Mumbai: ABP Pvt. Ltd, the publisher of newspapers such as The Telegraph and Anandabazar Patrika, plans to start a Bengali general entertainment channel (GEC) by the year-end, encouraged by the success of Star Jalsha.
The television channel being set up by the Kolkata-based media group is among several similar?projects in the pipeline.
The new venture will be separate from the partnership ABP has with Rupert Murdoch’s Star Group. Media Content and Communications Services (MCCS), a 74:26 venture between ABP and Star for news channels, runs Star News, Star Ananda and Star Majha.
The new channel “will be a 100% ABP-owned venture and will not be covered under MCCS”, said Rajesh Chugh, head of ad sales and distribution for the new channel. He declined to comment on funding or give any further details regarding content.
Graphic: Yogesh Kumar/Mint
Mahuaa Media Pvt. Ltd, which runs Mahuaa Bhojpuri, recently announced the launch of Mahuaa Bangla. It will also look at producing Bengali films for theatrical release and to feed the channel, with execution being partly outsourced to production houses, said Tapas Kumar Bhattasaly, chief operating officer of Mahuaa Media.
The group, which has been engaging in the in-house creation of content such as talk shows, has a post-production facility known as Pixion.
The channel’s promoters are stressing on production quality, something that Star Jalsha has become reputed for.
“Mahuaa Bangla will have premium-quality programming, the kind that’s a first for any regional player,” Bhattasaly said. “One of the shows will be an Endemol Production—a football show called Match, which will have youngsters playing under the guidance of famous players.”
The channel will also have GEC staples such as music and dance talent shows, and family dramas. The group also plans to launch a news channel, but didn’t say when this will take place. The firm has already identified five-six film ventures to back, according to a film producer, who didn’t want to be named. Bhattasaly declined to comment on the film projects.
Viacom 18 Media Pvt. Ltd, which runs channels such as Colors and MTV, also plans to enter regional languages and will begin with a Bengali venture, according to media executives who declined to be named. Viacom executives did not reply to Mint’s queries and the company spokesperson declined to comment.
The Bengal market accounts for overall revenue in excess of Rs300 crore and is growing at a compounded annual growth rate of 25-30% year-on-year as per current estimates, said Rajesh Jain, head of media and entertainment at KPMG India. “I am aware that at least three-four players are evaluating entry into this market. It’s important to understand that it’s not just about Bengal alone, but an audience in the surrounding areas of Orissa, other parts of the North-East and even Bangladesh,” he said.?“The entry of players such as the Star Group with Star Jalsha has increased the gross rating points of Bengali GECs. They’ve enhanced market share by capturing 900-1,400 gross rating points per week, which has enhanced competition in the genre.”
Star Jalsha’s ad rates are comparable with that of any Hindi-language GEC, said Anita Bose, general manager at Mediaedge:cia, GroupM India Pvt. Ltd. “They’ve increased the overall pie of the market and (lifted) the standard of regional programming,” she said. “This is why other players may think this space is lucrative. Along with Maharashtra and Gujarat, Bengal is emerging as an important advertising market.”
With saturation and fragmentation of the national channels, growth is coming from the regional markets, said Manoj?Malkani, vice-president at MPG India, a part of Havas Media. “Even regional news such as Star Ananda are faring reasonably well,” he said. “Each one of us (in the metropolitan cities) is keeping track of regional developments and programming as it’s a link with the place we belong to.”
According to ratings firm TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd, Star Jalsha had a 47% viewership share among Bengali GECs in June, Zee Bangla had 22% and ETV Bangla 15%. Among Bengali news channels, 24 Ghanta TV had a 36% share, while Star Ananda had 35%.