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Regional TV channels see viewership growth

To drive viewership, Hindi GECs are looking at 2022 as the year of platform-agnostic programming where new originals could be watched either on linear television or on streaming services late. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/MintPremium
To drive viewership, Hindi GECs are looking at 2022 as the year of platform-agnostic programming where new originals could be watched either on linear television or on streaming services late. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

  • While genres like Hindi films, English entertainment and infotainment continue to lose share, channels in Marathi, Bhojpuri, Bengali, Tamil and Telugu have seen their viewership increase and settle at levels 15% higher than pre-covid numbers

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New Delhi: Viewership of regional language TV channels that had dipped along with that of Hindi entertainment channels during the 2020 lockdown, has improved at a quicker pace than their Hindi rivals.

While genres like Hindi films, English entertainment and infotainment continue to lose share, and Hindi GECs (general entertainment channels) are limping back, channels in Marathi, Bhojpuri, Bengali, Tamil and Telugu have seen their viewership increase and settle at levels 15% higher than pre-covid numbers, said two senior media buyers at advertising agencies.

This may be due to the slow transition of regional viewers to OTT (over-the-top) streaming platforms and the strong fan base that shows and stars on regional language entertainment channels command.

Mint had earlier reported that even popular reality TV shows in Hindi have seen their viewership ratings decline by 15-20% as audiences' tastes have changed. The transition to web content has also been faster for Hindi-language markets.

“The four southern markets continue to maintain viewership share of their respective languages, across 2019 to 2021. Marathi and Bangla witnessed a churn in 2020, however the trend reversed in 2021 with the return of original language content coming, replacing the Hindi content being aired during the covid impacted period," Sidharth Parashar, president, investments and pricing at media agency GroupM India said.

Nina Elavia Jaipuria, head, Hindi mass entertainment and kids TV network at Viacom18 also cited Marathi, Tamil and Kannada as languages that had seen growth while Kailashnath Adhikari, managing director, Governance Now said “people have affinity for local language content, which is why regional channels have registered the highest growth both in terms of viewership and advertising," citing Bhojpuri as a major driver.

Governance Now is a fortnightly magazine by media and entertainment conglomerate Sri Adhikari Brothers that owns channels like Mastiii, Maiboli, Dabangg and others.

In an earlier interview with Mint, Mansi Datta, chief client officer and head, north and east, Wavemaker India had said regional is a slightly safer space for broadcasters as content on OTT in these languages is still coming up and has not reached the same levels as linear television. Besides audiences watching programming in these languages have greater affinity and loyalty towards television and migration to OTT will take time, a risk that is far higher for Hindi content.

Niche television genres such as English entertainment and infotainment are totally off the charts, said Adhikari. “Only mainstream Hindi and regional channels will survive. Not everyone is blessed with high internet penetration or bandwidth connectivity. Thus, for some parts of India, or what may be termed as Bharat, TV is still the most preferred option for entertainment," Adhikari said.

To drive viewership, meanwhile, Hindi GECs are looking at 2022 as the year of platform-agnostic programming where new originals could be watched either on linear television or on streaming services later, having recognised that online viewing is a habit that’s here to stay.

“We’re looking at an ‘AND’ market now where television and OTT will co-exist and as broadcasters, we want to be agnostic of screen and device," said Viacom18’s Jaipuria that is looking at strengthening its offerings in the late primetime slot with around four new Hindi shows by February.

The end of the current season of Bigg Boss will make way for Hunarbaaz, a reality series with Karan Johar, Parineeti Chopra and Mithun Chakraborty as judges. Television continues to play a pivotal role in bringing families together but learning to cater to viewers across media helps combat the direct challenge of cord-cutting, Jaipuria said, adding that “people can always watch Bigg Boss on VOOT if they don’t watch it on TV."

Avinash Pandey, chief executive officer, ABP Network said digital platforms will co-exist with television, which is still the cheapest medium of entertainment available. While some people belonging to the upper end of society may have given up their TV subscriptions, the shift hasn't taken place for many, especially when it comes to a lot of live news and reality shows, he said.

To be sure, TV advertising also recovered by August or September this year with traditional categories now having to contend with new entrants for space. According to a recent report by television monitoring agency BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council), television ad volumes stood at 156 million seconds in November, 3% higher than November 2020 and 31% higher than November 2019.

“Television advertising expenditure has recovered very strongly in 2021 over 2020. This growth was broad based as multiple categories like BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance), consumer durables, e-commerce, FMCG, real estate and services grew over the 20% mark. The contribution of new-age categories such as crypto, fintech, insure-tech, edu-tech, food-tech, OTT and various D2C brands is also a huge factor," said Parashar who estimated a double-digit growth in TV adex in 2021 compared to 2019.

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