New Delhi: Marathi television channels are edging out those in Hindi, which used to be the most popular in Maharashtra, home to the Bollywood film industry where the lingua franca is the country’s national language.
The shift comes in the wake of the assertion of the Marathi identity and language by such groups as Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, and before that by the Shiv Sena, from which he split.
An analysis of data collated by television viewership monitoring agency TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd shows that viewers in the state have increasingly switched to programmes in Marathi over the last couple of years. Viewership within Maharashtra (including Mumbai) for Marathi channels has jumped 25% as of October over entire 2008, having risen 13% in 2007 and 5% last year. On the whole, viewership of Marathi regional television has grown from 2.7% to 4.2% at the national level.
Marathi news viewership overtook that for Hindi news this year, ranking it fifth after Hindi entertainment, southern languages, Hindi films and children’s channels.
The growth can be partly attributed to the launch of more channels in the language, especially in the news category. Within Marathi language television, news got a 2.4% share in 2009 from zero in 2006.
Marathi audiences got their first 24-hour news channel Zee 24 Taas in 2007. Since then the Star TV Network has launched its Marathi news channel Star Majha followed by IBN Lokmat, in 2008.
Viewers were looking for serious journalism and the entry of IBN Lokmat drew such audiences, said Dilip Venkatraman, chief marketing officer, CNN-IBN, IBN7 and IBN-Lokmat.
“Better TV content and production values coupled with a bigger basket of channel/programme options to choose from has kept viewer interest alive,” said Manas Mishra, executive vice-president, Mudra Connext. “The Marathi TV industry is growing fast and unique art forms like theatre are getting adapted to TV.”
Although Zee Marathi has retained its leadership position with 45% market share, Star Pravah, launched in the last quarter of 2008, has managed to garner more than 15%. The market share of ETV Marathi and DD Sahyadari have declined, according to TAM.
“The growth of television and digital cable and satellite households in Maharashtra is coming from tier II and tier III towns,” according to Atul Das, executive vice-president, corporate strategy, planning and business development at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd.
Das expects Marathi news to grow faster as the demand for coverage of local news and events increases.
Timmy Kandhari, leader of the entertainment and media practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, agrees: “People prefer to watch regional news in the regional languages. Also, with the political developments in the region, people are more interested in what is happening in the state.”
The market is poised to grow further, says Ravish Kumar, executive vice-president and general manager (regional channels) at Star. Of the total Gross Rating Points generated from Maharashtra, 21% is from Marathi channels and this will only grow, Kumar says.
While much of the viewership of news and entertainment was for the Hindi channels, the result could also be a function of surveyors conducting more detailed studies, “capturing viewership in small Maharashtrian towns”.