On 24 September, Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd will launch a new television channel in the Kannada market titled Colors Kannada Cinema. The film channel comes in addition to Viacom’s two existing general entertainment channels (GECs)—Colors Kannada and Colors Super. Before the end of the year, broadcasting company Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd will also launch a Malayalam language GEC. Currently, Zee operates Zee Kannada, Zee Telugu, Zee Tamil and Zee Cinemalu (a Telugu film channel). Meanwhile, Star India, too, is awaiting the permissions for a Kannada sports channel.

Siju Prabhakaran, south cluster head at Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, says that its Malayalam GEC will be launched in the October quarter. “We’re looking to expand our bouquet in the south. We will definitely have width," he says.

Ravish Kumar, head of regional entertainment at Viacom18, does not rule out launching more channels in the south either. The broadcaster doesn’t have a Malayalam GEC in its portfolio yet. Kumar is committed to launching more channels “because we want to go deeper and wider in the south. We want to cover the white space in geographies and go deeper in markets where we are doing well." The company’s Colors Kannada has been ranked No.1 for the last three years. Its second channel Colors Super is also among the fastest growing Kannada GECs. According to data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, currently there are 11 GECs in Kannada.

On why Colors launched a Kannada film channel, Kumar says the broadcaster acquired a slate of films over the years but did not have a window to showcase them. “Our reliance on movies for our two channels is low as fiction does well on those. But the film genre has been growing," he says. After BARC India’s measurement services were introduced and its panel expanded, viewership of certain genres also went up. “Today, movies have 24% of the total viewership in Kannada," says Kumar. Why broadcasters are training their eyes on the southern market is easy to see. In terms of advertising, south is nearly a 3,000 crore market. Kannada alone is estimated at 600-700 crore.

That is not all. Viewership in the south has also jumped. According to BARC data, Kannada GECs have grown by 57% between week 1 and 35 in 2018 over a similar time period in 2016. In the same period, Tamil has grown at 34%, Telugu at 28% and Malayalam at 9%. That is not all. In Kannada language, people spend 4 hours 25 minutes watching TV per day, as opposed to 3 hours and 37 minutes in Hindi.

Advertising revenue in the south is also growing in double digits and the bulk of the advertisers are national, especially in the fast moving consumer goods category. “Earlier, regional media plans were an add-on to national media plans. Now, they are independent. Campaigns are being launched for this specific market especially with local celebrities," says Kumar.

Agrees Prabhakaran: “Advertising is growing at a good rate. For many FMCG companies, the southern markets are a priority market. Compared to the Hindi speaking markets, the per capita income in the south is higher. TV penetration is also more. So, it is more targeted for the advertisers to get their returns."

To be sure, TV penetration in the south is high according to BARC India’s Broadcast India 2018 Survey. The findings reveal that while the total TV penetration in India stands at 66%, TV penetration in South is as high as 95%. This can perhaps be attributed to the fact that electrification in the south is around 99.9%. Consequently, TV is among the first consumer durables that people buy. The data shows that in the south, eight out of 10 people sample TV daily and spend as much as 4 hours and 10 minutes per day watching it. There has been a year-on-year growth in average time spent on TV. The region also generates viewership of around 12 billion impressions at a weekly level. The fact that of the total TV owning universe, 31% are in South India and they contribute to 40% of total TV viewership, proves that people in the region love TV.

Has there been an impact of online on linear TV viewership? “Data doesn’t suggest so. The time spent on TV has been growing across all age groups and there is no sign to suggest that the young are moving away. Also, as it has been said before, both digital and TV are complementary mediums," says Prabhakaran.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff

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