Zarina Mehta, CEO, GenX Entertainment Ltd, the UTV subsidiary that houses Bindass, said in a recent interview with Mint.
Regional channels enjoy about 30-35% of viewership share according to different industry estimates. Estimates of advertising revenue that accrue to them vary from 25-30% of the total advertising spends on television.
According to TAM Adex, a division of Mumbai-based audience measurement firm TAM Media Research, Rs6,600-6,700 crore was spent on television advertising in 2006 and according to several leading media buyers, it is likely to have gone up to around Rs8,000 crore in 2007.
Many observers, however, say it is unlikely to be easy sailing as the bulk of the regional advertising revenue is concentrated in the southern market. “There is not much money to be made outside south. Newcomers will have to build the market first before they can think of making any money out of it (non-south markets),” says Punitha Arumugam, CEO, Madison Media Group.
Experts also point out incumbents such as Sun Network and Eenadu Network are well entrenched and breaking their stranglehold on the markets will be challenging for new players. Besides, the existing players themselves are in an expansion mode. “In our existing market, we will launch two children’s channels—one each in Kannada and Telugu,” says Hansraj Saxena, vice president, programming, Sun Network.
The company runs 19 channels in four southern languages. TV9, according to an executive who didn’t want to be named, will be launching three channels in Orissa, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, besides a channel in English.
The aspirants, however, see strategic sense in going regional. “It’s all about keeping viewers within your broadcast family. Whether the viewer wants sport, news, entertainment or content in her mother tongue, she should get all she wants within your umbrella and shouldn’t feel the need to look out,” says Ashish Kaul, executive vice-president, Essel Group, the parent of the Zee network of channels.
“This strategy will bear results in the longer run,” he says.